Talks

Kathryn Aalto is an experienced speaker whose visually-rich, multi-media talks educate and inspire.  Her energy, humor, and storytelling have made her an in-demand speaker everywhere from Ivy League universities to the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens. She speaks extensively at arboretums, libraries, art and natural history museums, writing festivals, garden clubs, and book festivals.  Enquires? Contact gardens@kathrynaalto.com.

For corporate venues interested in after dinner talks, Kathryn is an Arts, History, and Literature speaker internationally represented by Chartwell Speakers which can be reached here. See her teaching page for courses on writing and design.

In Writing Wild, Kathryn Aalto takes readers on a journey through the natural world as seen from the perspective of 25 extraordinary women writers. Beginning with a journey up England’s tallest mountain in the Lake District in the footsteps of Dorothy Wordsworth, through two centuries of walking and writing, Writing Wild captures pioneering women who dared to lace up their boots and pick up their pens to make history and make their marks.  Writing Wild celebrates women, both historical and current, whose influential nature writing has deepened our connection to and understanding of the natural world. These inspiring wordsmiths are scholars, spiritual seekers, conservationists, scientists, novelists, and explorers. They defy easy categorization but share a bold authenticity that makes their work distinct and universal. Featured writers include:

  • Dorothy Wordsworth, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Gene Stratton-Porter, Mary Austin, and Vita Sackville-West
  • Nan Shepherd, Rachel Carson, Mary Oliver, Carolyn Merchant, and Annie Dillard
  • Gretel Ehrlich, Leslie Marmon Silko, Diane Ackerman, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Lauret Savoy
  • Rebecca Solnit, Kathleen Jamie, Carolyn Finney, Helen Macdonald, and Saci Lloyd
  • Andrea Wulf, Camille T. Dungy, Elena Passarello, Amy Liptrot, and Elizabeth Rush

Part travel essay, literary biography, and cultural history, Writing Wild ventures into the landscapes and lives of extraordinary writers and encourages a new generation of women to head outdoors and start writing wild.(1-hour multimedia presentation with Q&A)

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A. A. Milne’s classic tales Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner have delighted readers for nearly a century. The stories’ characters — Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of the gang — are famous, but how much do we know about the setting, the Hundred Acre Wood? Join Kathryn Aalto, author of the New York Times best-seller, The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, in her most popular talk for a look at what we can learn from studying the intersection of nature and culture in Winnie-the-Pooh.

A popular national speaker, Kathryn has taken thousands of people on nostalgic and vivid journeys into one of the most iconic settings in children’s literature. Learn about Milne’s extraordinary childhood in the natural world, conflicts he experienced as a father and author, and how his creative partnership with illustrator E. H. Shepard dazzled countless readers. Discover places that inspired the stories along with the forest’s rare flora and fauna. Part travelogue and natural history, this talk weaves history with humor and birdsong with booklore as we learn how these masterpieces of children’s literature were created. Leave with a new understanding of how the Winnie-the-Pooh books are field guides for 21st-century Christopher Robins — hymns to those days of doing Nothing yet learning Everything. (1-hour Powerpoint presentation with Q&A. For venues seeking a practical workshop to accompany this talk, the Designing Gardens for Children is a popular option.)

Read more about The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh at The Washington PostAmazon or Kathryn’s Press Kit.

“Kathryn’s journey through the real landscapes that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood is delightful and insightful. Her presentation is not only an engaging travel log through the hills and forests of England but also a deeper dive into the creative process, and nature as inspiration for writers and artists.” — Richard A. Kissel, PhD, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University

 

DESIGNING CHILDREN’S GARDENS 

Gardens are gateways for instilling a sense of wonder and stewardship in children about the natural world.  Time outdoors creates vivid, lasting memories.  Designing an interactive and engaging family garden where children can play and learn doesn’t mean losing style and elegance in garden for adults as well. In this passion talk about the need for Vitamin N(ature) and practical workshop, learn how innovative family gardens of all sizes can be well-designed for everyone. There are other elements to consider when creating natural playgrounds. This illustrated workshop looks at key elements of flow, colour, planting, refuge, seating, games, and wildlife. It also considers concepts of child development, design adaptability and creating opportunities for children to explore their senses, take risks and keep safe.  (90-minute PowerPoint presentation with Q&A and design workshop)

 

RE-IMAGINING THE WINTER GARDEN

Kathryn Aalto’s talks are always about more than just gardens. While summer is synonymous with juicy peaches and fragrant flowers, in colder months when hope and light are at their lowest, gardens are most needed — yet least appreciated. In this beautifully-illustrated talk, journey into breathtaking British gardens at their most surprising states. It will shift the way you see winter and inspire you to enhance your garden’s winter palette. Filled with Kathryn’s acclaimed photography, you will travel to gardens and estates in Sussex, Cambridge, Devon, and beyond and learn about her backward design process: starting with winter and working toward summer to impart good bone structure, vertical interest, texture, foliage, scents, and colour. Weaving horticulture, history and humour, Kathryn recasts the common into the exquisite: the quiet and defiant act of planting bulbs, the artistry of designing with shadows and light, and the underrated beauty in the colour brown.  Both a lush seasonal meditation and helpful practicum, leave seeing warmth and abundance in places formerly barren. (1 hour Powerpoint presentation with Q&A handouts)

 

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DESIGNING THE HISTORIC HOME GARDEN

Drawing on her specialist training and travels to gardens throughout Europe and the United States, garden designer and historian Kathryn Aalto delivers a fun, erudite talk geared toward homes in historic communities and grounded in historic design approaches.  A visually-rich lecture, you will learn design essentials such as basic site analysis; proportion and scale; identifying architectural components; historically-accurate plants and flowers; and integrating it together in a preliminary design to suit your own aesthetic and to create a beautiful and appealing garden. (1 hour Powerpoint presentation)

HEALING & REMEMBRANCE GARDENS

Nature has a way of soothing the soul during difficult times. Thoughtful and well-designed outdoor spaces provide nourishing sanctuaries for people who have experienced challenges: the loss of a loved one, disease or injury, the end of a marriage, PTSD from war, and more.  Therapeutic gardens are also wide-ranging and can be sensory gardens, rehabilitative gardens, learning gardens, and gardens of remembrance. In this illustrated talk, Kathryn Aalto first shows a range of healing sanctuaries and then focuses on the foundations of one specific type: the remembrance garden. For the homeowner, a healing garden can be intimately individualized as a memorial to a loved one who has passed, to honor someone who has survived a major life challenge, or to remember a special time of our lives. Seen on a daily basis, these private home gardens differ in size, scale, and features and can be infused with the seasons to instill hope and peace.  We will reflect upon the attributes of our loved one, or time in life, we want to remember while considering how plantings, colour, texture, water, sound, seating, and screening create a meaningful sanctuaries. (1-hour Powerpoint presentation and mini-design workshop with Q&A)


Keynote Speaker, Exeter College Prize Giving Ceremony, Exeter, England 

Exeter College Awards

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Speaker and Designer, “Creating Gardens with Narratives,” Ovid’s Garden Party, Winterbourne House & Garden, University of Birmingham, England 

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Speaker,  University of Redlands and Redlands Forum at the Esri Auditorium 

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Speaker, Inland Empire Garden Club, Spokane, Washington 

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Speaker, Great Homes & Gardens Lecture Series, Hillwood Museum and Garden, Washington, D.C.

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