Plant explorer, lecturer and speaker Daniel Hinkley. Photo courtesy of Daniel Hinkley

Did you know that all the talks and lectures at Portland’s Yard, Garden & Patio Show are free and open to the public?

Right, I didn’t think so. Apparently, many folks aren’t even aware the seminars exist, much less that they are free and showcase some of the country’s most inspiring and knowledgeable horticultural, design and floral experts.

If you haven’t been to the Yard, Garden & Patio Show in years because it has a rep as old-school or dull, then I challenge you to look at the roster of speakers this year.

This year’s seminars address stylish garden design, surprisingly exciting native plants, inspiring vegetable gardening, sustainable floral arranging, creative container gardening and the latest plant introductions. Speakers include local experts and national and international authorities on horticulture, botany and design. Best of all, it’s free-free-free! If you were inclined (and rode your bike, walked or hitched a ride), you could spend all day, every day, drinking coffee and soaking up spring gardening energy and inspiration at the seminars without paying a thing. (Not that I'd advise it, when there are so many tempting plants for sale across the hall, but, you know, it's possible.)

Highlights include talks by renowned plant explorer, author and lecturer Dan Hinkley. We are lucky to have him back at the show, courtesy of Monrovia Nursery. His talks - Noteworthy Trees, Shrubs and Vines for Pacific Northwest Gardens (Friday afternoon) and Foliage First: Exquisite Hardy Plants with Great Folial Interest (Saturday morning) are likely to fill up so arrive early if you want to hear his witty, charming and informative talks.

Some other favorites include the lovely Debra Prinzing, Seattle garden writer and specialist in floral arranging using home-grown, local and seasonal plants; San Francisco-based Matthew Levesque, author and expert in designing with reused and recycled materials; and Independence Gardens’ demo on building your own raised garden bed.

Talks run all day, every day of the show, in multiple conference rooms, so you always have a pick of lectures. Word is getting out, and sometimes you need to show up early to get a good seat for some of the seminars. Don’t say I didn’t tell you!

Of course, there’s the entire Show itself, with plants for sale, display gardens, the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's winter-blooming flower displays, a Cracked Pots recycled art show, a book store, more demos, a wine bar, interesting live music and lots more across the main lobby. Here are the Show details:

WHAT: Portland Yard, Garden & Patio Show 2013

WHEN: Friday Feb 8 and Saturday Feb 9 from 10 am to 7:30 pm; and Sunday Feb 10 from 10 am to 5 pm. Seminars start at 11 am every day and end at 5 pm Friday and Saturday. Sunday's last talk ends at 4:30.

WHERE: Oregon Convention Center

COST: Tickets to the show are $7 at Dennis 7 Dees (can purchase up to 4 tickets at that price). They cost $10 purchased in advance from Tickets West, and are $12 at the door (just go here and you can print $2 off coupons, access Dennis 7 Dees locations, and purchase advance tickets through Tickets West).

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