Phipps is dedicated to bringing nationally recognized speakers to our world-class facility to help enrich our region and further our mission. These special events will keep you at the forefront of your field of interest and connected to like-minded individuals. You'll be amazed at what you can learn in a day at the gardens.

For more details about our programs, or to receive personalized class recommendations from our helpful staff, please feel free to contact us at

Summer Short Course: Eat Your Backyard: Foraging and Cultivating Unusual Edibles | Featured speaker: Ellen Zachos

Tues., Aug. 23 | 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. | Special Events Hall

This event is now filled. Please email to be placed on the waiting list.

Join Phipps, Penn State extension and featured speaker Ellen Zachos, a Harvard graduate and the author of eight books including Backyard Foraging, Down & Dirty Gardening, and The Wildcrafted Cocktail for a full day exploration of foraging and edible landscaping. Ellen will be joined by fruit and nut growing experts from Penn State, and will also be offering a limited enrollment wildcrafted cocktail class on Monday, Aug. 22nd.

Please register for the Summer Short Course below, by calling 412/441-4442, ext. 3925, or by visiting the event information page at (select the Exhibits & Events link and scroll to find the conference).

Questions can be sent to


Summer Short Course (Tuesday, Aug. 23) registration costs $85 on or before Monday., July 25.  After July 25, the cost is $95. The cost is the same for members and nonmembers.

Short Course registration includes morning coffee, as well as a lunch buffet with vegetarian and gluten free options. If you have additional dietary requests, please contact us to ensure we can meet your needs.


All programs will be held at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The Conservatory address is:

One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213

Continuing Education Credits

This Short Course counts as 4 hours for Master Gardener Continuing Education credit, and 4 elective hours for Phipps certificate programs: Sustainable Horticulture and Landscape and Garden Design. This course has been approved for 4.0 CEU credits by LA CES. CEU credits for PCH are pending.

Cancellation Policy

In order to receive a full refund, less a $10 administrative fee, you must cancel by Tuesday, Aug. 9th. After this date, there will be no refunds.

Course Schedule – Tuesday, Aug. 23

9 – 9:30 a.m. Registration

9:30 a.m.: Welcome and Introductions

9:45 – 10:45 a.m.: Backyard Foraging | Ellen Zachos

When you think about hostas and day lilies, you probably focus on their appealing foliage and vibrant blooms. But these perennials are delicious as well as lovely; a surprising number of our favorite garden plants can feed both body and soul. Learn how to recognize, harvest, and prepare tasty treats such as wintergreen sorbet, rose hip soup and dahlia tuber bread from plants you already have around your home.

11 a.m. – noon: Grow Nuts! | Emelie Swackhamer

This session will cover which edible tree nuts grow well in Pennsylvania and the northeast, and tips for starting your own nut orchard.  Visit the demonstration table outside over lunch for a chance to see the different kinds of nuts, crack them and taste them.

Noon – 1 p.m.: Lunch | Phipps Edible Garden Visit | Nut Demonstration* | Book Sale

* People with Tree Nut Allergies may want to avoid the nut demonstration. The demonstration will be outside so as not to affect general attendees to the event.

1 – 2 p.m.: Small Fruit | Kathy Demchak

Berry crops are really tasty and good for you!  How many other foods can you think of that are both?!   We're all familiar with the common favorites like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, but there are also less common berries that may have a place in your garden.  In this presentation we'll talk about gooseberries and currants, hardy kiwi, elderberries, aronia, and gogi berries, and what you need to know to grow them successfully.   We'll also touch on some of the newer varieties of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries suitable for containerized production, and the pros and cons of growing them this way.   

2 - 2:15 p.m. Program Spotlight: Western Pa. Mushroom Club

2:15 - 2:30 p.m. Break

2:30 - 3:30 p.m.: The Blended Garden: Good Looks and Terrific Taste! | Ellen Zachos

Did you know many ornamental plants are also edible? Maybe you’ve grown wild ginger for its beautiful leaves or Juneberry for its early spring flowers and didn’t realize these plants could feed your body as well as the gardener’s soul. This lecture suggests ornamental garden plants that do double duty, by being both beautiful AND delicious! Many also grow well in containers.

3:30 - 3:45 p.m. Closing Remarks


Ellen Zachos is a Harvard Graduate and the author of eight books including Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat, The Wildcrafted Cocktail, and The Forager’s Pantry. She has taught foraging workshops across the US, and lectured at botanic gardens, flower shows, and for garden clubs around the world.

Ellen moved to NYC to become a theater actor, but left the cast of Les Misérables to pursue her passion for horticulture. She earned certificates in both ornamental horticulture and ethnobotany certificates from New York Botanical Garden, and taught for many years at the NYBG on a wide range of subjects (basic gardening techniques, perennials, annuals, orchids, container gardening, house plants) and ran a roof top gardening business: Acme Plant Stuff.

She started out foraging in the garden, because she knew the plants there were safe from potentially dangerous insecticides and herbicides, but soon ventured out into the wilds of Central Park, the woods of Pennsylvania, the deserts of New Mexico, the islands of Scotland, and the gorges of Greece. In other words, she’s always looking for delicious, free food!


Kathy Demchak is a Sr. Extension Associate in the Dept. of Plant Science at Penn State where she is currently responsible for the statewide berry crop research and extension program. Lately her work has been focused on protected culture production systems for strawberries and raspberries, but she has worked with a wide range of production systems and crops over the past 40 years. 


Emelie Swackhamer has a BS in Plant Science and a MS in Plant Pathology. She has served as Penn State horticulture educator for almost 27 years.  Currently, she focuses on the commercial green industry and the invasive insect the spotted lanternfly, but she also has a lot of experience working with vegetable producers and home gardeners. Her family has been growing edible tree nuts on their farm in Berks County, PA for many years where they have a collection of many grafted cultivars. She has helped the Pennsylvania Nut Growers set up their display at the Pennsylvania Farm Show every year since 1995.  Emelie is a member of the Pennsylvania Nut Growers Association, the Northern Nut Growers Association and the Pennsylvania Certified Organic Hall of Fame.