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Keynote Speakers



We are thrilled to announce the first confirmed 2021 Western Keynote Speaker!


Kelly D. Norris
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Thursday January 14, 2021
Topic title to be announced

Biography: Kelly D. Norris is one of the leading horticulturists of his generation. An award-winning author and plantsman, he is the director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a revitalized and progressive public garden in Des Moines, Iowa. Throughout his career, Kelly’s work in gardens has been featured in The New York Times, Organic Gardening, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Fine Gardening and Garden Design and in numerous local and regional media appearances. Kelly also presents plants for Cottage Farms Direct on QVC and lectures widely to consumer and industry audiences.

At the Botanical Garden, Kelly is responsible for leading and directing a team of horticulturists and educators in all aspects of design, curation, programming, and garden management, after serving as the principal horticulture consultant to the $18 million renovation project completed in 2014.

He’s the author of four books with his latest New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden debuting in 2021 from Cool Springs Press. His previous projects included Iowa Gardener’s Travel Guide (2008), A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts (2012; winner of the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award), and Plants With Style (2015).

Kelly has been fortunate to earn recognition for his work from a variety of organizations including three awards from Iowa State Horticultural Society (2009-2011) for his service and contributions to horticulture in Iowa; early career and young professional awards from the Perennial Plant Association (2011), GardenComm (2018) and the American Horticultural Society (2018); the Iowa Author Award for Special Interest Writing (2013), the youngest Iowan to be recognized in the history of the awards program; and a fellowship from the Chanticleer Foundation (2015) for his curatorial and plant exploration work at the Botanical Garden.

Kelly holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State University.



See below for details on the keynote speakers from the 2020 Western.


Paul Westervelt
Saunders Brothers, Inc.

Thursday January 16, 2020
Are they Better or Just New

CLICK HERE to download the plant list handout!

Description: Paul Westervelt is a professional plant geek who has run the annual and perennial program for Saunders Brothers Nursery in Piney River, Virginia since 2004, where he grows over 800 varieties across 13 programs. His work is plants, his hobbies are plants, his vacations are plants, his dreams are plants – he’s living the plant geek dream.

Paul grew up in Winchester, VA across from a multi-acre Oehme van Sweden garden. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in Horticulture from Virginia Tech (2001 and 2003 respectively). In 2009 he was awarded the "Young Professional of the Year" by the Perennial Plant Association. He was selected for the 2013 Class of 40 Under 40 for Greenhouse Product News. Each year, GPN recognizes 40 industry professionals under the age of 40 who are helping to determine the future of the horticulture industry. These individuals are today’s movers and shakers who are already setting the pace for tomorrow. Paul is a contributing columnist for Grower Talks Magazine and is a popular speaker at national and regional events.

Paul lives and gardens with his wife and two children (propagules) on their farm in central VA. Free time not spent gardening is spent visiting gardens and landscapes around the country and abroad.




Phil Harwood
Managing Partner,


Engaging a Modern Workforce Notes from Phil Harwood

GrowTheBench 30 Day Free Trial Information

Quarterly Feedback Review Template

Thursday January 16, 2020
Creating a Modern Workforce: Emerging expectations of a new generation

Description: Employers today are facing a new generation of workers with expectations that are vastly different from previous generations. Successfully creating a modern workforce requires an understanding of these emerging expectations and significant cultural and policy changes to attract and retain a new generation of workers. This keynote session will provide insight into these emerging expectations and tangible solutions to be implemented in response to them. Following his presentation, Phil will be moderating a panel discussion with industry leaders addressing the following questions:

- What is working for you in recruiting? What are your methods?
How are you approaching recruitment differently today than before the labor shortage?
What are you doing to improve retention?
What have you tried that didn’t work as well as you had hoped?
How have you addressed compensation in an environment of rising wages?
What does the industry as a whole need to do to improve attractiveness of landscape careers?
What initiatives are already under way that you are involved in or supporting?

Bio: Phil Harwood, MBA, CSP, LIC is a managing partner with, one of three companies he has founded since retiring from a successful landscape & snow management career.

Phil holds an Executive MBA with honors and Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing, both from Michigan State University. He was nominated "Alumnus of the Decade" by Michigan State's Executive MBA Program. In addition, he is a Certified Snow Professional, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, National Association of Landscape Professionals Trailblazer, and Landscape Ontario Preferred Consultant.

Phil is a management consultant, frequent guest speaker, and contributing writer for several publications and websites. His consulting firm, Pro-Motion Consulting (, has been recognized twice by the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) with the prestigious Snow Industry Commitment Award. In addition, two of his clients have won the coveted CEO of the Year Award from SIMA. 

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