Monday, April 11, 2011

2011 Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza - Milwaukee Style!

Now really...who drives six hours (one way, through four states) and pays for one night in a hotel for a one-day event? Two gardeners who are pretty sure that they're going to get more than the cost and time of doing that, in return. And we weren't the only ones, as eight states were represented at this event!

Last week, Mom and I drove to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the Proven Winners® Outdoor Living Extravaganza (OLE), held at the Milwaukee County Zoo. As we drove north of Chicago, we noticed that spring had not yet arrived in Wisconsin, but at the Peck Center, there were plenty of brightly colored blooms for everyone.

The third of four Proven Winners® OLE events (previously in Seattle and Atlanta, and next in Toronto on April 15), we were treated to topics by four speakers unique to the Milwaukee event.

Kerry Meyer, Proven Winners® Program Manager, gave us the behind the scenes story of how a plant becomes part of the Proven Winners® line, and eventually part of our gardens. PW's first priority is summer garden performance. The rest is details, because Proven Winners®' main goal is to have a product that the home gardener has success with. If we're successful, we'll buy more Proven Winners® plants, right?

About 1000 lines of plants each year are trialed for two years or more, by 60 breeders in various locations throughout the world, in the ground and in containers. From these, 15-30 new plants per year are introduced. Proven Winners® plants are trialed for good branching, heat and drought tolerance, clean clear color, no need for deadheading, and disease tolerance or resistance.

Solenostemon scuttellarioides Colorblaze® 'Alligator Tears'
In the background, Nemesia Sunsatia® Coconut and Sunsatia® Lemon

Some of this year's new plants that you'll want to look for:

Solenostemon Colorblaze® Alligator Tears (A sun coleus!)
Absolutely Amethyst™ Iberis (Perennial candytuft, in purple)
Lobelia Lucia® Lavender Blush
Intensia® Blueberry Phlox (An annual phlox)
Leucanthemum Daisy May (Shasta daisy that blooms all summer, when deadheaded)

Anisodontea Slightly Strawberry™

Nemesia Sunsatia® Cranberry

 Angelonia angustifolia Angelface® Blue

Bidens ferulifolia Goldilocks Rocks™

Kerry teased us with a look at some of the 2012 plants, too!

Melinda Myers guided us in how to make the best use of small spaces in our gardens and gave us a handout listing some of the best plants to use and just how to use them.

She got a bit of laughter from us when she started out by saying one of the keys to success is to "plan first and shop later." She got a lot of laughter with that, actually, since we've all been rendered helpless when faced with all that eye candy as we walk into a garden center!

"If you don't have enough space to grow all the plants you want to grow, you have a small space garden."
~Melinda Myers

Melinda lives in Wisconsin and besides being the author of several gardening books, she's also featured on television and radio, as well as in many other publications. You can learn more from Melinda at

We took a break for lunch, which was an absolutely delicious meal of a marinated lettuce and tomato salad, stuffed chicken breast, grilled green beans, grilled potato cubes, fresh fruit, and dinner rolls. There were other things that I can't remember, but I would have dumped the bowls of pecan halves in my purse if I thought I could have gotten away with it.

Lunch was a time to catch up with familiar faces and to meet new ones. It's always nice to see Danielle Ernest, Public Relations and Brand Development Coordinator at Proven Winners® . I'll get to spend some more time with Danielle when we both attend the upcoming Garden2Blog event at P. Allen Smith's Garden Home Retreat in Little Rock.

I got to see and chat with Sandy Wentworth (Customer Relations for Proven Winners®), too. I'd met her previously in Dallas at the Garden Writers' symposium. Jessica Reinhardt, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist from Dramm Corporation, was a familiar face too, as we had met in Dallas and she's provided me with some of those wonderful Dramm products that I've mentioned in the past.

Pat, Brenda and me.
I met several other gardeners, including a Wisconsin reader of my blog who recognized me as I was going around taking photographs. Brenda is from Madison and was there with her friend and neighbor, Pat. We spent some time chatting about gardening and cats and chickens! I'm so glad she came up to me and introduced herself!

Danielle introduced me to The Impatient Gardener, a.k.a Erin, a fellow garden blogger who lives in Wisconsin and frequents Twitter, as I do. It's always fun to meet those people in person that you "see" online.

After lunch, we got to hear Tim Wood, Product Development Manager for Spring Meadow Nursery (MI), tell about his searches the world over for new and interesting plants.  That's why he's known as The Plant Hunter. He shared some of his travels to The Netherlands, France, Japan, and other places, where he meets the breeders of some of the plants we have in our gardens. Travel and plants - what a great job, eh?

He also filled us in on how shrubs get to be in the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® family of plants. Key characteristics of these shrubs are:

  • great garden performance
  • interesting foliage
  • multiple seasons of interest
  • long-blooming
  • unique look or use
  • compact habit or growth
  • ease of care

Popular Proven Winners® shrubs include Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight', the only continuously blooming H. paniculata; Physocarpus opulifolious Coppertina™; Berberis thungerii Sunjoy® Gold Pillar; and Weigela florida My Monet®.

Closing out the speaking line-up was P. Allen Smith, who really needed no introduction, but in case you don't know who he is, Allen is the star of P. Allen Smith's Garden Home on PBS and just recently launched a new series, P. Allen Smith's Garden to Table. At lunch, he was constantly being photographed and it didn't stop when he began speaking.

He showed us ways to use containers in our gardens, whether they were on porches, patios, or integrated into the flower beds themselves. We got to see many examples of how he uses Proven Winners® plants at his home and in his designs. Allen proved to be a charming comedian too, with his dry sense of humor and he kept the gardeners grinning.

During breaks in the program, garden products from Dramm, Corona Tools, Cobrahead, The Seed Keeper Company, Lechuza, local garden centers, and many other companies were given away. Proven Winners® gave away many of their plants, too. P. Allen Smith gave away three of his new card sets that were just published on roses, bulbs, and veggies & herbs.

Two lucky gardeners won a Seed Keepers kit, held here by Danielle.

We all got to take home a Calibrachoa Superbells® Coralberry Punch. I was thrilled about this, because I'd seen it in Proven Winners® The Gardener's Idea Book and fell in love with it. Superbells® Blackberry Punch is a winner, too. Several of the new introductions were available for purchase.

Calibrachoa Superbells® Coralberry Punch
Calibrachoa Superbells® Blackberry Punch

In our swag bags were many publications to help us with garden design and plant choice, including a sliding graph plant chart from Proven Winners®. We also got a window thermometer from PW, a trowel from Corona Tools, Milorganite® organic nitrogen fertilizer, Organic Bio-tone® StarterPlus plant food, Zum Bar® Goat's Milk Soap from Indigo Wild, a garden ruler from The Seed Keeper Company, and a Rite in the Rain® mini notebook.

Before we knew it, the day was over and we drove the six hours back home, arriving at Our Little Acre around 11:15 PM. As we drove east on U.S. 30, the conversation centered on what we were going to do in our gardens and how we would use many of the Proven Winners® plants we saw that day.

There were 10 of these combination planters for sale, and about 30 people
that wanted to buy them. Names were put into a container and drawn out
for the right to buy one. Mom got one!

Thank you, Proven Winners®. Thank you, speakers. Thank you, sponsors. What a wonderful event this was. For those of you who've never attended one, there's still time to go to Toronto for the final event this Friday!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

It looks like a good time was had by all.

Unknown said...

Thanks Kylee for the wonderful Proven Winners share of the Milwaukee Outdoor Living Extravanganza! What a fun filled day for all. Proven Winners plants are a favorite here :-)

Mellon said...

Nice post Kylee. Those folks at PW know how to do a workshop!

Shady Gardener said...

I like that I see you continuing to travel with your mom! :-)

Anonymous said...

I use PW plants, among others, most every season. They always perform as expected.

Wouldn't it be great to have The Plant Hunter's job?!? I wonder if he needs an assistant??

Louise Hartwig said...

I am blessed with the time we have together and sharing our love of gardening.

Unknown said...

WOW this looks like an amazing workshop. The flowers are absolutely gorgeous!

Also thought you might be interested to know that I was stopping by Whole Foods today and they're teaming up with Yes to Carrots by giving away grants to help schools build gardens! woohoooo for more gardens!

Shawna Lee Coronado said...

Looks like I missed a very fun time. Great photos Kylee!


joey said...

Sounds like a delightful gardening adventure, Kylee, your mother, and added bonus. Our Garden Club guest speaker today will be talking about gardening in small spaces ... should be interesting! Need ideas for youngest son's tiny/horrid backyard (talked to Jan about it and hoping to get together ... finally meeting her, a bonus for me :)

Jan said...

Love reading about you & your mom's adventures, Kylee. Sounds like a great event! Someday I am going to attend something like that! Thanks for sharing all the details;-)

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ I'm so glad we decided to make the trip!

Arbor ~ It was a great day, all the way around!

Mellon~ Thanks! They sure do!

Shady Gardener ~ We have fun doing these things together. We're quite blessed to be able to do it!

TC ~ I KNOW! I was thinking that the entire time he was showing us his photos of all the people and places he's gone!

Mom ~ As am I. <3

Charisse ~ It was a great event! That's great about Whole Foods and Yes to Carrots!

Shawna ~ Thanks, Shawna! Yes, you would have loved all the great information and wonderful gardeners, not to mention the plants!

Joey ~ That's so cool that you'll be getting together with Jan! Wish I were going to be there, too!

Jan ~ Mom usually holds up better than I do! LOL. We DO have fun together, and yes, you MUST attend one of these if you get the chance in future years!

Unknown said...

Awesome I love your posts Kylee! :) Yes to Carrots is pretty awesome as well... I just found out that their products are 20% off at Whole Foods!

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