Engaging an audience is the number one priority for a garden speaker. Gardening audiences are diverse, and often there are those who feel discouraged by the realities of their landscape even though their skill level is high. I enjoy putting them at their ease while providing an encouraging, educational talk that gives everyone in the room something to think about – approaching difficult questions with humor, empathy and experience.

“In 4 years of booking garden speakers for our Master Gardener monthly lecture series, I have had the pleasure of hearing many first-rate presentations, but Marianne’s recent talk on her new book was the best ever. I was contacted by at least ten MGs who said it was the best talk we had ever had. Marianne is so knowledgeable and yet so warm and engaging. Her column and her book showcase her considerable writing skills, and she brings the same witty turns of phrase to her public speaking. Her enthusiasm for all things horticultural is contagious and conveying that enthusiasm, I have learned, is the mark of a top-notch speaker.”

– Jill J., Virginia

Symposium Audience with Marianne Willburn

Please contact Marianne using the form below for availability and fees.

Please allow up to two business days for response.

Marianne Willburn, Bio

Marianne Willburn is the author of Big Dreams, Small Garden, and a Master Gardener with over two decades of experience gardening in places as diverse as Southern California, England, and the Mid-Atlantic.

She contributes to national and regional magazines and has won several national awards for her popular column and blog, The Small Town Gardener. Marianne also guides European garden tours with CarexTours, a D.C. based tour company dedicated to exploring public and private gardens in a small group experience.

Though in small gardens for most of her adult life, she now gardens intensively and exhaustively on ten acres and shares her expertise each week with readers online and in print.

For more information:


Presentation Topics

*Custom presentations are also available for your group.

Big Dreams, Small Garden:
A Guide to Creating Something Extraordinary in Your Ordinary Space

Tiny balcony, lack of privacy, HOA restrictions, tough neighborhood…if you’re struggling with a difficult outside space you are not alone.  Very few of us have ideal conditions outside, but by breaking down the process into manageable sections, shifting our perspective and cultivating a sense of contentment and peace in the process – we can create the garden that lives inside of us. Marianne will go over this process and share a few tips and real-life gardens from her book Big Dreams, Small Garden to help you get excited about your outside space – no matter what it is.

Tropical Foliage Plants: The Answer to Hot, Humid Summer Gardens

Forget about succulents. If you’re searching for plants that will add exciting accents to your hot, humid summer garden, last right up through the first hard freeze and make you look like a horticultural rock star, look no farther than tropicals.  Marianne will focus on some spectacular examples that are easy to grow, much easier than you think to overwinter, and are guaranteed to have your garden visitors pulling out their cameras before they’ve even left the car.

What Can We Learn from British Gardens?

Americans have been entranced by British gardens for as long as they’ve been creating their own – but what is it exactly that makes the British garden so revered?  Perhaps more importantly, what can British gardens and gardeners teach us in our own gardens?  Using ten key concepts gleaned from a lifetime of extensive travel and study in the UK, Marianne illustrates the reasons why we might want to keep paying attention to our cousins overseas.

Keep Calm and Garden On – Gardening in the Midst of Climate Change

While world leaders argue over the threat of climate change and its causes, gardeners find ourselves stuck in the literal and figurative trenches doing what we always do: watching patterns and making informed choices for next year.  How can we best adapt to what is, right now, and make our gardens more resilient? This talk focuses on key points we should be considering when we design our gardens moving forward and how employing positive, productive measures can help ease our own concerns over the unknown.

Seed Starting Basics
The Why, What, How and Where-Do-I-Fit-This-In-My-Life?

Starting your own seeds gives gardeners unlimited variety, saves you money and builds a connection with your plants; but it can also be a little overwhelming and confusing.  Marianne strips it down to the basics, explains terminology, and helps you get on top of your seeds and equipment.  At the end of the presentation, you’ll find yourself encouraged and excited for the next growing season!

Garden Maintenance for Real Life

Even though we know our gardens don’t have to be perfect, it’s hard not to feel like we’re constantly falling behind. How do we determine if we need to work smarter for better results, or if the garden is in need of some serious surgery? Marianne will ask – and answer – some tough questions to help us re-balance our lives with our outside spaces, giving maintenance tips and a bit of perspective to gardeners feeling overwhelmed.

Getting Excited about Shade

Are you hosta’d out, and want plants that work with your shade – not in spite of it? Shade is not easily boxed into neat categories of ‘full’ and ‘part.’ Learn to identify and understand five different types of shade and some of the best plants you can use to take full advantage of each.  It’s time to move beyond the basics and start planting your shady gardens as the lush, cooling spaces they can be.

The Recycled Garden

Repurposing materials in your garden saves money and is an environmentally sound practice; but used carefully, those materials can also add whimsey and make your garden unique.  Marianne will help you train your eyes to see the ‘treasure’ in ‘trash’ by utilizing a series of steps designed to help you figure out what you need and what you have.  From cast off chairs to the remnants of a building project to natural materials along a roadside, salvaged finds have the power to put an individual stamp on your garden without costing you a fortune.

Inspiring Containers

If you’re staring at that cluttered jumble of pots in the basement and wondering what you can do with them this year that won’t have you yawning before you even start, let Marianne help you create something that goes beyond the tired and traditional annual combos and boring, predictable placement.  Utilize edibles and perennials, discover tropical treasures, consider adding the magical element of water, and learn what to look for when grouping plants for a successful container that thrives.

Marianne is a member of greatgardenspeakers.com!  Visit their website to read further reviews.