Amy Ziffer

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Amy Ziffer’s wealth of experience as a professional gardener and former garden magazine editor are at the root of her “real-world” approach, focusing on techniques the average home gardener can employ to create successful, beautiful outdoor spaces.

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Additional Information

Amy's Cottage Garden


Amy Ziffer, owner of A Shady Lady Garden Design, has been helping clients in Connecticut with their gardenings needs, as well as sharing her extensive gardening experience through lectures and demonstrations, since 1998.


Amy is a former editor at Fine Gardening magazine and a Master Gardener.  Her garden writing and photography can be seen in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, and Yankee magazines, in Reader's Digest books, and in other publications.


Amy’s specialty is cold climate ornamental gardening in the Northeast U.S.  Her cottage gardening program, “Cottage Courageous: Adapting a Classic Garden Style to the Northeast,” is very popular and was the basis for a Horticulture magazine article.  It showcases her own experimental cottage garden, which she built and maintains on a volunteer basis in the center of her small Connecticut town.  The garden is publicly accessible year round and has become somewhat of a local landmark.  She discusses how to adapt the classic cottage garden style inherited from the English gardening tradition to the Northeast’s more challenging climate and environment.  She talks about the importance of matching plants to local conditions, using self-sowing plants to attain that “accidental on purpose” look so characteristic of cottage gardens, and also covers many design and upkeep questions.


Amy’s shade gardening program, “Shade Revealed: How to Have Success in Low Light (Really!)” is a comprehensive look at the best performing perennial plants for shade at northern latitudes.  An expanded version can serve as a two- or three-session course briefly covering every aspect of shade gardening from site and soil preparation to plant selection and long-term maintenance.


Amy's Shade Revealed program was the basis for her book The Shady Lady's Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening, published by the University Press of New England. The Guide is a regional book about ornamental shade gardening that offers a simple, proven method for bringing sunlight-deprived areas of your property to life. Amy shares a unique approach to garden design that's meant to ensure a high likelihood of success and a minimum of failure by basing choices on the relative performance potential of different plants. The book includes a large yet selective illustrated plant gallery covering all the indispensable perennials, ferns, and bulbs for the Northeast (and cold climates more generally). With your help, The Shady Lady's Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening will become the definitive resource for all sun-challenged regional gardeners!


Amy’s new program, “Containers that Won’t Quit,” draws on her long experience creating container combinations for clients. If you’ve ever been disappointed with the performance of plants that fizzle in the heat or just don’t like container culture, this program is for you.  It’s accompanied by lists of the best, readily obtainable plants for long season performance.  An expanded version of this talk can serve as a great demonstration-based class covering container planting from A to Z.


Other talks include "Gardening Naturally with Northeast Natives" and "April to November: Designing a Sunny Border for Eight Months of Bloom."  Amy is always interested in creating custom shows, so if your group would like to hear a presentation about a subject not mentioned here, please ask!


Amy’s shows are PowerPoint presentations run from a laptop computer she provides.  All shows are richly illustrated with dozens of color images.  She requests that host facilities provide a digital projector, screen, lectern, reading lamp and (ideally but optionally) hands-free voice amplification for large rooms.  Fees begin at $400 and are based on the time commitment involved, including travel.  Lower fees may be negotiated for small, local groups with limited budgets; inquire for details.


A typical reference: “Amy Ziffer presented a wonderful lecture…for the Berkshire Botanical Garden.  The program was well attended and very well received…”


"Cottage Courageous: Adapting a Classic Garden Style to the Northeast"

"Shade Revealed: How to Have Success in Low Light (Really!)"

"Containers that Won’t Quit"

"Gardening Naturally with Northeast Natives"

"April to November: Designing a Sunny Border for Eight Months of Bloom"

Inquire for other topics; Amy is happy to create custom programs

Amy has experience speaking at arboreta, garden shows, symposia, libraries, and garden clubs.  Her fee starts at $400.


A typical reference: “Amy Ziffer presented a wonderful lecture…for the Berkshire Botanical Garden.  The program was well attended and very well received…”


Sherman, Connecticut, USA 06784

Photo Gallery


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Audience Reviews

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great program

Kathleen Bornhorst from wellfleet - 01/25/2018 09:11:10

Amy spoke to Wellfleet Gardeners on shade plants - great presentation - the audience loved her. hope to have her back soon.

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Knowledgeable and wellspoken

Sheila Garry from MA - 11/20/2017 08:29:00

Amy drew a full house to our Cape Cod garden club in Wellfleet. She has a wide and deep understanding of shade gardening. Her ideas about combining plants with different heights sent us all scrambling for notepaper and pen.

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Knowledgeable and great speaker

Alice sprintzen from NY - 10/06/2017 10:44:56

Ms. Ziffer is a speaker well worth the trip. She is well prepared and full of interesting gardening tips.

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