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An award-winning garden designer from Mackinac Island who is an author an overall plant enthusiast will be keynote speaker for Home, Lawn and Garden Day hosted by McLean County Master Gardeners.

Jack Barnwell's presentation about landscaping and gardening will be March 2 at Central Catholic High School, Bloomington. The day runs from 8 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. 

Jack has over a decade of experience creating breathtaking commercial and private garden displays in one of the world’s premiere summer vacation destinations. Barnwell’s roots grow deep on the island: Before becoming the island’s premiere landscape designer, Jack spent his summers there as a child.

The color in Barnwell’s installations comes from using vigorous plants that pack a lot of punch. He does show a preference toward Proven Winners. “They are putting out top-notch plants right now,” Barnwell says. “They are really focusing on garden performance, not just how it looks in the garden center.”

He is a huge fan of hydrangeas, Bloomerang reblooming lilac, astilbe, brunnera and sweet woodruff for his cottage designs.

Jack’s success in gardening is how he has embraced the unique challenges of the island to inspire his designs. He builds raised beds to showcase his colorful annuals because, he says “soil is the key to gardening triumphs. Fluffy soil equals happy plants.” He discourages gardeners from breaking up the root balls of annuals when planting containers.

The water surrounding the island is reflected in the curves of his beds. He uses floating stones in lawns because of how they fit the cottage designs of the island.

Barnwell is easy to spot in his trademark Australian bush hat and his extremely colorful designs. His hat has become such a symbol of his work and a part of his image that, when he wants to go incognito on the island, he just takes it off.

Jack is set to write a book on container combinations that is sure to be a bestseller because his container designs are a knockout, broadcasting beautiful color and form.

Through this experience as an award-winning landscaper, he has identified the best techniques for design, plant selection, and maintenance practices that create stunning displays, while minimizing care so that his crew can handle it all!

Barnwell will share many of these concepts, stories, and more on this immersive journey to Michigan's crown jewel, plus over 30 breakout sessions from local experts. To sign up please visit go.illinois.edu/HLGD.

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Kelly Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.

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