Category Archives: College

Norfolk Master Gardeners’ College Must-Sees

Our 2019 College location in Norfolk means many new attractions are available to Extension Master Gardeners, including options for sightseeing, dining, and learning about Norfolk!

“Exploring the local area has always been an important part of Master Gardener College,” says Dave Close, Master Gardener Coordinator. “In Blacksburg, people have visited the farmers market, local nurseries, and downtown restaurants. In Norfolk there are many new attractions that attendees can see during their visit.”

Local Norfolk Master Gardeners Kate Melhuish and Connie Kellam have some suggestions of must-see attractions for 2019 College attendees.


The Norfolk location presents a particularly exciting opportunity for Water Steward Training with the opportunity to visit some current Water Steward projects nearby.

“There can be no better place on the planet for the Water Steward program,” says Melhuish.

Norfolk is a city of water,” agrees Kellam. “A short drive will take you along, over, or under a river or bay and every road way will eventually dead end at the water.  The good news is the beauty it affords. The bad news is what’s happening due to climate change.”

“Norfolk is recognized as one of the 100 Resilient Cities around the globe, with an extensive Green Infrastructure plan in place and taking shape,” says Melhuish.  “You’ll see amazing feats of green engineering – some are city led/federally funded, some are citizen-driven, most are undertaken through the network of public and private partnerships here locally.”

“The flooding that threatens our Navy Base, downtown, and thoroughfares is bringing in scientists from all over the world,” adds Kellam. “The erosion on our beaches and waterfronts is being addressed with native plants and grasses.  Our bay and rivers are being monitored by groups dedicated to clean waterways to ensure our plants, fish, and wildlife have a healthy place to live now and in the future. Citizens are actively saving small areas and with city officials are tackling big ones.  Our children and grandchildren deserve our attention to our environment.”

“Norfolk is a city of beauty as well as of study,” she says.  “Master Gardeners will find it exciting to tour our city of water and to examine our flooding and erosion issues.”

Local Attractions

In between College’s packed schedule of keynote speakers and concurrent sessions, Master Gardeners can also plan to get out and explore downtown Norfolk from our convenient location at The Main.

Melhuish recommends College attendees check out Prince Books, located right across the street from The Main.

“Town Point Park is also a one block walk to the waterfront; lovely marina to stroll around and admire other people’s expensive toys.  The park itself is a nice green space to walk along the waterfront as part of the Elizabeth River Trail,” she says. “The very impressive Slover Library is practically next door – Chris Epes and a team of our EMGs are working with Slover staff on a Seed Library program to begin  later this spring.”

“If you’re looking to get on the water, take a quick walk to Waterside – a venue a block from The Main in the direction of the water,” says Kellam. “There is a small passenger boat that goes back and forth across the Elizabeth River to the City of Portsmouth.  There are larger boats that take you up and down the river to see the shipyards, cruise ship terminal, and the Navy Base. There is a gigantic seasonal ferris wheel with small air-conditioned cabins that will gently glide you to sky high views of the city.”

Visitors to Master Gardener College can also explore Norfolk’s many green spaces.

“We have beautiful parks and garden,” says Kellam.  “The Norfolk Botanical Garden features a rose garden, a Colonial garden, a perennial garden, butterfly house, children’s learning garden, and gazebos and walkways throughout hundreds of acres.  The Hermitage, on the Lafayette River, houses an early 1900s home with original artwork and furnishings and the gardens feature evening socials and traveling exhibits such as the popular Burning Man.  Our zoo is landscaped seasonally with native and exotic plants that enhance and mimic the animals’ natural habitat.”


“Norfolk specializes in fresh seafood from the waters of Virginia and every restaurant features its own signature dish,” says Kellam. “And all those crab cakes that Maryland brags about? They are actually made with crabs that travel up the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia!  So always ask for the local fresh catch of the day and enjoy what we in Norfolk take for granted.”

If you are looking for an upscale restaurant, Kellam recommends Todd Jurich’s Bistro, which is within walking distance of The Main.  According to Kellam, Todd is a legend for his menus of local cuisine coupled with fine wines.

“Places to eat range from the sublime (any of the three restaurants inside The Main, or nearby Byrd & Baldwin Steakhouse) to Yorgo’s Bageldashery or Schlotzsky’s Deli,” says Melhuish. “There are so many options in every direction!”

Kate Melhuish’s notable restaurants:  

  • Café Stella around the corner offers bistro fare.  
  • Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub is a block farther, with live music every night.  
  • Hummingbird Macarons is a fabulous bakery within walking distance of the hotel, AND the owner has just opened a restaurant inside the historic Pagoda at the Oriental Garden, closer to the hotel.  (Pagoda? Oriental Garden? Ask a Norfolk Master Gardener to fill you in about that).
  • Saffron is a little farther away, still walkable, and has the best Indian food ever, anywhere.  So many choices, whatever your taste or pocketbook.

According to Kellam, there are many restaurants in downtown Norfolk for all tastes and pocketbooks.  She recommends that you get a list from the concierge and start walking!

The Venue

Master Gardener College 2019 will be held at The Main, a Hilton property in downtown Norfolk.

“The Main, Norfolk’s newest hotel, is an architectural marvel of glass and steel. This high-rise, enhanced with modern artwork and an accommodating staff, was built for guests to enjoy views of Norfolk’s downtown and the busy Elizabeth River,” says Kellam, adding that the Main’s rooftop bar is a great place to kick back with a drink while viewing the water traffic and enjoying the sunset.

Master Gardener College Open to the Public!

Big changes are coming to Master Gardener College this year. In addition to the change of location, we will also be allowing the public to attend College on Saturday, September 21.

“We’ve always had people ask about bringing spouses or friends to Master Gardener College,” says John Freeborn, Assistant State Master Gardener Coordinator. “By allowing the public to attend for Saturday, September 21, we’re able to offer not only Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) the opportunity to introduce companions to the event, but we’re also able to invite the general public to learn more about our program and gain some valuable education.”

the main auditorium

Image courtesy of Hilton Norfolk The Main

While College registration will open to Master Gardeners in early May 2019, registration will not open for the general public until early July, giving Master Gardeners plenty of time to fill classes before the public.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity to welcome members of the public to Master Gardener College,” says Freeborn. “It’s going to be a great event this year, and having the public there will give us a chance to introduce some new faces to the Extension Master Gardener program and maybe recruit some new EMGs!”

Members of the public will attend keynote speaker talks and concurrent sessions along with Master Gardeners. Public registration for concurrent sessions will be limited to classes designated as appropriate for members of the public and those not already filled by Master Gardeners.

“Opening one day of College to members of the public will also allow us another revenue stream to support Master Gardener College, which costs a lot more to hold off the Virginia Tech Campus and which we run as a break-even event,” adds Freeborn.

One day registration for members of the public will cost $150 (one-day registration for Master Gardeners will cost $125). Public registration is anticipated to run from early July to August 2019.

Master Gardener College 2019: Banquet Featuring Keynote Speaker Becky Heath

Join us at Master Gardener College for a special Thursday night banquet featuring keynote speaker Becky Heath, who will address the exciting and important role she envisions for Extension Master Gardeners in the future.

Becky Heath is co-owner and President of Heath Enterprises, Ltd., the home of ‘Brent and Becky’s Bulbs’, a wholesale/retail mail order flower bulb business located in Gloucester, Virginia, as well as the current president of GardenComm (or Garden Communicators International).

“Master Gardeners can make a huge impact on the health and sustainability of the Green Industry,” says Heath whose keynote address will focus on where horticulture is now and where it is headed in the future. “Master Gardeners have more of an impact on communities than almost any other group.”

becky heath

Heath notes that younger generations, like millennials, have a deep connection to the planet but fewer of them are gardeners. It’s important for the Green Industry to cater to this demographic and get them involved in things like growing their own food.

“This is where Master Gardeners can have the most impact,” says Heath. “Everybody starts somewhere. Sometimes there’s a tendency, when an individual grows and becomes an expert, they forget where they used to be. We need to reach back and help other people where they are,” she says, adding that Master Gardeners are well positioned to do this as part of the Green Industry that “gets information out there.”

“‘Brent and Becky’s Bulbs has had a longstanding relationship with the Extension Master Gardener Program,” says Dave Close, State Master Gardener Coordinator. “Becky has a deep passion for getting people excited about gardening and she articulates that extremely well. We’re thrilled to have her at this special banquet and keynote address event.”

In her role at GardenComm, Heath is exposed to a cross section of the Green Industry–including new trends she hopes to share with Master Gardeners during her keynote address.

“Master Gardeners are all communicators in one way or another,” says Heath. “I hope they come away from my talk thinking of themselves as communicators who have the power of knowledge to share.”

Banquet: A first for Master Gardener College!

Master Gardener College 2019 will feature Heath’s keynote as part of a special Thursday night banquet–the first time we’ve offered such an event.

“The banquet will be held at our College venue, The Main, on Thursday night” says Close. “It will feature dinner and is open to all Master Gardener College attendees registered for the full conference.”

The banquet will begin at 6:00 pm with dinner, followed by Heath’s keynote address, and then a Milestone Award ceremony honoring 2018 Milestone recipients.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to offer a new event to College attendees,” says Close. “We’ve always had a milestone ceremony and a keynote speaker on Thursday, but we’ve never combined them into this kind of celebratory banquet before! We’re excited for Becky Heath’s keynote and also for this new event to kick off college!”

For more information on Master Gardener College, please visit our website at:


Tree Steward Manual Updated for 2018

live oak

A group of dedicated Extension Master Gardener (EMG) Tree Stewards has been working hard to produce a new manual for Advanced EMG Tree Steward training that’s designed especially for Virginia EMGs.

“There was a real need for information specifically for Virginia EMGs,” says Carol King who helped lead efforts to produce the new Tree Steward manual. “This new manual has information on each region of Virginia and is tailored for Master Gardeners. It includes examples of past unit projects with trees, as well as space for local units to add their own content.” According to Frank Reilly this manual is a vast improvement over the previous edition. It includes many more illustrations and write-ups as well as more current information.

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