The Big Guns

Ever want to meet your icon, a famous rock star, or your idol?  Well, volunteering in an arena where they perform is one avenue you can take to reach that goal.  And for me it happened at the CT Flower & Garden show.

As I took a lunch break in a hallway cubby on the seminar floor, I began to read the next speaker’s bio from my iPad.  However, I’m already a big fan of this person and very familiar with her reputation from seeing her speak at other gardening conferences over the past couple years.

As I was chewing away on my sandwich, here she came around the corner!  It may sound corny to non-plant lovers, but this was a moment for me.  “The Perennial Diva” was standing right beside me and I couldn’t be more thrilled – an honestly, a little nervous too.  She quickly put me at ease as she joked about how I can mention she has appeared on QVC-TV when I introduce her because people seem to like that.  Her name is Stephanie Cohen, and to me, she is a Big Gun in the world of horticulture.

Stephanie Cohen, as I noted that day to her audience, hardly needs an introduction.  She is very well known for her publications, expertise in the perennial scene, and her amazing talent of presenting infront of large audiences while entertaining with humor along the journey.  I held up her award-winning publication titled, “The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer” with its intense pink cover.  Ironically, her book’s cover is the same color recently announced by Pantone LLC as the 2011 color of the year.  Its been described as a reddish pink and named Honeysuckle, but to me it is an intensely rich hot pink.  It certainly demands your attention and gets you excited, just as Stephanie does in her presentations.   

I continued to tell the audience, “…looks like Stephanie is ahead of her time!”  Heads bobbed up from the seats to see the cover.  And then Stephanie held up her nails, also painted the same honeysuckle pink.  She began to approach the floor to start her presentation.

Every seat in the room was filled.  People were still arriving during the beginning of her presentation so they stood in the back row.  In fact, one or two people gave me the business on their way in because I made the costly mistake of starting her session one minute early.  They obviously did not want to miss a beat (this was a lesson learned for me). 

Before Stephanie even got inside the room for the setup prior, her fans were walking up to say hello.  It was apparent they’ve seen her before and were revisiting another one of her presentations and anxious to see her new publications.  One of which is titled, “The Non-Stop Garden” and is already a top seller.  Just like a rock star, she has a following. 

At this seminar, Stephanie covered ‘Perennials from Spring to Fall 2011’.  She reviewed more than 50 perennials starting with Artemesia vulgaris ‘Oriental Limelight’ and finishing with Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’.  She lets you know what is drought tolerant, resistant to mildew, blooms later than others, or attracts hummingbirds, among many other aspects about the perennials.  But it is more than the usual characteristics that draws your attention, she gives you honest opinions and tidbits on what works and what doesn’t with these perennials in the gardens, and why.  She also has a way of commenting on the creation of cultivar names with a comical nature…, like for Aquilegia x hybrida ‘Winky Double Red & White’.  She joked about why was the word ‘Winky’ was needed when the rest tells it all?!  Or how Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Pinot Noir’ is an example of plant cultivars named after alcoholic beverages.  “Either they like the name, or maybe they were just drunk?” she said.  Whatever the comment, her spots of humor during her display of colorful perennials new on the scene or sometimes old favorites makes one not only remember the plant and its features, but truly enjoy the show.

No one left the room during her presentation except a fellow volunteer who had to return to her presentation in the adjacent seminar room.  As she passed by me, she leaned down and whispered in my ear, “You picked a good one!”  

The next day, this friend called me.  She had never seen Stephanie Cohen before.  She raved about her style, humor, and how thankful she was to see her presentation for she learned so much about the perennials she introduced.  I guess Stephanie has another new fan.   

  •  The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer (The Essential Guide to Creating Simply Sensational Gardens) coauthored by Stephanie Cohen & Nancy J. Ondra.  Topics from getting started, perennial selection, partners, problem-solving, and special effects are just examples of the chapters.  Look for the honeysuckle pink cover!
  • FALLscaping (Extending your garden season into autumn) also coauthored by Stephanie and Nancy is very popular in the fall!  Perfect partners for fall, putting it all together, and fall garden care topics are covered.  I have both books and find them as very useful references for my design processes.
  • The Non-Stop Garden, her newest top-seller, May 2010.  Soon this one will have sticky post-it notes, just like the other two in my collection!

Stephanie Cohen’s complete bio can be found at the flowershow’s web site:   



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