Conference Recap: American Public Gardens Association
The annual APGA conference was in Hamilton, Ontario this year, Jun. 19-23, and was a great success, as always! The theme this year was Celebrating Connections: Heritage, Partnership, Progress. The hosts were The Royal Botanical Gardens and The Niagara Parks Commission. The five tracks this year were The Living Landscape; Collecting and Conserving; Education and Communication; Making Friends, Making Money; Leadership, Innovation, and Advocacy.
Hamilton is about an hour from Toronto. I had never flown into Toronto before, and certainly didn’t expect it to take forever to get through customs, and then get through the “funnel” – one door width for hundreds of people with their suitcases – and find the shuttle service station. To top it off, we were driving to Hamilton during rush hour. Long story short, I was late getting to the International Sessions meeting which started at 6 pm, but caught the last half hour or so. Following the meeting was a nice dinner, where I was able to see and talk to quite a few of my favorites from APGA.
Highlights of the conference were a few of the sessions (some look good on paper but in the end, weren’t relevant to my work), the gatherings like the opening reception and “Celebrate Design” – those were great for networking – and the tours, like the private gardens tour, the day and evening at Niagara Falls, and the Royal Botanical Gardens tour and dinner.
I also attended the International Gardens Section Meeting. The focus for this group is to facilitate better communication with gardens around the world, how to identify them, how to keep track of their needs, and the sharing of information. With this audience, conservation and preservation are important, as well as data collection of species.
Niagara Falls day was probably the best in terms of meeting new people and catching up with old friends. It was a long day though – the buses left at 1:30 pm and we didn’t get back (in the rain) until about 11 pm. Plus we’d had sessions in the morning. I must say, although the Falls were majestic as you probably know, what has built up around them was very disappointing. SO commercial. And I heard it was worse on the US side. I’m spoiled having been to Victoria Falls! My favorite part of the experience was some great conversations with friends during the picnic-style dinner on a wide expanse of hillside, complete with some really unique musicians, and fireworks at the end.
A whirlwind week ended with an early pick-up on the 24th, drive back to Toronto, crazy long TWO customs check, and then it was back to Tampa, thankfully on a non-stop flight! And get this, we didn’t have to go through customs in Tampa! So they check you like crazy when you leave Canada, and then don’t care about you when you get to the US? I didn’t get it, but sure didn’t complain!
Next year – Anaheim! I heard rumor that the hotel was going to be a Disney property. We’ll see!
Photo by Sandy Schmidt