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10:10am  Kerry Royer     Topic:  Benefits of Native Plants

Conservation Authority Specialist

Kerry Royer is the Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA). She is responsible for strengthening community connections within the watershed, including the coordination of the NPCA’s Public Advisory Committee and volunteer program.  She has been working for the NPCA for over 15 years in different roles including restoration, communications, and outreach. Kerry is passionate about her work, especially when it involves building partnerships with the community to achieve common goals, promoting environment stewardship, nature education and increasing the use of native plants. She will be presenting about the benefits of native plants and how everyone can become stewards of their own backyard

 11am    Darren Heimbecker     Topic:  All About Peonies

Owner, Botanical Garden Creator  Designer  Whistling Gardens

With a degree in Outdoor Education, Darren worked in a nursery as a propagator, shipper and field manager for 18 years before purchasing a 56 acre farm in Wilsonville. In 2006, Whistling Gardens Nursery and Garden Centre was first established.  Guests explore classical garden styles, some of which are inspired by the old Renaissance gardens of Europe including the Palace of Versailles.  Most gardens are surrounded by natural man made plantings, streams, ponds, and cascades, as well as cottage garden strolls. The conifer collection of approximately 1,300 different species and cultivars and a donated peony collection features approximately 1,300 varieties.  Both are considered to be the largest public collections in North America! In total there are nearly 5,000 different plants in one of Ontario’s only privately operated Botanical Garden. The gardens fountain display has become a popular attraction which has approximately 110 jets choreographed to music. Recently the fountains underwent a 2 ½ year renovation. Completed in 2022, it is likely Canada’s largest computerized fountain display with lighting and theatrical effects for evening performances,  nominated for Best New Festival Event in Ontario  with its inaugural Festival of Fountains in 2022. Darren is a regular contributor to Fine Gardening Magazine and when not in the gardens he is usually in his studio composing music and choreographing for the seasonal fountain performances and the upcoming theatrical fountain shows. 

 1pm    Sean James   :  Looks Good Enough To Eat  ( Permaculture)

Owner, Sean James Consulting & Design and instructs at Mohawk College

Named by Landscape Ontario as 2020 and 2021 Garden Communicator of the Year. Gardening has been Sean James hobby and profession for almost 40 years. A graduate of Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, a Master Gardener,  writer, and teacher,  Sean focuses on eco-gardening techniques.  He has spoken from the Maritimes to Seattle and landscaped from Nova Scotia to California.  Sean has had the honour to be part of creating the new Ontario Landscape Tree Planting Guide, the Grow-Me- Instead guide, the Ontario Horticultural Apprenticeship Curriculum,  the national Red Seal Occupational Standard, and the Master Gardeners Reference Manual. Sean James has appeared on many radio shows and on television. He has had the privilege to help put together the national educational standards for Horticultural Apprentices nationally and provincially. He has  been featured on the CBC and on two HGTV shows including Green Force. He's co-hosted the Garden Show with Charlie Dobbin and been on the radio in Halifax and Ottawa with Niki Jabbour.  He sits on the Ontario Invasive Plant Council's Horticultural Outreach Collaborative.  He has been a judge for the All-American Selections Garden Competition, and the Ontario Spokesperson for Garden Days Canada.

 3pm    Kevin Kavanagh  : For the Birds & Bees Using nature features and native plants 

Owner,  South Coast Gardens and Consulting 

Kevin is the owner of South Coast Gardens and Consulting, a small nursery and landscape design business in the heart of Ontario’s ‘Carolinian zone’.  Although an avid gardener for much of his life, Kevin spent most of his early career in the field of nature conservation working for organizations such as The Nature Conservancy of Canada and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Kevin’s long standing interest in plants of a more southern affinity began while undertaking graduate field studies in the diverse eastern forests of Carolinian Canada, the Appalachian Mountains and the U.S. southeast. Today, Kevin gets great satisfaction from working with clients to design gardens and select plants that provide benefits to pollinators, birds and incorporate elements of Ontario’s historical gardening heritage. Kevin holds a B.Sc. (Hons.) from McGill University, a M.Sc. from York University and several years of post-graduate research in Botany at the University of Toronto. He is a member of the Grand Erie Master Gardeners and has authored several book chapters and articles celebrating Canada’s wild places and the rich plant life of the Carolinian zone. 

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