Marianne Willburn

» Container, Balcony, Rooftop (33)
» Garden Design (67)
» Ornamentals (44)
» Vegetables, Fruit, Herbs (48)


Lovettsville Virginia 20180

Marianne is an award-winning garden columnist, Master Gardener and the author of Big Dreams, Small Garden (2017). Speaking to gardeners at all levels on many topics, she delivers motivational and informative presentations that energize and educate.




Engaging your audience is the number one priority for a speaker, regardless of the topic. When it comes to gardening talks, there are often audience members present who are unsure of their skill level or are feeling discouraged by the realities of their particular landscape even when their skill level is high.  My job as a great garden speaker is not only to put them at their ease, but to provide an inspiring, educational talk that gives everyone in that room something to think about, implement or strive for – approaching difficult questions with humor, empathy and experience.


Big Dreams, Small Garden: A Guide to Creating Something Extraordinary in Your Ordinary Space

Tiny balcony, lack of privacy, HOA restrictions, tough neighborhood…if you’re struggling with a difficult outside space you are not alone.  Very few of us have ideal conditions outside, but by breaking down the process into manageable sections, shifting our perspective and cultivating a sense of contentment and peace in the process – we can create the garden that lives inside of us. Marianne will go over this process and share a few tips and real-life gardens from her new book Big Dreams, Small Garden to help you get excited about your outside space – no matter what it is.


Garden Maintenance for Real Life

Even though we know our gardens don’t have to be perfect, it’s hard not to feel like we’re constantly falling behind. How do we determine if we need to work smarter for better results, or if the garden is in need of some serious surgery? Marianne will ask – and answer – some tough questions to help us re-balance our lives with our outside spaces, giving maintenance tips and a bit of perspective to gardeners feeling overwhelmed.


Getting Excited about Shade

“Shade” is not easily boxed into neat categories of ‘full’ and ‘part’ – there are actually five different types of shade. Understanding them will allow you to plant based on what your plants need, rather than what you (and the nurseries) want them to need. There’s so much more to shade gardening than hosta and impatiens, and Marianne will guide you through some of the best plants out there. Soon you’ll be embracing your shady gardens for the lush, cooling spaces they can be. 


The Recycled Garden

Repurposed items can create whimsy in your garden, but they can also save money and make your garden unique.  It’s time to train your eye to see the ‘treasure’ in ‘trash’ – from cast off chairs to the remnants of a building project, and use those resources to help you create something fabulous in an increasingly cookie-cutter world.


Inspiring Containers

If you’re staring at that cluttered jumble of pots in the basement and wondering what you can do with them this year that won’t have you yawning before you even start, let Marianne help you create something that goes beyond the tired and traditional annual combos.  Utilize edibles and perennials, discover tropical treasures, consider adding the magical element of water, and learn what to look for when grouping plants for a successful container that thrives


Inspiring Containers for Shade

Container gardening is often geared toward sunny spots – but what if you’re trying to create and maintain containers in less than six hours of sun?  You need plants that not only thrive in the shade and work well together, but are suited to container life.  Marianne will discuss the basics of growing successful containers, share favorite plant choices, and teach you how to create excitement in the shadier corners of your garden, deck or patio.


A Taste of Foraging

Have you wanted to try the (not so) new trend of foraging but have no idea where to start and a lot of worries about the whole process? Garden writer and lifelong forager, Marianne Willburn, breaks the process down into memorable and manageable ‘food groups’ for the beginner.  She’ll discuss what to look for, what to avoid, who to read for more information, and how you can use foraged foods to create something new and exciting for the table.


Tropical Foliage Plants: The Answer to Hot, Humid Summer Gardens

 Forget about succulents. If you’re searching for plants that will add exciting accents to your hot, humid summer garden, last right up through the first hard freeze and make you look like a horticultural rock star, look no farther than tropicals.  Marianne will focus on some spectacular examples that are easy to grow, much easier than you think to overwinter, and are guaranteed to have your garden visitors pulling out their cameras before they’ve even left the car.



Spreading the Dirt: Mentoring Others in The Gardening Life
(A talk for garden educators)

 As the world becomes more urbanized and digitized it is increasingly crucial for those of us who garden, and garden obsessively, to reach out to others young and old, and introduce them to the incredible benefits of a gardening life.  But how can we compete with the no-sweat life of a virtual gardener? It’s time to simplify the process, truthfully manage expectations (including our own), and pair the age-old wisdom of one-on-one mentoring with digital tools that can enhance the experience for our audiences.



Mid-Atlantic USA

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Audience Reviews

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Garden Media Guild UK

Tamsin Westhorpe from Herefordshire - 03/18/2021 04:49:57

Marianne gave an engaging and inspiring Zoom presentation to members of the Garden Media Guild in February 2021. The topic was 'Tropical Plants and how to love them' which was the perfect introduction to her much anticipated book on tropical plants. The feed back was nothing but positive from Guild members and Marianne kept the group engaged for an hour and she demonstrated an incredible knowledge of plants. A thoroughly enjoyable event.

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Horticultural Society of Maryland presentation, Oc

Felicia Haywood from Macon, GA - 10/20/2020 14:59:20

I very much enjoyed Marianne's online presentation. It must have been a bit of a struggle for her to juggle the technology and have no audience to interact with but she managed to deliver an entertaining and stirring presentation. Marianne's examples of gardener mavericks, the Dervaes family and Christopher Lloyd, were apt and brought home just what can be accomplished when we step outside of the box. They, along with her wonderful book Big Dreams, Small Garden, are inspirations to me.

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Horticultural Society of Maryland webinar, 10/20

Nancy Blois from Maryland - 10/15/2020 10:28:25

Marianne's presentation, "Big Dreams, Small Garden," was very well received by our audience. Many viewers commented that they felt they were "in the room" with her, and that this was the most enjoyable virtual lecture they'd seen. Excellent material and presentation!