From bulbs and conifers to the basics of bonsai, you'll find a wide variety of topics at the third annual gardening conference sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Iowa State University-Scott County Extension.

Titled Growing along the River: Focus on Fall, the conference will be 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, at Scott Community College, Belmont Road, Bettendorf.

In addition to two keynote talks by Rick Darke (today's main story), there will be four breakout sessions with your choice of four topics in each.

Here's a look.


So You Want to Build a Rock Garden? Martha Smith, University of Illinois Extension. Three boulders and a juniper do not make a rock garden. A rock garden mimics a scene in nature, and the soil is modified to host a range of plants that otherwise would not grow there.

Adding WOW to Your Photos, Jack Carlson, certified professional photographer, Chicago Botanical Garden. A discussion of the capabilities/features of your camera or smartphone, plus how to add drama and enhance your photos with shadows and angles by controlling light.

The Landscape Legacy of Jens Jensen, Bill Tishler, professor emeritus of landscape architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jensen became internationally prominent for his landscape design emphasizing the significance of nature in the lives of people. He also is known for establishing The Clearing on Wisconsin's Door Peninsula, a learning environment.

Designing Seasonal Containers, Fran Krahl, retired from The Village Garden Shop, Milan. How to transform your late summer porch pots and window boxes into stunning fall displays.


Fantastic and Funky Favorite Spring-Blooming Bulbs, Martha Smith, University of Illinois Extension. Tulips and daffodils are great, but there is a whole world of uncommon bulbs beyond the traditional favorites.

Photograph Autumn Color Using Natural Light, Jack Carlson, certified professional photographer, Chicago Botanic Garden. How to capture different light levels and dramatic shadings using your camera or smartphone.

Gardening with Conifers, Gary Whittenbaugh, lifetime Iowa Master Gardener, Oelwein, Iowa. See how the color, texture, and form of conifers add year-round beauty and contrast. Fast growers screen your space, tiny buns add unusual shapes and textures, and distinctive forms make living sculptures.

Patterns in Nature that Inspire Japanese Gardens and the Connection between Garden and Architecture, Tim Gruner, garden curator at the  Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois. Much of what guides Japanese garden design is derived from patterns and rhythms found in nature and the human connection to the landscape.


The Plants of Reiman Gardens, Aaron Steil, assistant director at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens. The 17-acre gardens strive to show Midwesterners the best plants for their own gardens.

Climate Change and Your Garden, Ray Wolf, Scott County Master Gardener. Set politics aside and learn about the science of climate change and what it means for our Midwestern yards and gardens.

The Year-Round Garden, Gary Whittenbaugh, lifetime Iowa Master Gardener, Oelwein, Iowa. How to bring beauty to your garden 12 months a year.

Orchids, Not Just for the Jungle Anymore, Cheryl Erins, certified orchid judge, Chicago judging center, Three Rivers, Michigan. What to look for when purchasing orchids for your home and their light, water, and fertilizer requirements. Also, repotting techniques and treatments for common pests.


Prepare for Winter and Put the Garden to Bed, Aaron Steil, assistant director at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens. Things to do and the things that can (and should) wait until spring.

Sustainable Gardening, Ray Wolf, Scott County Master Gardener. Simple practices that make your garden more sustainable and friendly to the environment and your budget.

Introduction to Bonsai, Michael Harshman, President of Quad-City Bonsai. A brief history of bonsai, what it is, species used, artistic styles, tree care, training and pruning, examples of tools used and where to get bonsai trees.

Keep your Lawn and Garden Tools in Shape, Mark Geist, Geist Small Engine Service, Pleasant Valley. Demonstrations on how to clean and oil your tools, sharpen blades, care for wooden handles, and protect your equipment over the winter. Bring your favorite gardening tools to this hands-on class.