Master Gardener Speakers Bureau

Download MG Speakers Bureau 2019 Brochure

Download MG Speakers Bureau 2014 Topic Descriptions

Need a speaker?

Master Gardener Volunteers are active, knowledgeable Orange County gardeners who give talks on a wide range of gardening subjects. They are trained in horticulture by Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Orange County. These enthusiastic men and women are sure to inspire your audience.

Through the Speakers Bureau program, Master Gardeners offer talks and workshops on a wide range of gardening and environmental issues, which run approximately 1 hour. Many of our Master Gardener speakers use digital images via laptop computers for their presentation. Topics can be tailored to meet the needs of your group.

A fee of $75 per talk/ or $60 per talk for three or more helps support all the work we do for the community. Your check should be made payable to Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County.

To arrange for a Master Gardener talk or workshop, contact Debbie Lester, Community Horticulture Educator at 845-344-1234 or
Sue Wittenberg, Program Assistant at 845-344-1234 or

Please give us at least 6 weeks notice prior to your event, so we can best accommodate your needs.

Available Speakers Bureau Talks for 2014 (see brochure for updated 2018 listing):

*Children and adult versions


Bees and Insects


Children's Gardening Activities


Container Gardening


Flower Arranging


Visiting Local Gardens


Horticulture Therapy




Plants in the Garden


Seasonal Care



Trees and Shrubs


Water Gardening



    Garden Salvage Art

    Have stuff too cool to throw away? Need “something” to perk up your garden, or for a unique gift that keeps on giving? Get inspired with ideas using old but loved, or found items to create charm and whimsy in the garden.

    Making Herbal Soap

    The very core of our daily bathing ritual is soap. Depending on its' ingredients, handmade soap can scent, soften, exfoliate, sanitize, and heal your body while adding color to your soap dish. Learn the basic process for making homemade soap with its' potential for health, beauty and luxurious living with this informative lecture.

    Bees and Insects

    Attracting Butterflies to the Garden

    Butterfly Bush is not the only way to lure beautiful butterflies. We'll talk about which species to look for and their habits, the plants that supply the best food for larvae and the adults, and the flower colors that best entice them.

    Backyard Beekeeping

    In this introduction to beekeeping we'll show you what equipment is needed and how to set up a hive and keep it healthy. It's easier than you think.

    Beekeeping for Children*

    Children learn the basics about bees and their life cycle, what products bees make and what the inside of a bee hive looks like as we explore these fascinating insects.

    Butterflies and Moths of Orange County and their Host Plants

    Based on Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home, we'll take a closer look at Orange County's beautiful and valuable Lepidoptera species, the host plants that nourish their larva and the nectar plants that sustain the adults. Butterflies are also an important link in the food chain attracting various songbirds and small mammals to our gardens. Appreciate these lovely insects in their total context.

    Good Bugs/Bad Bugs*

    Insects are not all bad. But how do we manage those pesky ones naturally and with little to no toxicity? You may be surprised to learn that certain plant combinations, natural oils and soaps, and specific "good" insects can be beneficial in your garden's health.

    Household Insects

    What draws insects into our homes? Before spraying poison, it's better to understand their biological needs and habits. Knowing the insect can guide us to simple, non-poisonous ways to eliminate and prevent these pests with little potential harm to ourselves and the environment.

    Inside the Hive

    What are those busy bees doing in that hive? Bees have an amazing hierarchy of industry, each accepting its specific role unquestionably. An in depth look at bee anatomy, their roles, reproduction and the process of making honey. Let's peek inside.

    Introduction to Honeybees

    We know bees mostly for their honey, but the Honeybee is intricately tied to human health and well being. Scientists know that human food sources would be gravely threatened should bee populations fail to pollinate our crops. These creatures are complex, interesting and worthy of our understanding and protection. This introduction aims to dispel myths and foster wonder about yet another vital, yet under-understood member of our natural world.


    Forcing Bulbs and Branches

    Be inspired to create indoor color by forcing branches and bulbs into bloom in the middle of winter.

    Spring Flowering Bulbs

    Spring flowering bulbs offer surprise, color, and drama when you need it most, unusual species, and best of all - low maintenance. If you've been unsure of how and where to plant some, the mysteries of these underground miracles will be explained. We'll cover which ones will do best in your location, layout, how to plant and keep them going year after year.

    Children's Gardening Activities

    Gardening with Children

    Children love to work in the garden and grow plants. Discover techniques for creating child-friendly gardens and activities any child would enjoy.



    No sane person would throw away riches, right? But we do every time we toss our kitchen scraps into the disposal or blow away and bag fall leaves. Combining these “wastes” with garden clippings, weeds and shredded paper provides the very best “fertilizer.” It not only feeds your soil but also your plants. It's also an invaluable element in growing the most beautiful flowers and the tastiest, most nutritious veggies. Composting is so easy. Learn how.

    Lasagna Gardening

    Yes! Create new garden beds without backbreaking weeding, turning soil, and unhealthy poisons. By layering natural materials and topping off with good soil, you can plant immediately and then sit back and watch your work pay off. Sound appealing? Join us for the simple know-how.


    Vermi = worm; Compost = combining. Putting worms together with food and paper scraps in a small crate creates wonderful fertilizer for your flowers and veggies. Anyone can do it. No effort required. Who knows, you may end up with a new pet.

    Vermicomposting (For Adults)

    Walking kitchen scraps to your compost heap in the dead of winter turn you off? Can't manage a compost pile? Try vermicomposting! Combine scraps and paper with worms in a small container to produce worm 'castings', one of the best composts known. No smell, no fuss, and by spring you'll have super rich compost to start off your growing season. We'll demonstrate.

    Container Gardening

    Creating Beautiful Container Gardens

    There are a few tricks of the trade to making stunning containers of flowering plants. Knowing the mature size, light and moisture requirements of your chosen plants and an understanding of basic design go a long way to success. It's easy when you know the basic design principles and what plants work best.


    Backyard Stewardship

    Explore the basic actions we can do to help keep our yards a healthy, sustainable ecosystem. The birds, insects and animals will thank you!

    Invasive Insects

    Save time, money and prevent or minimize destruction to your garden and your town's beautiful trees by learning how to identify and control invasive insects. Gain insight into the life cycles, feeding habits and vulnerabilities of the worst offenders found in Orange County at this informative presentation.

    Invasive Plants

    Invasive plants take over and kill our native ones unbalancing and weakening whole ecosystems. Learn how to identify the most common invasives and how you can be effective in controlling their spread.

    Organic Gardening

    More than a fad, organic gardening harnesses natures' best practices and reaps superior results. Learn how best to enrich your soil, which disease and insect controls are non-toxic, sound gardening practices, as well as which plants require the least maintenance.

    Rain Barrels

    The Earth's surface is over 77% water, yet less than 1% is fresh and even less is available for use. It is our most precious resource. Installing and efficiently using a rain barrel can maximize what water we have. Soon it could be a necessity. It's easier to do than you think. Join us to learn how.

    Rain Gardens

    Problem spots and storm water runoff on your property are opportunities for creativity. Capitalize on a “wet” area or redirect storm water runoff by designing a rain garden using plants that thrive in damp soil. We will dispel any mystery to its installation and function. You can see a beautiful example at the Cornell Extension building.

    Xeriscaping: Creating a Low Maintenance Water-Wise Landscape

    Plants, like humans, each thrive when its' needs are met. If you have restrictions on water use, why not select and plant species that do well in dry conditions? You'll be amazed at how many interesting plants there are to work with.

    Flower Arranging

    A Flower Arrangers Garden

    If you love to create floral arrangements and would love to learn to grow your own materials, our Master Gardeners will share their secrets and new ideas for raising bodacious blooms. You'll never look at your garden in the same way again.

    Creating Wreaths with Fresh Greens

    Learn the basic techniques for preparing the elements of a wreath using fresh greens. We'll show you how in this informative demonstration.

    Flower Arranging Basics

    Learn and apply basic design principles to several classic looks and flower species. We'll discuss arranging styles and show you professional tricks of the trade and materials used to create beautiful and appropriate floral arrangements for many occasions.


    Fruitful Containers

    For those with limited space growing fruit and vegetables in containers is a wonderful option. Our presentation will show you the best containers, soil, fertilizers to use, as well as what plant varieties to select and effective maintenance practices for total success. Join us to learn a new way to garden.

    Small Fruit for the Home Garden

    Careful selection of the best berry varieties for your growing conditions ensures a successful harvest. We'll provide growing information on the heartiest and tastiest berries that thrive in Orange County, identified through research at Cornell laboratories. Have delicious fruit all season.

    Tree Fruit for the Home Garden

    Why not benefit from years of Cornell's research and development when growing fruit trees in your home gardens large or small. Learn the best and safest cultural practices and the heartiest varieties to select, including many dwarf species now on the market, some with lower maintenance and better than ever tasting fruit.

    Gardens of the World

    Visiting Local Gardens

    There is so much to glean from visiting other's gardens. It's a great way to spend time relaxing and getting inspiration for new gardening ideas. Join us for a pictorial journey exploring some fine nearby gardens.


    Cooking with Herbs

    Learn about the special qualities and flavors of herbs and dramatically improve your favorite recipes. This is a cooking demonstration; a kitchen is required for this program.

    Drying and Storing Herbs

    Explore which plants are easy to preserve. Harvesting, drying, preservation and storing techniques of flowers and herbs will be discussed.

    Herb Gardening

    Learn the cultural requirements for growing herbs and the best methods for displaying them in the garden. Culinary and preservation uses will also be covered.

    Infusing with Herbs

    The taste and aroma of many herbs are best experienced via another medium. Let us demonstrate how infusing oils, vinegars and condiments, in a variety of ways can excite a favorite dish.

    Lovely Lavender

    A favorite body scent for hundreds of years, Lavender has become a classic in the garden. Learn about its' many varieties, how best to grow them and its' many unusual uses.

    Horticulture Therapy

    Essential Oils

    Essential oils are the concentrated aromatic essences found in certain plants. This class will explore their history, production methods, countries of origin and some typical usage.

    Reminiscence in Bloom

    This hands-on interactive program is designed especially for seniors, nursing home residents and handicapped persons. We bring beautiful flowers, fruit and plants for participants to not only look at but also feel and smell. Plant histories, as they relate to personal gardening stories and meaningful recollections, will be explored.


    African Violets

    African violets are easier to grow than they look. Of the hundreds of cultivars and varieties, most require similar, simple care. Become an expert and enjoy a window full of exotic blooms all year long.

    Care and Selection of Holiday Gift Plants

    No one wants to toss out those beautiful Poinsettias, Cyclamen and potted evergreens. But how does one keep them alive? If you're thinking of buying and keeping holiday plants join us to learn which plants have the best chance of survival and what each needs to complete it's yearly life cycle. You'll be enjoying them again next season!


    Orchids appear formidable, exotic and persnickity to manage. But a plant is a plant, wanting its own specific needs and conditions. Once you learn proper potting soil formulas, watering techniques and light requirements, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

    Orchids: Beyond the Basics

    A review of the different types of orchids and a comprehensive look at the many hybrids that can be grown in your home. Information on the cultural requirements of many different genera, including re-potting, humidity, display ideas and more will be discussed.


    Create your own self-sustaining ecosystem in a bottle. This talk includes a step by step presentation on the construction process, selecting appropriate plant material, decoration ideas and more.

    The Secret to Healthy Houseplants

    Supplying the correct amounts of sunlight, water and appropriate soil is the best start to keeping healthy houseplants. Knowing which insects may appear on them and how to prevent or get rid of them will not be secrets after you learn about them at this informative presentation.


    Basic Landscape Design

    More than anything, good garden design teaches you to look, understand and go with: your property, your soil, architecture, terrain and existing flora. Learn how to “see” your land and focus your fantasies into practical, sustainable ideas.

    Common Landscape Mistakes

    Without the right information, many tend to make the same errors in their first landscaping attempts. Learn what can be misguided ideas, hours of wasted labor, and reasons for misspent funds and as we forewarn you about common, but preventable, landscaping mistakes.

    Gardening on the Rocks

    Many Orange County properties are plagued, (or gifted), with rock outcrops, boulders and field stones depending on your gardening goals. Learn how to stop fighting and to go with your stony grounds, utilizing them to create a garden of natural beauty. Plant lists and design ideas will be discussed.

    Hardscapes: Garden Structures and Ornaments

    What makes a garden last over the decades is a plan based on permanent definition called hardscape. Plants come and go but well-built walls, paths, structures and statuary are immutable providing a beautiful view in all four seasons. We will discuss these elements and where to place them.

    How to Design a Garden

    Starting a new garden can be a daunting experience; however with an understanding of your site and how you wish to use your garden, you can explore the best possible layout for paths, and beds. All possible design elements must be considered for maximum enjoyment of your garden. The beautiful photos in this well crafted presentation will illustrate the design steps.


    Lawn Care

    Grass species do best with careful selection and installation. Understanding the life cycle of grass will aid you in selecting the best seeds, the optimal planting requirements, watering, feeding, and aerating methods, and how to mow for beautiful turf.

    Plants in the Garden

    Beyond the Garden Gate: Moss, Myths and Mystery

    An entertaining introduction to moss and gardening with moss. It could be a new lawn alternative, it's deer resistant and beautiful to look at.

    Dividing Perennials

    Perennials are easily propagated by division. Methods and techniques for success will be discussed.

    Fall-Scaping: Plants with Autumn Interest

    Planning a garden with autumn interest is easy. Explore the many trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with autumn interest.

    Flowering Annuals for Summer Color

    Annuals are easily changed, not forever, a quick way to try something new and different and endlessly intriguing. If you tend to stick with perennials, let us show you how well-placed annuals can add texture, exciting and long-lived color and that much needed contrasting shape to your garden.

    Grasses, Sedges and Rushes

    These often overlooked and misunderstood plants can provide texture, low maintenance, mystery and surprise to your garden and grounds. Some withstand moist soils while others thrive in xeriscapes. Learn what these plants are and how to use them.

    Ground Covers

    Ground covers offer remedies for a myriad of gardening problems from shady, infertile or problem areas, to additional seasonal interest and texture, to weed control...and much, much more. Learn about the best plants to use, where to place them, as well as those to avoid on the invasive list.

    Hardy Cacti and Succulents

    Broaden your garden design choices by including winter hardy cacti and succulents which can be grown outdoors in Orange County. This comprehensive overview will open your eyes to these architecturally appealing species.

    Hardy Terrestrial Orchids

    A comprehensive look of the various hardy terrestrial orchids suitable for Orange County gardens and the conditions necessary for them to thrive. We will also examine various genera of woodland ephemerals that are natural companions for these orchids and explore ways to display them in the garden.


    One of the best “workhorses” for shade gardens, hostas never fail to add structure, freshness and texture especially when placed among our favorite fragile woodland beauties. New varieties are offered every year and we will discuss their many colors, sizes and shapes.


    All leaves come in all different shapes, sizes, colors and textures. They are the food factories of all trees. They accomplish the magic trick of turning sunlight into sugar. Let's explore how they do this and why they change colors in the fall.

    Ornamental Grasses

    Since grasses arrived in the landscaping arsenal of essential plants about ten years ago, designers have explored and refined myriad uses for them as specimens, in combinations and masses, deer resistance, drought solutions and privacy issues. There's one for everybody's needs and tastes!

    Ornamental Native Plants

    Don't be fooled: native plants can contribute more to the health of our ecosystems, are often hardier and more disease resistant, and add as much structure, shape, color and flowers as the exotic ornamentals we've become used to. Let's explore what carefree indigenous plants we could be enjoying in our own backyards.


    Perennials are the door-prize for surviving our Orange County fourth season. They are always there for us come spring. When we understand what makes them tick we'll learn to select the best ones for continual blooms, cutting, ease of maintenance.

    Plants for Winter Interest in the Garden

    Nature provides all sorts of colors, textures and shapes in every season, especially when snow provides the perfect foil for evergreens, bark and seed pods. Get your mind and eyes geared to seeing the possibilities for delights in your winter garden.

    Plant Propagation: Making more Plants

    Explore the basic methods of making more plants including which methods are best for different types of plants.

    Poisonous Plants

    What does “poisonous” really mean? Know the suspects and their various ways of causing adverse health effects.


    Yes, growing Roses means work! But, there are ways to cut down on the spraying and other maintenance. Learn about the different types of roses, pruning, overwintering, and growing requirements.

    Shade Gardening

    Some think gardening in the shade is superior to full sun beds. The gentle subtlety of woodland plant combinations can bring you close to natural rhythms of the seasons.

    Using Tropicals for Structure and Pizzazz

    Tired of same old, same old? Looking for a kick, a splash and a thrill in your garden? There's nothing like tropicals! Tibouchinas, Cannas, Bougainvilleas, Bananas, Colocasias and more will enhance your yard with that tropical feel. Sensational yet easy to grow, learn how.

    Vertical Gardening

    Vertical Gardening is a great way to maximize the space in your garden. We will detail ideas and great ways to get started.

    Vines: Vertical Gardening

    Vines accomplish what other plant forms can never do....soften and add height in the garden and narrowest of beds. In addition, they add winter interest, unusual flowers and seed pods and also produce fruits and vegetables. Everyone should grow at least one vine. Come decide which vines are for you.

    Weed “Walk”

    This power point presentation will “walk” through the most common weeds we encounter in our lawns and gardens.


    Pruning Basics: The Kindest Cut

    Pruning is easy when you can identify the purpose for pruning and how a tree or shrub functions. Avoid torturing and misshaping your lovely plants. We'll make it as easy as 1, 2, 3.

    Seasonal Care

    Extending the Gardening Season

    Your garden can be productive longer than you think. Learn about the plants and cultural methods that will help you get more out of the growing season.

    Putting the Garden to Bed

    Preparing a garden for overwintering is an art and a science. Removing dead leaves from some plants is healthy; others require them for winter protection. Many species, though dead, contribute food and form and creature protection; others benefit from wrapping against harsh winds and hungry deer. Learn the basics and apply them to your own collection.

    Tool Maintenance

    Nothing is maintenance-free, even our gardening tools. We'll demonstrate: how to keep power tools tuned up; oil, filters and spark plugs changed; and hand-tools rust-free and well oiled. Prevent frustrating delays in valuable outdoor gardening time come spring.


    Seed Harvesting and Saving Techniques

    Learn the techniques for harvesting and saving seed over winter to plant again next growing season.

    Starting from Seed*

    Let us show you how easy it is to start a seed, and make it grow. Join us and get your hands in the dirt and start a seed on its way.


    The “Dirt” on Soils

    Gardening begins with the soil. This talk will give you a basic understanding of what soils are made of, how to improve your soil and soil testing.

    Trees and Shrubs

    Ornamental Shrubs

    Ornamental shrubs are the backbone to our gardens and bring a much-needed splash of color to the landscape. Shrubs combine year round presence with seasonal color. Explore the many beautiful choices available for the home landscape.

    Winter Evergreen ID

    We'll teach you the tricks for distinguishing the different evergreen plants. Learn how to tell the difference between pines and spruces and many other evergreens. (Suitable year round).

    Woody Plant Selection

    Picking the right tree for your site can be a challenge with so many to choose from. Explore some possible tree species to use in your landscape.


    Cover Crops

    Planting a cover crop will suppress weeds, build productive soil, and help control pests and diseases. Plus, they're easy to plant and require only basic care. This class will cover the different types of cover crops and how and when to use them.

    How to Start a Garden

    Laying out and preparing the soil properly is the number one rule for success when growing vegetables. Master Gardeners have started countless new beds and we will demonstrate the do's and don'ts for beginning a beautiful and bountiful garden.

    Introduction to Food Preservation

    Want to preserve some of your garden harvest to enjoy during a long, cold winter? Spend an evening with our Master Food Preservers who will cover the following: Food Safety, Equipment, The Economics and Nutrition of Preserving, Canning Basics, High Acid canning, Jams and Jellies, Pickling, Freezing Foods, Drying Foods and Herbs and Low Acid Canning.

    Perennial Vegetables

    Yes, there are vegetables that return year after year. With a few tricks, you'll be able to have asparagus, rhubarb, sorrel, and artichokes. Mix them in with your flowering perennials for a unique look, as well.

    Vegetable Gardening

    Learn the best, tried and true methods for selecting the best varieties, planting, maintaining, harvesting and sustaining a productive vegetable garden.

    Water Gardening

    Establishing and Maintaining a Water Feature

    An A-Z guide to water gardening including types of ponds and a step by step guide on how to construct. Pumps, filtration, plants and fish selection will also be discussed.


    Attracting Birds to the Garden

    Explore the birds of our area and learn how to create a bird friendly environment that brings nature closer to home.


    The lovely bluebird doesn't often visit feeders, but are a great prospect for nest boxes. We'll discuss where to look for these beauties, their habits and behaviors and how to attract them to your yard.

    Gardening without Deer

    Deer are especially troublesome to gardeners. Your best bet as a home owner is to devise a strategy based on wise plant selection; economic deer sprays and well constructed fencing to keep these four legged friends out of the garden.

    Snakes of New York

    Snakes are a valuable and fascinating part of Orange County ecosystems. We'll learn how to tell the harmless ones from the very few poisonous natives, where each prefers to live, their biology and their food preferences.

    Available Hands-on Workshops

    (Extra fees apply, please inquire)

    Flower Arranging

    Learn the basic design principles for flower arranging. We'll discuss arranging styles and show you professional tricks of the trade and materials used to produce beautiful floral arrangements for many occasions.

    Container Gardening

    For those with limited space growing plants in containers is a wonderful option. This hands-on workshop will teach you the tricks to making stunning containers. This program can focus on either flowers or vegetables.

    Creating Wreaths with Fresh Greens

    Learn the basic techniques for preparing the elements of a wreath and creating your own personal design using fresh greens. We'll show you how. Please bring pruners and gloves. All other materials will be supplied.

    Making Herbal Soap

    Homemade soap making entails special ingredients, precise measurements and timing, as well as simple safety measures. Learn the basics: herbs, garden vegetables, oils, and techniques used in this informative workshop. Participants will go home with homemade soap. A kitchen with a stove top is required for this program . Participants must be over 18 years of age and sign a waiver of risk.


    Create your own mini indoor garden using foliage plants to display in your home.

    Event Functions

    Ask a Master Gardener Table

    Our Master Gardeners are at the ready to visit your event to answer any and all questions about gardening, environmental issues and pest problems. We'll set up a table loaded with practical information and opportunities to participate in programs throughout Orange County


    Last updated December 11, 2018