George’s Talks and Trips
The 2016 trips are ready! This is our most ambitious lineup yet, offering all sorts of great garden-gawking opportunities from five amazing private gardens in our own back yard to some of the world’s grandest formal gardens in Paris.
You’re invited to any or all of them. The trips are open to the public. I pick the gardening venues, and Lowee’s Group Tours of Harrisburg takes care of the arrangements and bookings. Stauffers of Kissel Hill Garden Centers gives away several $25 gift cards per trip in addition to the plant, garden-book and other prizes I give away.
Check out the 2016 lineup below, and give Lowee’s a call to reserve a seat. You’ll also find details on our last trip of 2015, a day trip to three of the region’s du Pont sites (“Christmas with the du Ponts”).
When I don’t have my nose in a computer or compost pile, you’ll find me out and about doing gardening talks. The list of open-to-the-public ones can also found below.
If you’re interested in having me speak to your group, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get you my current list of 22 programs.
2015 TALKS BY GEORGE
The rest of my talks for 2015 are all “in-house” ones for garden clubs and Master Gardener groups. This is the right place, though, to check for my upcoming open-to-the-public talks. I’ll post them as they’re ready.
2015 TRIPS BY GEORGE
Christmas with the du Ponts
Friday, Dec. 4, 2015
We’ll have a du Pont-filled day, starting with the family’s first American home, now the Hagley Museum, where we’ll see the house and grounds where the du Pont legacy began.
Then we’ll head to Winterthur, the home of garden-loving Henry Francis du Pont, who also amassed a huge collection of American decorative arts. This estate is decorated elegantly for the holidays.
The last stop is Pierre du Pont’s Longwood Gardens to see its elaborately adorned conservatory, its humongous outdoor light display and its fountain show set to lights and holiday music. We stay after dark to enjoy the lights.
Cost is $135, including lunch at Winterthur. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com. Pickups are at both East Shore and West Shore locations.
See the full itinerary on Lowee’s website.
2016 TRIPS BY GEORGE
Mickey’s Plants and Gardens of Central Florida
Tuesday, Feb. 2, to Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016
Shave a week off of winter cold, and see plants blooming in February as we head to central Florida for an 8-day, 7-night gardener’s winter get-away.
Yes, much is blooming in Florida even while we’re freezing our buds off in a central-Pennsylvania winter. See 24 photos I took on a previous trip if you don’t believe it.
Disney World’s doorstep will be our home base for a trip that includes six superb Florida gardens, a behind-the-scenes tour of Epcot’s Land Pavilion, a day trip and boat cruise to see Florida native plants and wildlife, and the best strawberry sundaes you’ve ever had.
The trip starts with a flight to Orlando and a first-afternoon tour of Orlando’s Harry P. Leu Gardens with its beautiful palms, camellias and roses. I’d have to rank this one second or third on my list of favorite gardens anywhere in Florida.
We’ll then check into the Comfort Suites Maingate East, located just minutes from the Disney theme parks and in the midst of some 60 shops and restaurants. We’re staying there all 7 nights.
Day 2 features a “behind-the-seeds” tour of Epcot Center’s Land Pavilion where we’ll take a tour into the four greenhouses and fish farm that most visitors see only from boats. After the greenhouse tour, we’ll have the rest of the day to explore Epcot or any Disney theme park with our two-day Park Hopper passes that are included with the trip.
Day 3 is a visit to my favorite Florida garden – Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Selby has an amazing collection of palms and tropical trees, including “walking” strangler figs and the Moreton Bay figs with their gigantic panel-like roots as seen in the film Jurassic Park.
Also on Day 3, we’ll stop at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Station to see schools of manatees and hit one of those hidden gems that’s a favorite of snowbirds – the Parkesdale Farm Market. This roadside market has world-class strawberry sundaes and shakes, featuring berries grown and picked fresh from the neighboring farm. Strawberries are in season in early February in central Florida.
Day 4 is a free day to visit Disney parks or one of the area’s many other fun attractions or just to relax by the hotel pool. Our hotel offers a free shuttle to the Disney parks, and then your Park Hopper pass lets you use free Disney transportation to go from one park to another.
Day 5 is a trip to two superb Florida East-Coast gardens – the 18-acre “jungle garden” of McKee Botanical Gardens (founded by a Penn Stater) and Fort Pierce’s Heathcote Botanical Gardens.
McKee was once 80 acres and one of Florida’s premier tourist attractions – drawing 100,000 visitors a year – before Disney came along. Strolling paths wind you through all sorts of tropical vistas, most of them featuring bridges and water.
The best part of Heathcote is its tropical bonsai garden. The crafted tropicals are set on ornate pedestals in beds of stone. Heathcote also has an excellent Japanese garden with waterfall.
Day 6 is off to Lakeland, where we’ll see the city-operated Hollis Gardens, a formally designed garden with terraced waterfalls, tropical blooms, and an edible-landscape display. This is one of the nicest municipal-run gardens I’ve ever seen. It’s very colorful and well maintained.
Then it’s over to Lake Wales to tour the 50-acre Bok Towers Gardens with its 205-foot-tall granite “singing tower” with carillon organ. We’re timing it to be there on a day and time when a carillon concert is scheduled.
Bok Towers is the winter estate of Philadelphian Edward Bok, once the editor of Ladies Home Journal. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. designed the grounds, which are primarily Florida woodland.
This stop includes the 8-acre landscaped “El Retiro” estate of Bethlehem Steel’s C. Austin Buck with its allee of kumquat trees in the front yard.
Day 7 is nature oriented to get a flavor of the native plants and wildlife of Florida. We’ll take a 2-hour cruise on the Banana River Lagoon to see its mangrove swamps, tidal flats, rich marine life and maybe even some manatees, dolphins, turtles and alligators, then visit the Merritt Island National Refuge and its quarter-mile bird trail in the afternoon.
Day 8 we head home with a camera full of great photos and a February tan.
The cost is $1,995 per person double, including airfare, lodging, transportation, luggage-handling, admissions and 13 meals. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
See the full itinerary on Lowee’s website.
Philadelphia Flower Show Day Trips
Mon., March 7; Tue., March 8; Wed., March 9; Thur., March 10; Fri., March 11, 2016
This is the world’s biggest and oldest indoor flower show. It’s a spectacle well worth seeing at least once, and many gardeners go every year… including me.
The 2016 show theme celebrates America’s 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. See 40 major garden exhibits built around the parks theme, plus a huge gardening marketplace (more than 100 vendors), talks, a judged amateur plant-growing competition and free wine-tasting. We get there around noon (avoiding the early lines), drop you off at the front door, and stay until 7 p.m.
The cost is $85, which includes your show ticket. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
Alexandria Home and Garden Tour and Washington’s Mt. Vernon
Sat., April 23, 2016
People love Alexandria’s version of Virginia Garden Week so much that we’re going back for a fourth time. You’ll spend the morning touring the Alexandria homes and gardens on the 2016 lineup as well as the shops, waterfront and downtown of this Colonial-era city.
After lunch at your pick of Alexandria restaurants (on your own), we’ll head to George Washington’s Mt. Vernon for the balance of the afternoon. You’ll have the option of seeing the house or just exploring the interesting farm and gardens that the father of our country built.
The cost is $149, including dinner on the way home. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
Holland’s Tulip Festival, Gardens of Michigan and Mackinac Island
Sat., May 7-Sun. May 15, 2016
No need to fly to Europe to see amazing spring-bulb displays. The “other” Holland – the one in western Michigan – celebrates its Dutch heritage with an annual Tulip Festival. We’ll spend two days there enjoying the festivities, bulb gardens and a tour of one of the nation’s biggest perennial growers.
We’ll also see a raft of other great gardens on the way out, including the Toledo Botanical Garden, gardens on the campuses of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University (including MSU’s pioneering Children’s Garden), the esteemed Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, and a morning at Dearborn’s Henry Ford Museum and neighboring Greenfield Village.
After the Tulip Festival, we’ll head north to Mackinaw City (winery visit and lunch along Lake Michigan on the way), where we’ll spend a full day enjoying Mackinac Island with its quaint shops, beautiful gardens, laid-back atmosphere, and NO CARS!
On the way home, we’ll visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the new Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. The cost is $1,749 per person double, including 8 nights lodging and 15 meals. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
Home-Grown Great Gardens II… and Local Wine
Friday, July 1, 2016
Our first-time tour of Harrisburg-area gardens went over so well in 2015 that we’ve lined up another group of five more superb private, local home gardens.
We’ll be visiting Kristin and Tegan Livelsberger’s stunning hydrangea gardens above Linglestown; Ann Markley’s Morris Medley homestead with its butterfly garden and labyrinth; Jacy and David Wilson’s shaded suburban yard with its four-season design and cutting-edge plants; the back-yard get-away, Colonial-style gardens and water features in Dave Houseal and Bonnie Housel’s Palmyra yard, and Pat and Dan Hottenstein’s peaceful retreat with a sunken garden, perennial borders and a model railway in Mt. Gretna.
Wedged in the middle is lunch and wine-tasting at The Vineyard at Hershey. The cost is $99, including lunch. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
Garden Walk Buffalo, Cornell’s Gardens and Wine
Fri., July 29-Sun., July 31, 2016
Hands-down the best place to get ideas for your own home landscape is Garden Walk Buffalo, America’s biggest garden tour with some 400 gardens open for two days of gawking. This will be our third trip to it, which this time will include a stop on the way up to see the gardens on the campus of Cornell University, plus wine-tasting at the Finger Lakes’ Eremita Cellars, a winery built in a restored late 1800s church.
We’ll also see the Buffalo Japanese Garden, the Delaware Park Rose Garden, the annual flower trials at the Lake Erie Marina, and take an evening cruise on Lake Erie.
The cost is $499 per person double, including two nights lodging, the lake cruise and four meals. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
Private Gardens of Bellefonte and State College
Fri., Aug. 19, 2016
Want to see even more private gardens? Fans of flowers, pollinators and restored barns especially will love the four gardens on this day trip to Centre County’s Bellefonte/State College area.
We’ll see Norm and Pam Knaub’s 2-acre flower paradise (plus Norm’s huge vegetable garden); Jane and Lou Moore’s perennial gardens, waterfalls and 1810 antiques-adorned barn that was dismantled, moved and rebuilt by Amish carpenters; Beverly Harader’s 2-acre pollinator habitat, hillside meadow, cottage gardens and 1890 house along Little Marsh Creek, and the 3-acre, Master-Gardener-planted Snetsinger Butterfly Garden in State College’s Tudek Park.
We’ll stop on the way home at the quaint Tait Farm, which has a greenhouse full of interesting plants plus a Harvest Shop with all sorts of specialty foods, garden-gift items and hand-crafted products made by regional artisans.
The cost is $99 and includes lunch at Duffy’s in Boalsburg. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
Spotlight on Paris
Monday, Sept. 19, to Mon., Sept. 26, 2016
We’ll be heading to Paris and beyond to see such world-famous French gardens as Monet’s Giverny and the Palace Versailles formal gardens in this 8-day trip put together by Collette Vacations and Lowee’s Group Tours.
The lineup also includes visits to the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and France’s Champagne country as well as dinner in the Eiffel Tower, an evening cruise on the Seine River, and the choice of a free day in Paris or a day trip to the stunning gardens at the Chateau de Villandry.
The trip leaves Sept. 19, 2016, from Philadelphia (with local transportation there) and returns Sept. 26, 2016, from Paris. We’re staying the entire time at the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile.
The trip cost, including hotel, airfare, admissions, guides and nine meals, is $4,324 per person double. The Villandry day trip is $151 extra ($90 per person if 35 or more people go). Fontainebleu is $100 extra.
Here’s a rundown:
Tue., Sept. 20, 2016: See Luxembourg Gardens, a 60-acre park and gardens that’s home to France’s Senate and the model for our Statue of Liberty. Then visit the Jardin des Plantes, a city botanical garden that dates to 1635 and is part of the French National Museum of Natural History.
Wed., Sept. 21, 2016: Tour Bois Richeux, one of the oldest farms in France and now sporting a medieval garden and classic French-style potager beds. Then spend the afternoon touring impressionist artist Claude Monet’s famous Giverny garden with its 2-acre painterly flower beds and iconic wisteria-adorned bridge across Giverny’s water garden. You’ll recognize the gardens from Monet’s paintings.
Then it’s back to Paris for dinner under the Eiffel Tower and an evening cruise on the Seine River.
Thur., Sept. 22, 2016: Some of Paris’s best known attractions are the focus this day, including the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Champs-Elysees, the Place de la Concorde and the Place Vendome. The highlight will be a visit to the Louvre, arguably the world’s best museum that houses masterpieces including Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. Dinner at one of the city’s fine restaurants is on the menu for this evening.
Fri., Sept. 23, 2016: This is an optional day. Those who like some free time can spend the day seeing Paris on their own terms, while others have a choice between the Fontainebleau Royal Residence or a trip to the Loire Valley to see two superb private gardens.
Fontainebleu is an ornate chateau and palace with art galleries and gardens that was home to French royalty for seven centuries, including Napoleon. This option includes a stop on the way back at Barbizon, the “village of painters,” where you’ll feel like you’re walking through an impressionist painting.
The other day-trip option features Plessis Sasnieres – a 4-acre private garden filled with unusual plants and an excellent kitchen garden – followed by an afternoon at the Chateau de Villandry – the last great Renaissance chateau, castle and what’s been called the “world’s most beautiful vegetable garden.” I think it rivals Versailles’ gardens.
Sat., Sept. 24, 2016: We’re off to Champagne country, including a stop in ancient Reims where early French kings were crowned, a stop in the village of Epernay, and leisurely time sampling various Champagnes, some of them made in cellars dating to the 4th century.
Sun., Sept. 25, 2016: Our last touring day features a visit to the region’s crowning attraction, the Palace of Versailles. This was the seat of French royalty from 1682 until the French revolution and houses the Hall of Mirrors (still used for important government affairs), five chapels, the Museum of the History of France, and some of the most elaborate, impressive gardens and water features the world has ever seen.
We’ll have a farewell dinner with wine, Champagne and a cabaret show at the Paradis Latin to cap off this day before flying home early the next afternoon.
More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
Chanticleer, David Culp’s Layered Garden, and Terrain Garden Center
Fri., Oct. 28, 2016
David Culp is the author of the 2012 hit book “The Layered Garden” and tends the 2-acre Brandywine Cottage gardens with Michael Alderfer in what’s a living lesson in plant-pairing. We’ll tour this private garden in the morning, then have lunch in Glen Mills.
After lunch, we’ll head over to the Urban Outfitters-owned Terrain at Styer’s garden center for a quick shop-stop and visit. Terrain is an upscale garden center that sells quality plants and interesting gifts in a boutique setting.
Then we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon strolling and exploring Chanticleer, a “pleasure garden” in nearby Wayne, Pa., with a beautiful mix of themed gardens and gorgeous plants. Chanticleer often is mentioned as Pennsylvania’s second best public garden (behind only Longwood).
The cost is $119, including lunch. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.
A Capital Christmas of Flowers, Ice, Trains and Lights
Fri., Dec. 2, 2016
We’ll start this Christmas-season trip with a visit to 80-year-old Behnke Nursery, one of the D.C. area’s best garden centers. Then we’ll head to the National Harbor to see the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center’s amazing ICE display of ice sculptures and holiday lights.
Then we’ll head to the Capitol grounds for an afternoon visit to U.S. Botanic Garden, which will be decorated with trains, holiday plants and miniature D.C. landmarks made out of plant parts.
And after dinner, we’ll cap the trip with a visit to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md., to see the stunning Garden of Lights outdoor holiday light show.
The cost is $135, including dinner. More information and booking is available by calling Lowee’s Group Tours at 717-657-9658 or toll-free 1-888-345-6933 or by emailing CKelly@Lowees.com.