Inspiration, Instruction, and Live Q&A from Margaret Roach and Ken Druse

Margaret Roach and Ken Druse

OUR MOST treasured plants are often those that came not from an anonymous catalog, but from a friend’s garden. Likewise, the garden wisdoms that really stick probably weren’t found in a Google search, but from talking to another gardener who’d been there, done that.

My longtime friend Ken Druse and I have been swapping such advice for decades. It’s safe to say that our relationship has made us both better gardeners, and we continue to grow together.

We invite you to join us in these conversations, and ask your own questions for us to answer, too—that’s what our Virtual Garden Club is about. Join us live on Zoom, or watch the recordings at your convenience.

Our next semester starts Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, as we kick off our third year year of the club!

YES YOU CAN: There is always more to learn in the garden, whether new plants or new skills. We’ve got some of each in the lineup.

  • Master winter sowing, and grow perennials for pennies apiece.
  • Fine-tune your indoor seed-starting gear, timing and techniques to yield your most vigorous annual and vegetable starts ever.
  • Design more native plants into your garden—even in the most formal spaces where you didn’t think they “fit” (meadow not required!).
  • Sharpen your pruning skills, getting the timing and technique right for all your pruning tasks, both corrective and aesthetic.
  • And even reap a harvest of citrus indoors.

That’s just a sampling of the topics on the curriculum for Margaret Roach and Ken Druse’s Pre-Spring 2024 Virtual Garden Club semester. It begins January 11, with a total of five 90-minute classes (to watch live on Zoom or as recorded replays), and a library of additional resources to draw upon.

More detail on the topics that Margaret and Ken will cover:

  • Ready for some resolutions? We’ll kick off a new year of the Virtual Garden Club together by each setting a resolution for the season ahead—both Ken and I, and each of you.
    A special native-focused class Feb. 22 will focus on designing with the best native plants—from vines to groundcovers and other perennials, conifers to deciduous shrubs. Learn how natives aren’t just wild and informal, but for every kind of garden. Guest presenter Ethan Kauffman, director of Stoneleigh in Villanova, Pa., a historic estate transformed to an all-native mission with lots of creative plantsmanship, will answer your questions, too.
    Plus: native nurseries for woodland, meadow and prairie species best purchased bare-root or as “liners,” and how to use them.
    We’ll help you get your 2024 garden plan started, and make it a garden that lasts, with advice for narrowing down your wishlist to a strategic, manageable one, plus tutorials on succession sowing and other season-stretching tricks.
    Shop our recommended seed catalogs with us—for standout edibles and ornamentals, heirloom and cutting-edge, as well as perennials and biennials for winter sowing.
    Learn to sow like a pro, indoors and out: Whether all cozy under lights or winter-sown outdoors in upcycled milk jugs or an animal-proofed trays of individual pots, Ken’s step-by-step demonstrations cover every detail of the process for annual vegetables and flowers, biennials and perennials.
    From lights to germinating mix and watering devices, we’ll get you set up with just the right seed-starting gear (and even talk about how to wean yourself off the peat moss).
    We’ll shop virtually together for more irresistible plants, including perennial mums–old-fashioned plants that are becoming “it” plants again, providing the most vivid late-season color palette. We’ll also help you select the most delicious, productive citrus adapted to indoor growing in pots (and how).
    Want help with deer? We share the most realistic strategies for minimizing their impact.
  • And of course: pruning! Early in the semester, we’ll do a segment on what gets dormant pruning, and closer to winter’s end we’ll cover the rejuvenation tactics and aesthetic-driven cuts that are better made as things get ready to wake up. Plus: Get detailed instructions for all species of hydrangeas, classes of roses, and types of clematis, too.

Inside the Virtual Garden Club, you’ll get:

    • Five live 90-minute Zoom classes to attend in real time or watch afterward, each starting with presentations by me and Ken (themes below), followed by time for your questions about the week’s topic.
    • Access to our complete library of recorded lectures that you can watch on-demand, including Margaret’s “Gardening for the Birds” and her “365-Day Garden,” plus Ken’s “The New Shade Garden” talk and his “Scentual Garden” lecture, emphasizing fragrance. Plus: bonus recordings of recent pop-up webinars we’ve given.
    • Your questions answered: Submit questions and photos ahead of each class, and we’ll devote 30 minutes each session to answering a selection. We’ll answer others via email, and crowd-source still more answers in the private Virtual Garden Club Facebook group, which you’ll gain lifetime access as a club member. It’s a place for fellow gardeners to help one another—the way Ken and I have done for decades.

    The club is an opportunity to learn new strategies and perspectives, get more joy out of your garden, and enjoy the company of a supportive online gardening community led by two quirky gardeners you may know from our lively segments on my long-running public radio show and podcast, “A Way to Garden,” where Ken is a regular.

    This 10-week program with seven and a half hours of live interactive instruction (plus our four hour-long recorded lectures, to watch on-demand, and various other bonus recordings) is just $159.

    Reserve a Spot!

    What some club members said about recent semesters:

    If you love gardening and nature, this garden club is for you. My gardening and appreciation of nature is stronger, and now I question and wonder with joy.”–D.H.

    The information is relevant to gardeners at all levels, the sessions are expertly moderated, and Margaret and Ken are fantastic!”—L.R.

    Garden club is such a bright spot in what has been a difficult year! So many interesting topics, and great leaders who convey so much love for the topic and knowledge of the field.”—F.H.

    Love these two—their passion, knowledge and willingness to share.”—A.J.

    It feels like Ken and Margaret are sharing the nurturing talents that they bring to gardening…with us! So happy I joined this club.”—C.F.

    Margaret and Ken are the best horticultural companions on your journey to botanical bliss.” —C.B.

The Schedule for Our 4 Live Classes Together

ALL TIMES are Eastern; all sessions are on Thursdays, from 3-4:30 PM, except the Feb. 22 class, which is from 6-7:30 PM. Class dates and times for the Pre-Spring 2024 semester:

  • Jan. 11, 3-4:30 PM EDT
  • Jan. 25, 3-4:30 PM EDT
  • Feb. 8, 3-4:30 PM EDT
  • Feb. 22, 6-7:30 PM EDT
  • March 7, 3-4:30 PM EDT

NOTE: Each class will be recorded for your convenience, in case you can’t attend live or want to revisit what we covered, with recordings available until two months after the last live session.

About Ken’s Recorded Lecture ‘The New Shade Garden’

IN HIS lecture based on his book “The New Shade Garden: Creating an Oasis in the Age of Climate Change,”  Ken offers advice for common problems facing today’s gardeners, but also makes the case for appreciating our shady spots. He details designing your garden, as well as reasons to create more shade. He’ll cover:

  • Soil preparation, pruning and ways to plant without disturbing tree roots
  • Issues from watering plants without stressing limited resources, to carbon sequestration
  • dealing with deer
  • The vast palette of flowering and foliage plants that grow best with less than six hours of direct sunlight
  • The challenge of dry shade and plants that do well in it

About My Recorded Lecture ‘Nonstop Plants: A Garden for 365 Days’

EXPRESSIONS commonly heard each September like “the season’s almost over” don’t sit well with Margaret. She has worked for more than 30 years to make her garden in the Hudson Valley-Berkshires area a visual treat every day of the year. Meet the plants and the philosophy that make it happen, delivered with a dose of “horticultural how-to and woo-woo.”

Want to make a garden for all seasons? Margaret loves looking out her windows 365 days a year—not just in “garden season.” In this slide lecture you’ll hear:

  • The background of how she came to her garden, with a little “before and after” for perspective
  • How and why she made a four-season garden—and the basic principles of garden design that she applied
  • How to shop for plants with that goal in mind
  • what makes the garden so appealing to some 70 species of birds and other welcome wildlife
  • How to go beyond “outdoor decorating” aimed at pure visual effect, and really engage all your senses and emotions (that’s the “woo-woo” part!)

About My Recorded Lecture ‘Making a Garden for the Birds’

WHAT STARTED out decades ago as merely a semi-conscious wish to see more birds while I started a garden on a former blank canvas, ended up bringing almost 70 avian species into the garden each year, each in its own time, with more nesting in it or at its periphery.

I’ll share all my “if I knew then what I know now” insights about setting realistic goals (not every site can attract bluebirds no matter how many boxes you buy!) and accomplishing them. We’ll cover:

    • Take proper aim: Before you misdirect efforts, how to evaluate what birds you can potentially attract
    • The top 7 guidelines for making birds at home, including how to “retrofit” a landscape that may be more aesthetically driven or a collector’s garden
    • The powerhouse plant genera that are key elements of inviting birds, wherever you garden
    • Creating what I call bio-hedges and other sustaining mixed plantings—and finding room for them in your yard
    • Best practices for bird-feeding, nest boxes, and other non-plant garden elements (both do’s and don’ts)
    • Plus lots of amazing avian “aha’s” I’ve gleaned along the way … and “must” resources online and off to plug into the location-specific information you need

About Ken’s Recorded Lecture ‘The Scentual Garden: Exploring the World of Botanical Fragrance’

UP THE fragrance component of your garden—what Ken Druse calls “the invisible garden,” a feature we gardeners all too often overlook when shopping for plants.

In this presentation based on his 20th book, Ken introduces a wholly original survey of botanical fragrance, arranging herbaceous annuals and perennials, shrubs and vines, trees and even houseplants into 12 primary scent categories. You’ll learn how to sample fragrance, design and plant for it, and revel in it as he does.

Ken offers detailed descriptions of the scents you’ll want to experience, and also provides examples of garden designs that offer harmonious scentual delights. As usual, he illustrates his talk with his award-winning photography, also including Ellen Hoverkamp’s vivid images created on a flatbed scanner.

Ready to Join the Club?

We’re inviting you to join us for only $159.

Reserve a Spot!

Our Gardening Journeys (and Why Some People are Brave/Crazy Enough to Learn from Us)

KEN DRUSE and I have many overlapping interests, but also distinct ones—like I’m obsessed with not just growing but also putting up each harvest of edibles, and he’s more likely to be off propagating more of a cherished rare shrub from cuttings, or even a massive tree from seed.

We’ve traveled around the country to some of its great gardens together, and even collaborated on books. A little about each of us:

I was fortunate enough to discover gardening about 40 years ago. It offered me the escape I was looking for after a fast-paced corporate career, and it comforted me as I managed the care for my mother, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 49.

After 15 years at “Martha Stewart Living” and nearly a decade each at “Newsday” and “The New York Times,” I moved fulltime to my former weekend place in New York’s Hudson Valley, where I experiment with and enjoy my hobby-turned-lifestyle.

The journey has led to an award-winning book, and also lately brought me right back to where my career began, “The New York Times,” where I have written the garden column since April 2020.

Ken’s experiments in the soil started playing with toy trucks in the dirt, and observing the creatures (including bunnies) that shared his family’s suburban quarter-acre. His was a world of forts and dams and holes dug to China. But around age 10 he recalls rescuing a seedling tulip tree from the gutter and planting it, so his propagation obsession started early.

“I find it so thrilling to get a small plant or plant a seed and participate in nurturing it as it grows,” he says.

In college, houseplants took hold of Ken and have never let go. He has gardened on a Manhattan rooftop, a Brooklyn backyard, and for the last 25 years, on an island in a river in rural New Jersey.

Ken is the author and photographer behind an astonishing 20 garden books, including most recently “The Scentual Garden” and “The New Shade Garden,” and has been called “the guru of natural gardening” by “The New York Times.” His books have won many awards, and an archive of 50,000 of his photographs is housed at the Smithsonian Institution in the Ken Druse Collection of Garden Photographs.

Our Personal Gardening Methodology

KEN AND I both believe gardening is a 365-day adventure. And the key to enjoying it isn’t always doing more; it’s opening our eyes and hearts to the beautiful moments happening right under our noses.

We believe in organic gardening, and actually invite insects into our garden, where they generously pollinate our plants and serve as food for the dozens of species of birds that I so enjoy watching.

Some beds in our gardens are more formal, but we believe gardening should be a bit messy, too. It’s nature after all. The goal isn’t to tame your plants; it’s to cultivate them in an environment where they can show off their authentic beauty.

If you resonate with this approach, you’ll love our garden club.

And we’d love to have you.

Let’s Spend Some Time Together in the Garden

Save your seat in the Virtual Garden Club for only $159.

Reserve a Spot!