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Winter Symposium

February 15, 2020 | 8:00 am - 12:00 pm EST

“Where Design and Plants Become One”
Featuring Shannon Currey, Bob Lyons, and Elissa Steeves

We’re here to inspire gardeners and illuminate the relationship between gardening and art at this year’s Winter Symposium. As one of the Southeast’s top teaching gardens, the JCRA is the place to be for in-depth, educational gatherings that focus on current and compelling themes in horticulture. This year’s symposium features three amazing guest speakers: Shannon Currey, Bob Lyons, and Elissa Steeves. Our speakers will be enlightening us on ways we can explore the artistic side of gardening with design secrets and innovative ideas.



Saturday, February 15

8:00 am Registration, continental breakfast, and silent auction begins
8:30 am Presentation
9:30 am Break and auction
9:45 am Presentation
10:45 am Break and auction
11:00 am Presentation
12:00 pm Conclusion and auction checkout


“Finding Solutions with Grasses and Sedges”
Shannon Currey, Marketing Director, Hoffman Nursery

Trouble spots and high-maintenance landscapes can wear out even the most enthusiastic gardeners. Fortunately, there are ways to help your landscape do more with less. Ornamental grasses and sedges offer low-input, easy-care solutions to tricky landscape situations. All while providing a host of ecological services, like supporting pollinators and improving soil. They shine on steep slopes, in rain gardens, and as no-mow alternatives to mulch or traditional lawns. And these workhorse plants have stellar aesthetic qualities that make them essential for any garden. With a focus on landscape solutions, and a nod to beauty, discover where grasses and sedges (and a few of their companions) do their best work.

“Personal Tragedy, Restoration of Normalcy, Soul Searching, and Their Impact on Garden Design”
Robert E. Lyons, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Delaware

Although widely believed to be true in an anecdotal sense, there is also an abundance of research supporting the curative value of gardens and other green spaces. Patients heal faster when their hospital room windows overlook courtyards; working with plants has long been known to be therapeutic, and the transformation of abandoned urban properties into productive gardens replete with vegetables and flowers provides emotional relief for those who face the daily stress and challenges of life. However, what happens when gardens are integral to the source of disappointment, stress, or even personal tragedy? Can we expect their reputed healing powers to live up to our own expectations for overcoming personal grief? This talk will highlight one man’s journey following personal loss and the serendipitous role of redesigning one’s gardens during the struggle to recover. When seemingly disconnected from any healing, gardens can indeed be profoundly influential following reconciliation with one’s new reality. In fact, their impact can be triumphal. Eventually, there is a welcome realization that restoration is not just limited to one’s gardens, but to one’s soul.

“The Artful Garden”
Elissa Steeves, Horticulture Teacher and Author

Elissa’s garden is an outdoor gallery where the creative use of original art, artifacts, and well-chosen paint colors transforms her collection of green and growing into a 3D experience of focus and flow punctuated with delight.


Shannon Currey
Marketing Director, Hoffman Nursery

Shannon Currey is marketing dDirector for Hoffman Nursery, a wholesale nursery in North Carolina specializing in ornamental and native grasses. She began her work life as a social scientist but changed fields to pursue horticulture at NC State University. She joined Hoffman Nursery in 2007 and has had a range of responsibilities: coordinating the plant evaluation program, managing the sales team, and overseeing marketing. She writes articles for horticultural trade publications, gives talks nationally, and currently serves as southern region director for the Perennial Plant Association.


Robert E. Lyons, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of Delaware

Bob Lyons is the former director of the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture and currently professor emeritus at the University of Delaware. He received a B.A. in biology from Rutgers University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in horticultural science from the University of Minnesota. Previous positions include the J.C. Raulston Distinguished Faculty Chair and directorship of the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University, and professor of horticulture and co-‐founder/director of the Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia Tech, where he received the University W.E. Wine Award for exemplary undergraduate teaching. He is a fellow in the American Society for Horticultural Science, from whom he was also recognized for his research elucidating new flowering mechanisms in herbaceous plants. He later received the Chadwick Award from the American Nursery and Landscape Association for his career contributions to the industry. Bob taught identification and landscape use of herbaceous plant materials at Virginia Tech, NC State University, and the University of Delaware, and has lectured nationally on the topic. He received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the University of Minnesota and the national Award of Merit from the American Public Gardens Association. He currently sits on the boards of advisors for the University of Delaware Botanic Garden and The Delaware Center for Horticulture, and formerly on Rutgers University Gardens Board. He has been a photographer for over 35 years, publishing widely in homeowner, commercial, and educational publications, and he is a primary photographer for Horticopia plant selection software ( He has exhibited his work nationally, receiving awards from the Garden Writers Association of America, and he has taught photography workshops throughout the United States. He has since retired to the southeastern-­most corner of Pennsylvania, a stone’s throw to the Delaware border, where he gardens on his home property, Phoenix Springs.


Elissa Steeves
Horticulture Teacher and Author

A lifelong gardener and Virginia native, Elissa Steeves is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a B.S. in horticultural science and an M.S. in vocational-technical education. She taught horticulture at the high school level for 30 years and was the junior author of Virginia’s first Master Gardeners Handbook. Now retired for the past 14 years, she devotes herself to full-time gardening, garden travel, various horticulture committees, and garden talks. Her garden has been featured in Southern Living, Horticulture, and The Virginia Gardener magazines.

Continuing Education Credit

We’ll apply for continuing education credits through the North Carolina Landscape Contractors’ Licensing Board and the North Carolina Board of Landscape Architects.

  • Cost: Early registration (ends Sunday, February 2, 2020): $50.00 for members, $65.00 for nonmembers; late registration (begins Monday, February 3, 2020): $65.00 for members, $80.00 for nonmembers.
  • Registration: Advance registration is required. Please register online using our registration e-store. Registration is limited and is considered complete when payment is received.
  • Cancellation: Program cancellations can be made up to two weeks before the program’s start date. A 15% cancellation fee applies.


February 15, 2020
8:00 am - 12:00 pm EST
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Ruby McSwain Education Center
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC 27606 United States
(919) 513-7005
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Chris Glenn
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