Since 1984, the Davidson Horticultural Symposium has presented programs dedicated to the inspiration and education of professional and amateur gardeners. Organized and produced by the Davidson Garden Club, it began as a joint volunteer effort by the Club and several faculty and staff members of Davidson College with the objective of providing affordable continuing education in the field of horticulture. We have the tradition of inviting both well-known speakers and up-and-coming new talent. J.C. Raulston was one of our biggest supporters and took pride in his annual comment in the NC State Arboretum Newsletter that our Symposium was “always the best in the region.”
The first symposium was spearheaded by the Davidson Garden Club’s Phyllis Herring, a Landscape Architect, and Margaret Zimmerman, a masterful gardener, in collaboration with Irwin Brawley, then current Superintendent of Grounds at Davidson College, to bring interesting Horticultural speakers to Davidson. The first symposium featured Jim Wilson, host of Victory Garden South, A.E. Bye, renowned Landscape Architect from Connecticut, Fred Galle, retired Director of Horticulture at Callaway Gardens, Ken Moore, assistant director of the NC Botanical Garden, and Harry Phillips, propagator and expert on wildflower propagation. With over 250 in attendance, the Symposium began a successful tradition!
Expectations continue to be high, including international and national speakers, home-made goodies from the Davidson Garden Club, opportunities to see unusual plant offerings by local garden centers, displays by area artists, and a wide variety of garden books. A volunteer steering committee from the Davidson Garden Club works nearly year-round to select the theme, and to identify and secure speakers. They then prepare the brochure and website, coordinate with Davidson College, plan meals, register hundreds of people, create beautiful floral arrangements, host the speakers, and bake for the annual event.
Davidson College has been the site of the Symposium since its inception. The campus is an exceptional arboretum that provides a sense of escape from everyday pressures and offers the opportunity for quiet reflection. No matter what the weather holds for early March, it is always spring for attendees on Symposium Day.
Since the beginning, we have had notable speakers reflecting the diversity and the future of the horticulture field. For a respective look, click here to view the gallery of previous speakers.