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New speaker series cultivates wisdom and wonder

What do Winnie the Pooh, waterwise gardening, topiary, and self-actualization have in common? How might they improve our lives in the Salt Lake Valley?

These are themes that Red Butte Garden and Arboretum’s new speaker series, "Cultivating Wisdom & Wonder", will bring this year to ongoing conversations about challenges and opportunities in local and global environments. Four guest experts offer unique guidance into better understanding the world of plants and their connection to the health and well-being of humans, our communities, and the planet.

The series kicks off Tuesday, March 26, at 6 pm with Kathryn Aalto, author of the New York Times best-seller The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh (2015). Aalto’s book tells the story of the real landscapes and rare plants and animals that inspired the fictional "Hundred Acre Wood,” the setting for the iconic teddy bear’s many adventures. Aalto will also teach a Nature Writing Workshop at the Garden on Wednesday, March 27, 10 am-noon.

“This exciting new series brings internationally known authors and experts to Utah to help us engage in some of today’s most pressing questions about life and our world,” says Jasmine Millard, adult programs manager at Red Butte Garden.  “As the place where Utahns of all ages come to connect with plants and the beauty of living landscapes, Red Butte Garden is the ideal setting for deeper conversations that will educate and inspire. If you care about plants, living landscapes, or your family’s well-being, you won’t want to miss a single one.”

Registration is required to attend. Prices vary. Details at

Cultivating Wisdom & Wonder speaker series 2024 schedule

Kathryn Aalto, author

"The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh", Tuesday, March 26, 6-7:30 pm

Kathryn Aalto’s talk will weave history with humor and birdsong with booklore as she shares stories of the real woods that inspired the setting for Winnie-the-Pooh’s adventures.

Nature Writing Workshop, Wednesday, March 27, 10 am-noon

Kathryn Aalto’s nature writing course for beginners provides a strong foundation in the art of narrative nonfiction.

Executive Director

Ross Shrigley, executive director, Plant Select

“New Waterwise Plants and Gardening in a Changing Climate," Saturday, April 27, 6-7:30 pm

Plant Select is a Colorado-based nonprofit that cultivates and supplies plants designed to thrive in the Intermountain West. Executive Director Ross Shrigley will share the latest in sustainable plant ideas, from perennials to shrubs and trees, and how to incorporate them into gardens and landscapes.

Mike Gibson, designer

“Topiary Therapy: Healing Through Creative Pruning,” Tuesday, May 28,  6-7:30 pm

World-renowned topiary artist Mike Gibson will share how creative pruning techniques can be both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally therapeutic.

Topiary MasterClass: Tabletop Spirals, Wednesday, May 29, 6-8 pm

Ever wondered how those spiral topiaries are created? Here's your chance to learn from renowned topiary expert Mike Gibson. You'll receive personalized attention and valuable tips as you work on your very own topiary masterpiece. All tools provided, no experience necessary—just come prepared to unwind, have fun, and unleash your creativity.

Ian Williams, author

"Soil and Spirit: Seeds of Purpose, Nature's Insight, and the Deep Work of Transformational Change," Thursday, September 19, 6-7:30 pm

Author Ian Williams will explore how nature’s wisdom can guide us on our own journey inward into the soils of self. Soil and Spirit was featured in Forbes Magazine as one of three books to inspire leaders to create change.