|Dr. Michael A. Dirr|
I learned tree identification from Dr. Gary Kling, professor at the University of Illinois. I sought out to study under Dr. Kling because of his reputation. He is ridiculously smart and has a big heart. I was humbled to learn his adviser, Dr. Michael A. Dirr, was the same.
When I discovered that the 2011 National Green Centre Conference was offering an opportunity to join Dr. Dirr and many industry professionals on a garden walk at the Missouri Botanical Gardens (MoBot), I jumped on it. I've been peripherally involved in horticulture for 19 years. I've torn through two editions of Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. One was while I was working on my Master's in Horticulture Education.
When I told my husband I was attending a garden walk in January, the first thing out of his mouth was, "it's the middle of winter, what's there to see?" He knew. Beyond meeting a man renowned in the industry, we would see, buds and bark. Only people this passionate would willingly pay to go on a walk in the cold, rain or shine. What began as a two hour walk, turned into an a three hour walk ending with industry professionals talking about the future of their beloved industry. The event was forced to an end, only by the bus driver.
|Loebner Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri) at the Missouri Botanical Gardens|
Dr. Dirr started the walk off without pause, willingly sharing and quizzing anyone who looked up for the challenge. Everyone was up for the challenge. He wasn't the only one talking. He would call others to speak up when they knew details or were specialists in their field. When part of the group would move at a leisurely pace, he would bark, "hurry up people!", and the tail end would move faster. Discussing a tree thoroughly and then getting to the next specimen, this is what a tree walk is about.
|Chip Tynan, Michael A. Dirr, Christopher Tidrick (From the Soil), and Linda Orton|
|Group photo of garden walk attendees|
|Chip Tynan, Laura Hayden, and Michael A. Dirr at Missouri Botanical Gardens|