Cole lectures internationally on subjects of design, plants and ecology. He has shared his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and his abiding respect for regional landscapes with professional and amateur audiences for 40 years. Popular lecture topics range from American Garden Style and the History of The American Native Plant Movement to Designing for Wildlife Habitat and Planting a Bog Garden. Cole is available for lectures and in-depth workshops. If you do not see a topic that interests you, feel free to make a request. Cole is pleased to create a lecture for your group. Contact Cole Burrell to schedule a topic.
Gardens and wild places around the globe provide inspiration for garden design. Christopher Lloyd’s long border, Burle Marx masterpieces or Jensen council rings, as well as boundless prairies and cathedral woodlands are all grist for the designer’s mill. Cole Burrell explores the diverse landscapes, magnificent gardens, iconography and experiences that shape the gardens he creates for clients with diverse needs and expectations.
Fields and forests across North America provide a rich palette of native trees, shrubs, vines and perennials for every garden. Revered abroad but often scorned at home, American plants deserve a second look. From familiar flora to tomorrow’s new mainstays, Cole Burrell explores an exciting palette featuring a wide range of adaptable species and cultivars for woodlands, meadows, beds and borders, as well as ways to incorporate them into the garden’s tapestry.
Do our gardening practices have a negative impact on the environment? Can we make a difference by changing the way we approach design, plant choice, planting techniques and maintenance regimes? How do we meet our aesthetic goals while providing the structure and resources necessary to maintain the insects and birds we love? Can we create healthy habitat with a mixture of native and exotic plants? These are a few of the questions to explore in terms of the hallmarks of sustainability when melding aesthetic expectations with ecosystem form and function.
Right Plant/Right Place is the gardener’s axiom. We all know these words by heart, but do we really put them to work for us when we design gardens and specify plants. Traditionally, we think of matching soil, water and light, and making sure the plant is the appropriate size for the space. But what about the larger ecological context in which we garden? When we plant a floodplain species in an upland, is it really right plant/right place? Using nature as a model, we explore the adaptations that allow plants to cope with the breadth of conditions Mother Nature can dish out. With nature in mind, we combine site appropriate plants to fashion beautiful gardens.
Native plants are currently the height of fashion, but do we really know what is native, and where? When we plant a floodplain species in an upland situation, are we gardening ecologically? Are cultivars native? These are a few of the questions C. Colston Burrell will explore as he examines the current popularity of landscaping with native plants from an ecological perspective. This lecture focuses on techniques for working with seasonal rhythms, structure and dynamics of native plant communities to design sustainable native gardens of unique and lasting beauty.
Every garden has a challenging site where conventional solutions are more work than reward. This lecture helps gardeners choose the best native plants to thrive in tough site conditions, from wet or compacted soil to hot dry sites and dense shade. Using nature as a model, we explore the adaptations that allow native plants to cope with the toughest conditions Mother Nature can dish out. With nature in mind, we combine site appropriate plants to fashion beautiful gardens with reduced maintenance.
In today’s fast paced information age, it is hard to imagine a time when gardeners relied on books rather than YouTube videos for inspiration and practical advice. This lecture examines the shifting roles that gardens have played in our culture, from Victorian bedding schemes to outdoor living rooms, and highlights some seminal books that changed the way we envision, design, plant and maintain outdoor spaces.
Woodlands are places of subtle beauty and quiet enchantment. This lecture focuses on techniques for working with seasonal rhythms, forest structure and vegetation dynamics to design shade gardens of unique and lasting beauty. Learn about the unique challenges of designing shaded spaces that celebrate beautiful native wildflowers and shade plants from around the world that thrive under nature’s canopy.
The late 19th Century set the stage for the blossoming of a national love affair with native plants. From the Victorian passion for the outdoors and the birth of the field guide, to the environmental movement and modern nurseries, native plants have become integral to horticulture and design. In the new millennium, invasive exotic species, habitat destruction, global warming and xenophobia are a few of the issues still germane after three centuries of promoting and employing North America’s diverse and beautiful flora.
Spring provides an embarrassment of riches for woodland gardens and shaded borders. The challenge shade gardeners face is sustaining interest throughout the seasons. The key to success is to layer the garden the way nature layers her woodlands and glades. Employ plants with exceptional form and varied textures that persist after the ephemerals have acquiesced, such as filigreed ferns, arching Solomon’s seals, and soft sedges. Weaving richly textured ground covers, shrubs and understory trees into a seamless tapestry provides year-round color.
The best part of the gardening year begins as the asters are fading. The onset of winter brings a respite from heat, and signals the start of a season filled with berried branches and seductive silhouettes. Decorative elements and artful planting conspire to provide places to grow myriad winter-blooming plants such as daphnes, hellebores, and minor bulbs. This lecture focuses on the unique challenges of creating interest with both living and built elements and presents a variety of approaches to add texture, color and fragrance to the unsung season.
America has finally discovered hellebores. Early flowers, long bloom season and beautiful evergreen foliage endeared them to past generations. Today’s hellebores are not like the ones seen in your grandmother’s garden, however. A revolution in breeding has produced a range of hybrids never dreamed possible, including picotee, anemone and double flowered selections. This lecture explores the diversity of wild species as well as the myriad beautiful new hybrids. The story of cultivation and hybridization takes us from the wilds of Montenegro to nurseries in England, Germany and Holland, and back to America.
Native plants are currently the height of fashion. Gardeners, restorationists and landscape architect are planting natives, but do we really know what is native, and where? When we plant a floodplain species in an upland, are we gardening ecologically? Are cultivars native? These are a few of the questions C. Colston Burrell will explore as he examines the current popularity of landscaping with native plants from an ecological perspective. He will focus on the possibilities, techniques and issues behind ecologically based sustainable landscape design using native plant communities and regionally native species as the basis for creating gardens and restorations.
Ever wonder why some gardens make your heart sing? Chances are you are responding to details. All gardens have well defined spaces and good planting -- great gardens stand out because of details. From paving patterns to stonework, fencing, containers and sculpture, the details in both functional and artistic elements make a garden personal and magical. This lecture celebrates spaces of various sizes that combine form, color and texture in hardscape and plants to fashion memorable places.
Nature and art conspire in the world’s greatest gardens, Join Cole Burrell for a journey through stunning gardens and fascinating landscapes on a travelogue that spans the globe. We traipse through America’s scenic wonders, from the Shenandoah to Yellowstone, and explore the secrets Costa Rica’s rainforests and South Africa’s bush. Inspired by nature’s majesty, we visit magnificent gardens, both public and private, with wild nature as the backdrop. Rio’s Jardim Botanico, Capetown’s Kirstenbosch, England’s Great Dixter and New York’s Long House are just a few of our destinations.
Specialty Nurseries from Coast to Coast are bursting with new introductions originating in gardens and wild areas across the globe. From collector’s plants to tomorrow’s mainstays, we will explore an exciting palette of plants for woodlands, beds and borders, as well as ways to incorporate them into the garden’s tapestry.
Combinations are the building blocks of successful gardens. Groupings of plants that share the same growth requirements will be the most successful, and the lowest maintenance. Color, form and texture are media the garden artist uses to create a rich tapestry of unique beauty. Plants with outstanding flowers, foliage and fruits, put together a few at a time, help you to build a garden that is beautiful and successful. This lecture stresses the use of colorful flowers and foliage to create season-long interest in beds and borders of all sizes, in sun and shade.
Ferns impart a cool grace to gardens that no other group of plants can match. They beguile us with just their fronds. From the filigreed lace of the lady fern, to the erect swords of the deer fern, fronds provide color, form and texture to meet the most stringent design criteria. Learn how to tame these garden treasures and discover the beauty and variety of new ferns available today. Topics to be covered include fern anatomy, life cycle, growth forms, and cultivation requirements.
Landscape plants fulfill diverse rolls within our gardens. They contribute form, color and texture to the garden tapestry through flowers, foliage, fruits and bark. Yet many of the plants most readily available in garden centers and nurseries have become invasive and spread beyond the bounds of our gardens. These invasive species alter the structure and function of ecosystems and displace native species. This lecture presents a wealth of native trees, shrubs and perennials that can serve as alternatives to invasive species, additionally providing food for butterflies, birds and other wildlife.
Why do we garden? To nurture and cultivate, yes, but also to express ourselves. For many, their gardens are stage sets, where the drama of life plays out in quiet and fanciful ways. This lecture examines the shifting roles that gardens have played in our culture, from Victory gardens to outdoor living rooms, and suggests ways to make them integral to the everyday experience of gardeners and non-gardeners alike.
Many people point to their garden as something isolated and disconnected from the fabric of the landscape. A well-designed garden is more than a collection of planting beds, it is a logical sequence of spaces, enhanced by the plantings, structures and ornaments that define them. These space-defining bones determine how the garden looks through the seasons, especially in winter. Cole Burrell takes you through the process of designing and furnishing the floors, walls and ceiling of the garden as he demonstrates how to refine the garden’s spaces with structures, plants and ornaments.
Most gardeners are faced with the challenge of creating their version of paradise in a relatively small space. As our property boundaries shrink, and our lives become more hectic, our gardens become havens from the world around us. We definitely want a place outdoors to entertain and relax, but we also long for a stronger connection to the natural world. Intimacy is more than privacy and enclosure, however. Our gardens become intimate when we develop relationships with the plants, design elements, ornaments and processes that make them truly personal.
What does a garden need to attract and sustain wildlife? How do we meet the aesthetic goals of owners while providing the structure and resources necessary to maintain the insects and birds we love? Can we create healthy habitat with a mixture of native and exotic plants? This lecture explores the possibilities and limitations of designing sustainable habitat gardens at various scales, from urban spaces to rural retreats.
Connections between trilliums and humans have existed since indigenous peoples employed their medicinal powers. They are celebrated in song and rhyme, featured on stamps, and their perfect symmetry has been abstracted into logos, symbols and art. Their name is exploited to sell products and housing developments. The story of trilliums is one of obsession and exploitation.
Were you paying attention in science class? If so, you remember the water cycle and the biomass pyramid, right? Nature’s sustainable systems balance inputs and outputs through flows of energy and cycles of nutrients, water and carbon. Unfortunately, human systems are often out of balance. As a result, they have diminished sustainability. This lecture demonstrates why sustainable landscapes are only achieved when designed to facilitate rather than hinder or interrupt nature’s cycles and flows.
Deciduous forests dominate eastern North America, yet this extensive province is only one of seven woodland types that blanket the North American continent. From old growth hemlocks and tulip poplars of the southern Appalachians to colossal California redwoods, these forests serve as important reservoirs for biodiversity. Each forest type has unique vertical structure, species composition and vegetation dynamics ruled by climate, rainfall, soils, slope and aspect. This lecture explores the beauty of North America’s forests, their unique inhabitants as well as threats to their existence such as invasive plant species, insect epidemics and climate change.
From a small city lot in Minneapolis (Zone 4) to 10 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (Zone 7), plantsman and author C. Colston Burrell explores the ecology, inspiration, design and choice plants that shaped his two distinctive gardens. In his gardens, art, architecture and both native and exotic plants conspire to create comfortable spaces enveloped in rich tapestries of lush foliage and colorful flowers.