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CBHL 2016 Annual Meeting: People, Places and Pages: Guest speakers

May 24-28, 2016

Guest speakers

 Guest speakers

Clem Hamilton

"Discovering Rhododendrons in Holden’s Library Special Collections"

In 2013, the Holden Arboretum dedicated its new 4.5 acre Rhododendron Discovery Garden, which is organized around the themes of rhododendron diversity and evolution; applying that diversity for horticultural use; and successful gardening with rhododendrons.  Another way to engage our visitors is through our library’s special collections, so in 2013 we also mounted a display on rhododendron history to complement our garden’s opening.  The story is interesting for its own sake, and also as a demonstration of the engaging power of a special collection.

Dr. Hamilton grew up in Ohio and Wisconsin, where he developed his three primary passions for Nature, baseball, and music. He earned a B.S. in Geology at Harvard, and a Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Clem was a professor of horticulture and plant systematics for 19 years, at the University of Washington and Claremont Graduate University, and has run public gardens in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Chicago prior to becoming President & CEO of The Holden Arboretum in 2008. He has conducted botanical research and fieldwork in Thailand, Panama, and Chile, as well as the U.S.

At Holden, Clem leads an outstanding team of staff and volunteers in renewing the arboretum’s dedication to growing trees and communities; conserving native forests; and engaging children with plants. Guided by the “New Leaf” master plan, Holden is creating new gardens, restoring the ecological health of its lakes and streams, and this fall is inaugurating a unique Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower, to immerse visitors in the wonders of the forest canopy. In September 2014 Holden combined with the Cleveland Botanical Garden; Clem serves as President & CEO of both organizations as they are integrating for a greener future for Northeast Ohio.

Clem plays jazz and classical saxophone and clarinet with several groups including the Lakeland Community Jazz Band. His interest in baseball history culminated in 1998 in his winning the Robert Peterson Award from the Society of American Baseball Research, for his statistical analysis of the racial integration of the major leagues.

Kalberer Emergent Tower

Debra Knapke

“Books, Botany, and Horticulture: a Beautiful Combination”

There is nothing Debra loves more than inspiring people to get out and garden.  Known as “The Garden Sage,” Debra is a popular speaker at professional symposia as well as gardening events throughout the Midwest.  She is very active with several professional organizations and has been appointed as the Honorary President of the Herb Society of America for 2014-2016.  Debra has written five books and numerous articles, has been teaching horticulture courses at Columbus State for 21 years, provides garden design consulting in her spare time, and has crammed an amazing variety of perennials, trees, shrubs, and edibles onto the 2/3-acre lot surrounding her home. You can visit her blog at: Heartland Gardening.

In her words, "some of my favorite evenings have been spent in the company of books and a cup of tea. Throughout history people have written about plants and gardens, from botany and taxonomy to plant culture and design. Which of these books have influenced great minds and momentous events in history? Why was there such a reaction when pundits said “the book is dead”? And finally, which books should be in your library and why? Join me as I connect the dots between people, books and plants."


Denny McKeown

“Playing Match Maker: Connecting the Right Plant with its Best Home”

Denny McKeown has been in the nursery business for 51 years.  In January of 1992, Denny bought his own business.  The Bloomin’ Garden Centre is a year round retail sales business along with Denny McKeown Landscape which is a full service landscape division featuring design and installation for residential and commercial properties. In 1985, Denny published his first book “Denny McKeown’s Complete Guide to Midwest Gardening” from Taylor Publishing Company. Since then Denny has written 5 more garden books all published by Cool Springs Press with the ‘Revised Ohio Gardening Book’ released in 2005 and his newest ‘Month by Month Gardening in Ohio’ which was released in Jan 2006 and co-authored with Thomas L Smith.

Denny has been involved with radio for 30 years.  From 1998 to 2003 he did a syndicated gardening show heard throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana.  Since 2003 he has been back home on local radio, first with WGRR 103.5 and in 2006 moved to sister station WFTK, Supertalk 96.5 FM and as of February 2008, he moved his garden show to WUBE, B105.1 FM.  His program was heard every Saturday 6-9AM until he discontinued it in March 2011.  He broadcasted on REALTALK 1160 WQRT and at the end of 2012 he finally retired after 32 years from the radio.  Denny also has a weekly garden column in the Saturday Cincinnati Enquirer in the Home Section and a weekly multi-page newsletter with up to date garden info with lots of colored photos.

He is past National President of The Garden Centers of America where he served on the board of directors for seven years.


David Slawson

“With Heart and Soul: How is the Art of Japanese Gardens Learned?”

David Slawson apprenticed in Kyoto in 1971-72 under Kinsaku Nakane, one of Japan's foremost 20th-century garden makers. Slawson designed the Japanese Garden at Cleveland Botanical Garden in 1974. He also designed the Japanese gardens at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Ark. These two have been voted among the top 10 Japanese gardens in America.

His book, "Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values," is regarded as a classic for its presentation of landscape design principles and translation of the 15th-century Japanese garden manual "Illustrations for Designing Mountain, Water, and Hillside Field Landscapes." It examines the nature of this landscape art and how it is transmitted through apprenticeship and several other modes of learning. Serving a two-year apprenticeship in Kyoto and twelve years of graduate studies culminating in a Ph.D. gave Slawson first-hand knowledge of the learning process. Reflecting on his experiences, he observes five types of learning. Three experiential—internalized through our senses, heart, and body, and two verbal – understood through words:

  • Viewing the gardens of past masters
  • Learning from nature
  • Apprenticeship
  • Oral transmission
  • Written texts including some formerly kept secret.

David has spent the past 40 years designing, writing and teaching. Throughout his career, he's moved toward taking the universal principles of the Japanese garden art form and interpreting them to show the beauty of native landscapes in North America and throughout the world. His ideal is to create gardens inspired by the beauty of regional landscapes and unique attributes of a site, using locally available materials and the client's taste.