Speakers & Topics

2023 Speakers

Get to know this years speakers and session topics! Grow23 has a fantastic line up of industry leaders ready to share their knowledge. A diverse blend of speakers will cover topics ranging from recruiting and training all the way to building a retaining wall – and everything in between!

Michael James General Manager – DeepRoot Canada Corp

Mike has been in the municipal street tree/stormwater industry for over 25 years and has worked extensively with landscape architects, municipalities, engineers, and landscape contractors to provide solutions for the health of the Urban Forest and Low Impact Development techniques. Michael has a Degree in Public Administration and Business Management.


Grey to Green – This will focus on soil cell technology and the provision of soil volume to grow large mature trees in dense urban spaces.

Municipal Soil Volume Standards: Good Public Policy – This will cover the introduction and implementation of municipal Street Tree Soil Volume Standards and public policy.

Sean James Business OwnerSean James Consulting & Design

Named by Landscape Ontario as 2020 and 2021’s Garden Communicator of the Year, gardening has been Sean James’ hobby and profession for almost 40 years. A graduate of Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, a Master Gardener, writer, and teacher, Sean focuses on eco-gardening techniques, which makes sense since he grew up surrounded by nature near Crawford Lake in Campbellville. He has spoken from the Maritimes to Seattle and landscaped from Nova Scotia to California. Sean has had the honour to be part of creating the new Ontario Landscape Tree Planting Guide, the Grow-Me-Me-Instead guide, the Ontario Horticultural Apprenticeship Curriculum and the national Red Seal Occupational Standard, as well as the Master Gardeners Reference Manual. He has appeared on many radio shows and on television. Sean owns ‘Sean James Consulting & Design’ and instructs at Mohawk College.


Fusion® Gardening – Encouraged by many municipalities and regions, Fusion Gardening® blends LID (rainwater handling) with xeriscaping (drought-tolerant gardening) and folds in plantings to enhance biodiversity. One of the main foci of this style is to engage the public with beauty. Since it’s so important that property owners take up this gauntlet, we’ll address the backbone of each of these disciplines, and discuss how to do each artfully.


Life-Magnate: Creating a Layered Native Garden for Biodiversity – With the expanding trend toward landscaping to enhance all forms of life, the question becomes…how. By choosing plants favouring native species, and creating layers including varying heights of plants, focusing on what food and habitat niches those plants would fill, the life cycles of many species can be supported. This involves looking at all life stages from birth (larva and eggs) to adulthood; and from first food sources to berries and insects. Also worth considering, where creatures need shelter; old logs, standing trees, twiggy shrubs for nesting and more. We’ll delve into the best plant choices, design considerations, the ‘native vs. non’ issue, and finer details such as supporting obligat feeders (those that can only feed on one genus or species).

Lucas Steeves

Lucas Steeves is an 18-year veteran of the landscape industry with a passion for driving the green industry forward and helping landscapers succeed. When he got his first summer job pushing a wheelbarrow at 14 years old, Lucas had no idea that it was the beginning of a long and fulfilling career in the green industry. At 16 years old, Lucas enrolled in the registered apprenticeship program and began his apprenticeship before he was even out of high school, and by the time he was 20 Lucas was one of the youngest Journeymen to graduate the Landscape Gardener Apprenticeship Program at Olds College. Lucas then went on to earn industry certification through Canadian National Landscape Association as a hardscape technician, and has continued to pursue education wherever he can throughout his career. Lucas’ work has spanned many facets of the landscape industry including, Arboriculture, Golf Course Maintenance, Hardscape Construction, and just about everything in between. Having been both an employee and a business owner, Lucas’ unique perspective and range of skills has made him a highly sought-after industry professional who now chooses to dedicate his time and energy to the promotion and development of the landscape industry and mentoring the next generation of industry professionals. Lucas’ mission is simple, he wants to help everyone succeed as the Landscape industry continues to develop.



Growing People

The key to avoiding burnout and ensuring the long-term success of your business The unfortunate truth of the landscape industry is that most landscape companies don’t outlast their founders. In fact, more often than not business owners burnout long before they ever get to see their business reach it’s full potential. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this session we will talk about how to attract and retain the right people who will help your business reach its full potential so that you can leave a legacy that will last long after you retire, and do it all without burning you out.


The Secret to Higher Profits and Better Customers Building a “Destination Company”, a place where the best people want to come to work, and the best clients want to spend their money is an expensive prospect. Often so expensive that most business owners don’t achieve it. But there is one simple secret that will help you recover all of those expenses and much much more. That secret? Education. Not just educating your employees, but also educating your clients and the general public. In this session we are going to talk about why education is one of the most underutilized sales tools in the landscape industry and how you can use education to unlock the potential of your business and maximize your profits.


Philip Ronald

Philip Ronald was raised in the Canadian prairies and educated in plant breeding and horticulture at the University of Manitoba and University of Saskatchewan. He currently divides his time between teaching ornamental horticulture at the University of Manitoba, managing a 20 acre fruit farm and providing support to the research and marketing programs at Jeffries Nurseries. He resides near Portage la Prairie with his wife Karen and their children.


Building Healthy Shade Trees

An overview of the propagation pathways by which shade trees are produced at nurseries, including seed and vegetative methods.

Different methods of vegetative propagation will be compared in detail for their efficiency, advantages and challenges.

New Plant Introductions

Presenters: Matt Kellas, Aubin Nurseries, Philip Ronald, Jeffries Nurseries, Owen Vanstone, Vanstone Nurseries and Duayne Friesen, Ball Horticulture will provide an overview a select number of trees, perennials and annuals that are new for 2023 along their strengths and stock forecasting -re: supply chain challenges- for 2023.

Matt Kellas, Sales Manager, Aubin Nurseries Ltd.

Matt Kellas was born and raised in Winnipeg. He has been in the green industry for 10 years and graduated from the Greenspace Management Program at Red River College in 2013.

Matt began his professional career working as a Forest Health Protection Inspector at the City of Winnipeg. He then moved to Thompson, MB to become the youngest Golf Course Superintendent in the Province. 3 years later, he started his first sales job as an Account Manager at Consolidated Supply – where he sold landscape/irrigation materials. Most recently he has found his true passion as the Sales Manager at Aubin Nurseries.


He recently served as the treasurer on the MBNLA board for two years. Some of his interests include watching/playing sports and spending time with family and friends.

Phillip Ronald, Jeffries Nursery

Philip Ronald was raised in the Canadian prairies and educated in plant breeding and horticulture at the University of Manitoba and University of Saskatchewan. He currently divides his time between teaching ornamental horticulture at the University of Manitoba, managing a 20 acre fruit farm and providing support to the research and marketing programs at Jeffries Nurseries. He resides near Portage la Prairie with his wife Karen and their children.


Owen Vanstone, Vanstone Nurseries

Owen Vanstone is a joint owner of Vanstone Nurseries, a greenhouse and nursery operation located in Manitoba. The company produces a wide range of hardy perennials, shrubs and roses as well as a growing line of herbs, vegetables, and annuals. Owen is involved in plant testing and selection as well as many details in the day to day operations.

Owen has enjoyed developing the perennial trial site at the nursery location. Plant material from several breeders is evaluated for cold hardiness and suitability to the Prairie landscape. The nursery trial site is also host to the All-America Selections trial with a focus on the Herbaceous Perennial category. Owen enjoys evaluating new plants and working to bring the best of them to Prairie gardeners.


Duayne Friesen, Ball Seed Company

Duayne Friesen got started grudgingly in the horticultural trade, mowing and weeding on the yard but eventually helping with the family greenhouse business. This experience led him to the University of Guelph where he graduated with a Diploma in Horticulture in 1989. In 2004 Duayne became the Grower and Manager of Lacoste Garden Centre a position he held till summer of 2009. Since then he has represented the Ball Seed Company serving Garden Centres and Greenhouses in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Duayne also spent 20 years as host of The Lawn and Garden Journal saying goodbye to the airwaves in 2017. Duayne, his wife Bev reside in Winnipeg.



Rob Redden, Vice President at in-lite Design Corporation

Rob Redden is currently Vice President at in-lite Design Corporation, traveling both Canada and the United States working closely with strategic partners to educate, advise and assist in growing their businesses efficiently through proven team building and sales & marketing strategies.

Rob offers his 15+ years experience within the Outdoor Living Industry and pulls from over 20 years of professional selling experience to help you to better manage your leads, close more sales, and grow your business through ethical sales.

In 2014 Rob was awarded the Salesperson of the year at the Ottawa Awards of Distinction, and in 2015 was awarded the Past Presidents Award by Landscape Ontario. Rob is currently an active member with Landscape Ontario and a Board Member on the LO Lighting Sector Group.


Building Winning Teams – Training for Intentional Growth and Success

Today’s employees are looking for companies and leaders who can help them achieve their personal and professional goals. In this session we will discuss strategies and tools that you can cost effectively employ to build a dynamic and winning team.

Rapport, Qualifying and Soft Closes – What you need to know to close more sales.

Three critical steps in the sales cycle that you need to know, understand and execute to ensure you find the ‘right’ clients to ensure your business is profitable in today’s economy.

George Urvari

George Urvari co-founded the design build firm Oriole Landscaping Ltd. in 1986.  Oriole quickly built a reputation of high-quality work and superior customer service. The company has won dozens of awards including the Casey Van Maris award twice for most innovative design in Ontario, and the Dunnington Grubb for best overall landscape in Ontario.

George and his business partner Peter Guinane also started a construction business – Solid Space Construction to expand the scope of projects they could provide for their growing list of loyal customers.

George has given back to the industry over the past 25 years, by serving as President of the Toronto Chapter of Landscape Ontario, by speaking at numerous events across North America, as well as acting as an LMN authorized consultant and former LMN workshop instructor. His passion is to bring excellence to the landscape industry which includes consulting and mentoring landscape companies.


Identify Business Mistakes – Why is my business not doing better? What can I do about it? What should be my priorities ? How do I turn the business around ?

Planning, Budgeting, Pricing, Estimating & Profit – Profitable companies are not lucky. Learn to plan for profit the right way!


Hardscape Presentation – The Newest in Paving Stone Products

Three industry experts will provide information on the latest in hardscape materials and changes in their operations. This presentation will be of interest to landscape contractors, those who retail these products and landscape architects.

Bill Beldham, Sales Representative for Techo-bloc

 Bill Beldham, is the Winnipeg Sales Representative for Techo-bloc. Bill has a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from Univ of Waterloo and is ICPI Certified. He has spent his career in the hardscape Industry in various roles. As a contractor for 16 years, Bill won several awards for his innovative work, both commercially and residentially. Currently, Bill has been with Techo-bloc for the last 6 seasons and is a 2 time member of Techo-bloc’s President’s Club for Sales Achievement.

Bill will provide a quick review of new products for the Winnipeg area and how to use these products in combination with other materials.

Dennis Bergen, Barkman Concrete

Dennis Bergen is the product development manager at Barkman Concrete. He studied architectural design at the university of Manitoba and now leads a team to develop new and innovative products for the landscape industry. Dennis’ main design focus is on pavers, slabs, and retaining walls for the central and western Canadian markets. Dennis will speak about Product Development at Barkman Concrete, discuss how they develop and launch new products and discuss the new products Barkman will be launching in 2023.


Lee Hotas, Expocrete Concrete

Lee Hotas has been the Expocrete Concrete Key Account Manager for Manitoba and NW Ontario for the past 12 years. Expocrete is a Member of ICPI and Lee is an Allan Block Certified SRW Trainer, Manitoba Masonry Institute Treasurer, Member of MBLNA, Friends of MALA, and a Graduate of the University of Winnipeg. Lee will discuss Belgard products. Join Lee Hotas from Expocrete Concrete makers of Belgard Hardscape Products in Western Canada presenting New Product additions for 2022.  


Dr. Poonam Singh,Assiniboine Community College

Dr. Poonam Singh is a key faculty researcher in the Horticultural Production and Sustainable Food Systems program at the Assiniboine Community College, Brandon, Manitoba. With international and Canadian experience in horticultural sciences, Dr. Singh has led several applied research projects for academia and industry, aimed at adopting sustainable practices and improving the production efficiency of horticultural farms. Her research focuses on developing sustainable technologies for greenhouse production, evaluating new soilless media/substrates, hydroponic crop cultures, vertical farming, and horticultural crop physiology.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover: 360-degree approach of growing horticultural crops in sustainable growing media

Currently, in Canada, greenhouse growing of horticultural plants is carried out using peat, a soilless media extracted from peatlands, sensitive ecosystems with the unique ability to sequester considerable amounts of carbon and store excess precipitation. Peat extraction releases high carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, thus contributing to the greenhouse gas effect and resulting in climate change. This has led to an extensive search for sustainable alternatives for peat by the horticultural industry across the world. Learn about local and waste-stream products as constituents of sustainable growing media that could serve as a viable option for potted plant cultivation.


Kyla Maslaniec, Government of Manitoba

Kyla Maslaniec is an urban forester with the Manitoba government. She has been with the Forestry and Peatlands Branch for 25 years, and her main areas of responsibility include the Dutch Elm Disease and Urban Forest Management Program and The Forest Health Protection Act. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Manitoba Urban Forest Council.


Provincial Forest Health and Urban Forestry Update

Learn about forest pest conditions in Manitoba, including updates on Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer during this session. Information will be shared on the ongoing work done in forest health monitoring. Updates will also be provided on urban forestry programs in Manitoba.


Elvin Krahn, BDC

Elvin Krahn, BDC Business Centre Manager will share the results of BDC’s most recent research looking at how you can make your business more profitable, more resilient and more competitive. He will highlight the performance of Canada’s most productive companies and what they do to achieve 6X higher sales and 5X higher profits. You will discover:


  • How the current economic context impacts Canadian businesses.
  • Proven strategies to navigate and succeed in today’s economy.
  • How to increase your company’s productivity.


How to succeed in today’s economy: A roadmap for SMEs

Canadian business owners need to act fast and decisively to maintain a competitive edge in the current context marked by rising prices, supply chain disruptions and persistent labour shortages.