Botany & Ecology Classes

Study aspects of botany in the classroom and in the field including topics like seasonal plant identification, classification, nomenclature, plant behavior and other topics helpful to professionals and backyard gardeners alike. Explore biodiversity, human-caused impacts to ecosystems and strategies for conservation through the Garden’s ecology courses.

Classes are offered in-person, as synchronous (live) online programs, or using hybrid methods with both in-person and virtual content. Class delivery methods are denoted next to each listing as VIRTUAL, IN-PERSON, or HYBRID.

Class Schedule May – August 2024

Conservation & Sustainability Talk and Walk | May 15 | IN-PERSON

Join Garden Guide Susie Austin for a talk about the many ways we practice sustainability here at the Garden including conserving water, planting native species and recycling. Then enjoy a walk around the Garden to see some of our current efforts at work and discuss how some of these could be adopted for use in your home garden.

Intermediate Botany | May 22, 23, 24 | IN-PERSON

Join Dr. Douglas DeBerry for an in-depth overview of the tools and techniques used by botanists to identify plants to the species level, with a strong emphasis on family characteristics. Attendees will be exposed to concepts in plant classification, nomenclature, habitat, distribution, and of course, vegetative and reproductive characteristics—all of which can be used to help identify plants to the species level. Emphasis is on native or naturalized species in Virginia and the use of dichotomous keys in technical plant manuals and regional floras.

NEW! The Story of Invasive Plants & How to Remove Them | June 1 | IN-PERSON

In this class with horticulturist and Virginia Home Grown host Peggy Singlemann, learn how the seed catalog came to be, how catalogs influenced our society, and how advances in transportation increased access to different plants. These components help us understand how alien and invasive species were moved around the globe as gardeners, like us, desired to grow a plant no one else had. Peggy will also share guidance on how to remove invasive plants growing in your home landscape. Class will begin indoors before moving out into the Garden to spot examples of invasive plants growing on Garden property, weather-permitting. 


We believe that all adults in our community should have access to plant-based, nature-focused learning opportunities. The learning opportunities in this series offer several pricing tiers so you can register at the amount you’re able to pay. 

NEW! All About Herbaria & Plant Pressing | June 1 | IN-PERSON

Join Dr. John Hayden for an exploration of all things herbaria. An herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens used for scientific study, among other things. Dive into the history of herbarium collections and the roles that herbarium collections play in the service of botanical science. Learn the art and science of pressing plants for preservation and receive guidance on how to start your own backyard herbarium. Journey to the basement of the Kelly Education Center for an exclusive tour of the Garden’s herbarium. 

For additional learning opportunities in this series, visit our Learning Opportunities for All page.

NEW! Foodscape Harmony: Embracing Natives & Edibles | June 29 | VIRTUAL 

In a world where climate concerns, water quality, and invasive species are paramount, thoughtful landscaping takes center stage. Join author and horticulturist Brie Arthur as she explains the art of creating a foodscape that merges native plants with your beloved seasonal food crops. The best organic practices are explored, and earth-friendly maintenance strategies take center stage. Delve into the realm of native edible plants, unlocking their secrets and the pollinators they beckon for the vital task of ecological restoration. 

Grasses, Sedges and Rushes | August 6, 7 | IN-PERSON

Identification of grasses, sedges and rushes is often perceived as one of the most difficult activities in the realm of botany. This course with Dr. Douglas DeBerry is for the disgruntled multitudes who would like to gain a better understanding of grass, sedge and rush terminology, classification, nomenclature and most importantly, identification. Those already proficient in plant identification will find this course to be a useful refresher. Emphasis is on native or naturalized species in Virginia, and the use of dichotomous keys in technical plant manuals and regional floras.  

NEW! Gardening for Birds | August 17 | IN-PERSON 

By planting bird-friendly plants, you can attract more birds to your garden and support local bird populations! Join Barb and Buz Sawyer, both birdwatchers since childhood, as they share experiences from their own backyard garden, highlight which plants do well in our zone, and suggest ways to attract more species to your garden with a layered approach that focuses on what birds need during their life cycle. 

Creating a Backyard Wildlife Habitat | August 21, 28, September 4 | IN-PERSON

If you are looking for inspiration and guidance in creating a refuge for wildlife in your backyard, then you’re in the right place! This course with native plant specialist and landscape designer Beth Farmer will teach you how to incorporate native plants into your landscape through site evaluation and how to place the right plant in the right place. We’ll discuss specific trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses and vines, along with how each plant interacts with nature and which wildlife they would support and attract.

NEW! Native Plant ID for Beginners | September 7 | IN-PERSON

Explore the basics of native plant identification with instructor Robert Jennings, an expert in natural lands management and environmental sciences. Learn the proper method of scientific classification and how to use this method to aid with narrowing down plant ID possibilities. Gain an understanding of why plants are placed into specific categories and increase your confidence with how to ID unknown plants to at least the Family or Genus level. After learning some of the basics, we’ll go outside to visit the Morton Native Plant Garden to try out your new plant identification skills. 

NEW! Plant Diversity for Landscape Design | September 14 | IN-PERSON

People live indoors, but your garden is a dynamic, living habitat for other fauna. Science tells us that a diversity of plant materials promotes a diversity of landscape insects and a healthier, more sustainable ecosystem. Janine Lester, landscape designer and consulting arborist, will show you how your ornamental landscape can be a beautiful and edible landscape for insects, birds, and other small garden dwellers. 

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As of April 12, 2024, the Garden has an updated cancellation policy for Adult Learning programs.

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