The American Horticultural Society is excited to launch a new speaker series featuring current and past Great American Gardeners Award Winners and Book Award Winners. Since 1953, the AHS has been recognizing and celebrating horticultural champions that represent the best in American gardening and we are thrilled to have a dedicated webinar series to highlight the work of these outstanding individuals.

In a lively and engaging conversational format, speakers will share their knowledge and experience with our event host, Holly Shimizu, gardener to gardener. Holly is a nationally recognized horticulturist with a rich background in public gardens and garden communication.

Register today to view this season’s Conversations with Great American Gardeners! Registration for the webinars with Karen Washington (recording available), Michael Balick (recording available), and Shane Smith (recording available) is open now!

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2022-2023 speaker line-up!


Karen WashingtonKaren Washington has been a community gardener and activist in New York City since 1985. As a New York Botanical Garden trustee, she currently works with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into gardens. In her earlier role as an advocate and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, she championed garden protection and preservation. She’s also active with the La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, helping to launch a City Farms Market to bring fresh vegetables to the community. She serves as a board member of organizations such as Why Hunger and Just Food, often leading workshops on food justice and growing food. Washington is also a co-owner and farmer at Rise & Root Farm. In 2012, Ebony magazine voted her one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the country. In 2014, she was the recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award.

Register to view the webinar the took place Friday, October 8 at 4:00PM (eastern). AHS members $10 (must log in to access discounted rate); nonmembers $20


M. Balick and Chief Johnson Tanna, Vanuatu

A world renowned ethnobotanist at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), Michael J. Balick, Ph.D., works with indigenous cultures to document plant diversity, preserve knowledge about traditional uses for plants, and help these communities sustainably manage their resources. In the course of this work, he evaluates the potential of these botanical resources for broader medical or pharmaceutical applications. His most recent project focuses on the tropical Pacific Islands in Micronesia and Melanesia, where he is documenting the diversity, local use, and management of plant resources in support of a region-wide conservation plan. Balick is currently vice president for botanical science at NYBG, where he has worked since 1980. He is also director and senior philecology curator of the NYBG Institute of Economic Botany, which he cofounded in 1981.

Register to view the webinar that took place Thursday, January 27. AHS members $10 (must log in to access discounted rate); nonmembers $20

Since its inception in 1977 until 2018, Shane Smith was the director (and a founder) of the award-winning Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, Wyoming’s only public botanic garden. Currently, Smith is the Director Emeritus. In addition to the AHS award, Smith has received the Wyoming Governor’s Community Hero award; the Wyoming Business Council Award of Excellence for starting the State of Wyoming’s first modern farmer’s market; the 2011 Award of Merit from the American Public Garden Association; and the 2012 National Garden Clubs Award of Excellence for his contributions to gardening and horticulture. He continues to mentor other botanic gardens and continues to garden in his state-of-the-art greenhouse in western Colorado. In 1982 Smith wrote the first ever manual on building and operating a 100% solar heated, walk-in high tunnel/quonset greenhouse. He also authored the “The Bountiful Solar Greenhouse,” and the bestselling garden book “Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion.” 

Register to view the webinar that took place Thursday, April 21 at 7:00PM (eastern). AHS members $10 (must log in to access discounted rate); nonmembers $20