Seminars: About the Speakers




Ivory House Photography

Kelly D. Norris is an award-winning plant expert, designer and author of New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden (Cool Springs Press, 2021) and several other gardening books. Considered one of the leading horticulturists of his generation, his work in gardens has been featured in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Fine Gardening and in numerous regional and local media appearances. Norris is the former director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden in Iowa and has received recognition from the Perennial Plant Association, American Horticultural Society and others. He lives and works in his Three Oaks Garden in Des Moines, Iowa.


Curt Lindberg says his interest in nature was stimulated by his recent move to the Green Mountain State. Learning from talented Vermont naturalists and E.O. Wilson’s writings spurred him to help found the Vermont Alliance for Half-Earth and join the Conservation Commission in his home town of Waitsfield, his hometown.  His professional career has been devoted to helping people use complexity science concepts with the aim to improve the well-being of people, organizations, and the natural environment. He is co-editor of Our Better Nature: Hopeful Excursions in Saving Biodiversity (Vermont Alliance for Half Earth, 2022). Lindberg earned a doctoral degree in complex systems from the University of Hertfordshire, UK.

Rob Cardillo Photography

Mike Lizotte may be the only person who learned to identify plants by their seeds long before he even knew what flowers those seeds grew into. He is co-owner and managing partner of American Meadows online seed retailers, where he has worked since he was a teenager. Long-time promoter of growing wildflowers and native plants from seeds, he is the author of Mini Meadows: Grow a Little Patch of Colorful Flowers Anywhere Around Your Yard, (Storey Publishing, 2019). He has been interviewed widely by national media on growing and maintaining meadows started from seed. He serves on garden trade boards including National Garden Bureau and Home Garden Seed Association. Mike is a certified Master Gardener. He and his family live in Essex Junction.


Kerry Ann Mendez is author of four books, a garden designer and speaker whose work focuses on time-saving gardening techniques, workhorse plants and sustainable practices. She is proprietor of Perennially Yours. Over the years, Kerry Ann has presented more than 450 lectures in 21 states and Canada. She has appeared on HGTV and has been featured in numerous magazines, including Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Better Homes & Gardens. In 2014 she received a Gold Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for her horticultural accomplishments. She also presents winter webinars enjoyed by thousands across the U.S.

Michele Vitale

Charlie Nardozzi is well known as a radio and television personality and speaker on all things gardening. He’s the author of The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2021) and four previous books. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert gardening information to home gardeners through broadcast, talks, on-line and the printed page. He says he aims to make gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. He is a regular speaker at the nation’s largest flower shows and garden conferences, so we’re lucky to have him here on his home soil. His degrees in education and horticulture are from UVM. Vermonters see Charlie on WCAX-Channel 3, hear him on WJOY-1230 AM and on Vermont Public. Many Vermont Flower Show attendees have done travels with Charlie to nearby Montreal Botanic Garden or distant gardens in places including Italy, France, Portugal and Great Britain. In 2021 Charlie won a Regional Emmy award. He gardens in North Ferrisburgh.

Ali Kaukas Photo

Ellen Ecker Ogden is a Vermont food and garden writer and the author of six books, most recently The New Heirloom Garden: Designs, Recipes and Heirloom Plants for Cooks who Love to Garden (Rodale 2021), which won the 2022 Garden Communicators International silver medal. She co-founded The Cook’s Garden seed catalog, introducing cooks and gardeners to European specialty vegetables, herbs and flowers. She graduated with a degree in fine arts and attended cooking schools in Italy and Ireland. Her articles and kitchen garden designs have appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes and Gardens and elsewhere. She grows a year-round food garden in Manchester and writes the newsletter The Art of Growing Food.


George Schenk is founder and CEO of American Flatbread, which grew, since 1990, from his Waitsfield homestead to 13 restaurants, 4 stores and an operation of frozen flatbreads sold wholesale. Over the years, George expanded his Lareau Farm and Forest. He established the Lareau Interpretive Garden, a 1.5-acre market garden managed for nutrient density, biodiversity and public education, along with community garden plots and a food shelf victory garden. The site is also an Inn, events destination and mobile oven catering. He is a past board member of the Vermont Foodbank and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and serves on the Warren Conservation Commission. George is a contributor to Our Better Nature: Hopeful Excursions in Saving Biodiversity (Vermont Alliance for Half Earth, 2022).


Ellen Bortner is the greenhouse and interiorscapes manager at Gardener’s Supply Company, Williston store. There she routinely supervises the care, purchasing, merchandising and selling of hundreds of varieties of indoor plants in the retail greenhouse as well as overseeing the design, installation and care of plants at offsite interiorscape accounts. She has worked at Pennsylvania Horticulture Society and Longwood Gardens, earned her bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Vermont in 2012 and completed an online certificate in garden design from Oxford College of Garden Design in 2019. Ellen’s own collection of orchids, succulents, ferns and all things tropical, began 20 years ago with a cutting from her father’s jade plant.

David Burton of Underhill has owned Ginkgo Design for eight years, with the goal of providing “smart landscape solutions to help make clients’ outdoors feel like home.” A Vermont Certified Horticulturist with over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry, David’s designs have won Vermont’s top landscape design awards year after year. He is a long-time member of the VNLA. He speaks to garden groups and classrooms on topics such as “The Landscape Design Process” and “Practical Uses for Meadow Plantings.”  

Sophie Cassel works at Red Wagon Plants organic nursery in Hinesburg, where she cultivates its wholesale, education and outreach partnerships. She graduated from the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in 2019. As a trained clinical herbalist, Sophie consults with individuals and communities through her own business in Richmond, Patchwork Plant Medicine. and

VJ Comai has been Burlington’s city arborist through Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront since 2018. A native Vermonter with degrees in community forestry and horticulture from the University of Vermont, he has worked for Bartlett Tree Experts and owned the former South Forty Nursery in Charlotte. He says he’s planted 30,000-40,000 trees over his 30-year career. VJ is a certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and is Tree Risk Assessment Qualified. Past president and long-time member of the VNLA, he has been key to the Vermont Flower Show’s success for more than 25 years. VJ works closely with UVM Horticultural Research Farm and Branch Out Burlington. 

Natasha Duarte champions compost as vital to soil health and promotes practices that contribute to water quality, plant vigor and environmental resilience. It’s the crux of her role as director, since 2017, of the nonprofit Composting Association of Vermont in Hinesburg. She is an instructor for both online and hands-on training for the University of Vermont Master Composter Program. And she’s leading a USDA-funded project: On-Farm Community-Scale Food Scrap and Agricultural Organic Waste Management in Vermont and New Hampshire. She’s previously worked as a USDA Forest Service research soil scientist. Natasha earned a master’s degree in soil science from North Carolina State University after her bachelor of arts in anthropology from the University of Vermont.

David Fried brought biodiversity to Vermont’s fruit and nut growing palette in 1981, when he started Elmore Roots Fruit Tree Nursery in the town by the same name, elevation 1,634 feet. Starting with knowledge of what grew in the wild, he experimented with species and techniques. Each year he harvests hundreds of pounds of northern kiwiberries, pears, plums, grapes, heirloom apples, black currants and seaberries at his farm. Off season he is a garden writer and poet. He is a Vermont Certified Horticulturist, long-time VNLA member and received its 2019 Environmental Awareness Award.

Ann Hazelrigg is the Director of the Plant Diagnostic Clinic, Vermont’s resource for commercial and home gardeners to identify disease, insect and weed samples and make recommendations for control based on integrated pest management (IPM) principles. She also oversees the University of Vermont Pesticide Education and Safety Program, the UVM Extension E-IPM program and the UVM Master Gardener Program. Ann is a plant pathologist and Extension associate professor and research scientist. She is chair of the National IPM Coordinating Committee and a member of VNLA. She lives and gardens in Williston.

Spencer Hardy happily blames the staff of his employer, Vermont Center for Ecosystem Studies (VCE) in Norwich, for getting him hooked on the birds and the bees. Well, all of nature. After graduating from Hanover High School, Spencer worked as a technician on VCE’s Vermont Bumblebee Atlas – his first introduction to the world of insects. During undergraduate studies, he worked on projects ranging from bumblebees in the Sierra Nevada, California to freshwater fish in Lewis Creek, Vermont. Spencer graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in biology and an obsession with Vermont’s natural history. After a few years alternating between mist-netting and farming, he was hired in 2019, as project coordinator for the Vermont Wild Bee Atlas. Spencer is co-owner of The Farm Upstream in Plainfield, a fledgling fruit and vegetable farm with plans to add a native plant nursery.

Silvia Jope says she’s aesthetically influenced by her German upbringing and horticulturally inspired by the beauty and bounty of North American plants. The owner of the Burlington-based Old World Garden Design since 2004, Silvia folds water and soil conservation, native plants and habitat and renewable resources into many of her designs. At the same time, her clients’ gardens are beautiful, energy wise and multifunctional. She’s a VNLA member whose landscape designs are two-time winners of its top awards. She also is the freelance landscape designer with Gardener’s Supply Company. She earned degrees in urban forestry and landscape horticulture from the University of Vermont and an herbalist certification from the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies in Boulder, Colorado.

Mike Kiernan co-founded Bee the Change in Weybridge in 2015, with his wife Tawnya Kiernan, to plant and care for pollinator habitats on solar fields, city and town properties –  mostly in Vermont. Leave it to a couple of doctors to come up with a large-scale way to try to help heal the serious losses of Vermont pollinators due to habitat loss, pesticides and disease. By 2022 Mike says they have created habitat equivalent to each Vermont household growing a 10×10-foot pollinator garden. Their goal is to create an acre of habitat in each of Vermont’s 252 cities and towns. And this is just the couple’s sideline. Mike is an emergency room physician at Porter Medical Center and Tawnya is a pediatrician in a private practice, also in Middlebury. Since 2007, Mike also has been a persuasive communications instructor at the Middlebury College’s School of the Environment and in its leadership and innovation training program, MiddCORE.

Jamie Masefield is full of surprises. After many years of touring with his band, The Jazz Mandolin Project, and recording six albums, he switched instruments. He became a professional dry stone mason. The two careers are not as disparate as they appear. “Both jazz and dry stone masonry are rooted in composition and improvisation,” Jamie points out. “The goal is to create highly crafted offerings every day.” For more than a decade, as owner Masefield Dry Stone Masonry LLC in Monkton and an instructor at The Stone Trust in Dummerston, he’s enjoyed working with a wide variety of building and landscaping professionals as well as adventurous homeowners throughout the Northeast and Great Britain. Jamie is a VNLA member who spent three days with Dan Snow building the stone Winnie the Pooh book sculpture in the grand display of this 2023 Vermont Flower Show. and

Marijke Niles is owner of Marijke’s Perennial Gardens Plus nursery and nearly 40 display gardens on 8 acres in Starksboro. Marijke is our Saturday Seminar Spoinsor and also serves on the Vermont Flower Show Commitee and Grand Garden Display Committee and directs its Sunday after-show plant sale. Marijke is a certified Vermont Master Gardener and Vermont Master Composter through UVM Extension. She was a long-time Flynn Garden Tour committee organizer and one of the tours’ favorite speakers. She is a VNLA board member, American Horticultural Society, the Native Plant Trust, Xerces Society,  Audubon Society and Stewardship of the Urban Landscape program. In winter, she teaches skiing at Sugarbush Resort.

Heather Poire is a passionate gardener with solid knowledge on branded plants. She’s been immersed in the plant industry for more than two decades. Proven Winners’ Eastern U.S. and Canadian Maritimes’ retail account manager for just over a year, she spent the previous decade with Bailey Nurseries. She also worked for years with Proven Winners’ co-founding company, Pleasant View Gardens. Her horticulture degree is from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Belmont, NH.

Ashley Robinson is past president of Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association and current board member. Since 2005, she’s operated her own landscape design business out of Vergennes. Clients say the hallmark of her designs is “her great care to integrate the home into the landscape and the landscape into its surroundings.” The result: “plants work for you, rather than the other way around,” she says. The Vermont native has a degree in urban studies from the University of San Diego and studied at Radcliffe and The Landscape Institute in Cambridge, MA, where she worked for Michael Van Valkenburgh Assoc. Landscape Architects. Ashley says she works to share, educate and learn through experience, deepening her understanding and appreciation of the ever changing, natural world.

Julie Rubaud, founder and owner of Red Wagon Plants retail and wholesale organic nursery in Hinesburg since 2005, has devoted her life to cultivating abundant gardens and preparing good food. A community-builder at heart, Julie and the Red Wagon crew nourish Vermont through the home gardeners they inspire and the bounty they produce. Red Wagon Plants is a VNLA member and recipient of the 2022 VNLA Environmental Awareness Award.  Julie has volunteered and served on many Vermont nonprofit boards including NOFA-Vermont and Intervale Foundation. Red Wagon Plants was named the 2019 Vermont Woman-Owned Business of the Year by the Small Business Association. In 2014 Julie received the Don Schramm Community Service award from City Market.

Sarah Salatino is the owner and head grower at Full Circle Gardens in Essex, which produces over 500 varieties of sustainably grown hardy perennials focusing on native and pollinator plants. Display gardens educate and promote pollinator conservation. A VNLA member and Vermont Certified Horticulturist, who received the 2022 VNLA Retailer of the Year Award.  Sarah has taught seminars at the Vermont Flower Show, Friends of the Horticulture Farm, Fort Ticonderoga’s Gardening Symposium, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and elsewhere. Her horticulture experience began at a tender age pulling apart her grandmother’s bleeding-heart flowers to see what was inside.

Ethan Tapper manages over 4,500 acres of Community Forests as the Chittenden County Forester for the VT Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. But that’s not the half of it. He advises private landowners, municipalities, conservation organizations, foresters and loggers on forest stewardship. He administers what is commonly called the County’s Current Use program. And he’s caught national attention for how he talks to people. The USDA says Ethan Tapper is a “self-taught communications whiz.” He’s prolific: monthly columns for 11 newspapers, essays in Northern Woodlands quarterly, over 100 videos and 500 subscribers on his YouTube channel, a 600+ subscriber email list and leading public events for thousands of people each year. That’s what’s earned Ethan four of his field’s top awards in the state and region including the 2022 Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program’s Vermont Tree Steward Award and the 2021 CFM Forester of the Year from the Northeast-Midwest State Foresters Alliance. In his spare time, Ethan manages his own homestead, orchard and 175-acre forest, with the help of “Red,” his trusty Timberjack skidder. The story of his “Bear Island” in Bolton is told in Our Better Nature: Hopeful Excursions in Saving Biodiversity (Vermont Alliance for Half Earth, 2022).