Southeastern Plant Symposium, Raleigh NC – Friday June 7, Saturday June 8

Only six weeks remain before the amazing Southeastern Plant Symposium and Rare Plant Auction kicks off in Raleigh. This annual symposium for plant nerds takes place on June 7 and 8 at the North Raleigh Hilton in Raleigh, NC. The symposium, a collaboration between the JC Raulston Arboretum and Juniper Level Botanic Garden, brings together some of the world’s top plant speakers for twelve talks in two days of total ornamental plant immersion. The symposium alternates between a woody plant focus and a perennial plants focus, and 2024 is the year of perennials.

Not only will you be able to hear incredible speakers, but you’ll also be able to interact with them one on one. Another favorite part of the activities is the Rare Plant Auction, which gives you a chance to purchase some super rare plants, many of which are often nearly impossible to find elsewhere. Attendees are able to see and feel the plants at the symposium venue. If, however, you are unable to travel, the event will also be livestreamed via Zoom.

Cole Burrel
Dan Heims

We’ll kick off on Friday June 7 with plantsman Cole Burrell’s talk on Native Plant Design. Cole is a top garden speaker, garden designer, author, tour guide, and all around amazing plantsman. His talk is titled, Right Plant, Right Place – A Gardener’s Ecology. Following Cole, will be Oregon-based plant breeder Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries. In addition to creating the modern Heuchera, Dan has worked with array of perennial genera and has been responsible for introducing an untold number of new perennials, which are now sold worldwide. His talk is titled, Gardening with New Perennials.

Lisa Roper
Kevin Vaughn

After lunch, Lisa Roper of Pennsylvania’s Chanticleer Garden, will talk about The Chanticleer Gravel Garden. Gravel gardens are the new “flavor of the month” in gardening trends, so don’t miss this eye-opening talk. Following Lisa will be Dr. Kevin Vaughn, a world-renown, award-winning plant breeder and garden writer, whose work has spanned many genera including hosta, hemerocallis, narcissus, iris, and now sempervivum. His first talk is’ All the Other Iris, focusing on many of the amazing, but little-known species and species hybrids. Rounding out the Friday afternoon session is Sam Hoadley, Mt. Cuba Manager of Horticultural Research, who will be presenting some of the work from the renown, Mt. Cuba Trials. His talk is titled, Knockout Natives.

Sam Hoadley
Janet Draper

Our Friday dinner speaker is Janet Draper, who is the lead horticulturist for the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden in Washington DC. If you’ve ever wandered around the Nation’s Capital, you’ve no doubt seen Janet’s amazing handiwork. Janet is the past president of the international industry group, The Perennial Plant Association. Her talk is titled, Chasing New Knowledge among Perennial Change. The evening session and meal is a separate ticket from the rest of the symposium.

Keith Wiley
Jim Locklear

Saturday will kickoff with Keith Wiley of Wildside Garden in Devon, England. Keith is an extraordinary garden designer, author, and highly sought out speaker. Keith has been in virtual seclusion since the loss of his wife in 2019, so we are thrilled to welcome him back to the US stage. His program is titled, Plant-welcoming Design: A New Approach to Naturalistic Garden-making. Following Keith will be Jim Locklear, Director of Conservation for Lauritzen Gardens in Nebraska. Many plant people know Jim for his amazing book on the genus, Phlox, but today, he will be speaking about the amazing work of the late plantsman, Claude Barr, whose book, Jewels of the Great Plains, is a horticultural classic. If you aren’t familiar with Claude’s work, prepare to be amazed. Jim’s topic is, Garden Treasures from America’s Grasslands: The Legacy of Claude Barr. Following Jim, we once again welcome back Kevin Vaughn for a talk on the world of Hens and Chicks titled, Not Your Grandmothers’ Sempervivums. You’ll be shocked how far the genus has come in recent years.

Dawn Stover
Tony Avent
Patrick McMillan
Amanda Bennett

After lunch, we welcome Texas plantswoman, Dawn Stover of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Dawn is a phenomenal fountain of information about obscure, but garden worthy native plants, especially from Texas. She spent much of her career at the SFA Mast Arboretum in Texas. Her talk is titled, Welcome to the Zone 8 Mafia: Musings from the Southern Garden Girl. Following Dawn, with be JLBG founder, Tony Avent, who’ll speak on, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise – The Magical World of Lycoris. Holding the worlds largest collection of lycoris at over 1,000 taxa, you’ll learn more about surprise/hurricane lilies than you ever thought possible. Following Tony, will be one of the country’s top plant authorities, Emmy-award winning television star and botanist extraordinaire, Dr. Patrick McMillan, who will present, That’s no Place for Ferns – Sun-loving Ferns for Southeastern Landscapes. Wrapping up our final afternoon will be Amanda Bennett, VP of Horticulture and Collections at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, who will present a talk on hardy orchids for southeastern garden titled, Orchid Dreams.

Mark, Tony, and the staffs of both gardens hope this is enough to entice you to join us. You can sign up on the JC Raulston Arboretum website at

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