Close up of white blossoms

Horticulturist Melinda Myers looks ahead to the PBS Wisconsin Garden & Landscape Expo

February 8, 2022 Tara Lovdahl Leave a Comment

Melinda Myers kneeling by some flowering shrubs along a path in a garden

Gardening expert, Melinda Myers

PBS Wisconsin’s Garden & Landscape Expo is a three-day event Feb. 11-13 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison that offers more than 100 free educational presentations, an exhibitor mall, insight from UW-Madison Extension Horticulture experts, a floral design competition and more.

Among the expert gardeners presenting at Garden & Landscape Expo is nationally known horticulturist, TV/radio host, gardening author and columnist Melinda Myers. In anticipation of the event, we chatted with Melinda about cultivating a passion and curiosity for gardening.

Garden & Landscape Expo will be a masked event. All attendees are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth. Thank you for your cooperation with this important safety requirement.

Anyone who is feeling unwell or showing any symptoms of illness should not attend Garden & Landscape Expo. Anyone who has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, has recently had direct contact with an individual diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19, or is displaying symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19 should not attend Garden & Landscape Expo. We will continuously monitor for updates from health officials.

PBS Wisconsin: What got you started in gardening? 

Melinda Myers: It’s one of those things where I look back and the path was clear, but going forward, I didn’t think so. My dad grew up on a farm, and we always had a garden, but he never let my brother and I in the garden. So maybe that’s the key to getting your kids to garden, right? Don’t let them in — it’s too much fun!

My grandma and I would hike and look at wildflowers. I’d help her clean her snap beans. We picked morel mushrooms when I was growing up. So I always had plants in my life.

When I started as an undergrad, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And probably very traditional of somebody my age, I thought I was going to be a teacher or a nurse. And I always said I’d be a teacher. Horticulture gave me plants and people, and that just seems to be the combination. I found my passion and my career right away. Not everyone can say that, so I feel very lucky that I found something that really resonates with me. 

PBS Wisconsin: Where do you look for new ideas and gardening inspiration? 

Myers: Gardeners are great at sharing, so I always get inspiration and ideas from the people I teach. I feel like every time I teach, I get a couple more ideas to pass along or try. 

I go to as many professional conferences as I can. The one good thing about COVID is that so many things turned virtual that I could still go to things because I didn’t have to travel and, you know, I wasn’t going anywhere else! 

I’m so excited for the Garden & Landscape Expo because virtual was great — I mean, you kept in touch — but this will be so much better. I’m so excited and everybody I’ve talked to can’t wait to be in person. 

PBS Wisconsin: What do you enjoy most about Garden & Landscape Expo? 

Myers: I love talking to the people. I connect with my fellow horticulturists and fellow gardeners. You walk in a room with people with shared interests, and you can feel the energy, and I think that’s what’s so exciting. 

I have a booth again this year, and I always joke that it keeps me from spending too much money because I’m working, and otherwise I come home with a car full of stuff. I have my list, so I am going to put up my little “I’ll be back in 10 minutes” sign and run around and buy stuff. But otherwise when I’m not lecturing or shopping, I will be in my booth and I have some freebies from some of my sponsors to give away, and information, of course, and fertilizer samples. But just stop by and say hello, if nothing else. I’m looking forward to passing on what I know and what I’ve learned and learning from them as well. They give me ideas. They feed me energy. I connect with people around the world, but in person, nothing is better. 

PBS Wisconsin: What do you suggest to gardeners who are getting mixed results, some success, some failures. How do they adjust for next season? 

Myers: I always share my failures. I had a woman asking me about a lemon cypress. I said, “I’ve killed that twice,” and she goes, “Really?” and her husband rats her out and says, “She killed it, too!” Well, there are just some plants that just don’t work with your style of gardening. And that’s why I don’t have a problem sharing the challenges because we’ve all killed plants — I didn’t quite get that right. 

My problem is, like most, my goals are bigger than my time. And so I always tell people, “If you are overwhelmed, take a step back.” And it’s okay to ask for help! I think sometimes you think I have to do it all. No, you don’t. And some things you shouldn’t do. I try to tell people to be realistic. Do what you like. Make this a garden for you. If it’s not fun, then we need to reevaluate. So it’s OK to cut back. 

I think you learn more from your failures. In some ways when it all goes right, you realize, “I’m not sure why this works. Was I lucky? Was it the watering? Was it the weather?” And so I like to share some of those things because I want people to respond to failures with, “You know what, it happens to all of us.” I want them to be confident. Just try it and you’ll find it gets better.

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