Two luminaries in the local home and garden world have announced their retirements.

Elaine Evans, a pioneer in the urban gardening movement, is stepping down as director of Let’s Grow Akron. And avid preservationist Sylvia Johnson is leaving her job as director of the Hower House museum.

Evans, who grew up on a farm in North Carolina, started Let’s Grow Akron in 1989 as a way of making productive use of vacant lots in the city. A longtime community activist, she recognized that turning those lots into community gardens could address two problems, urban blight and hunger.

The program has grown to include educational efforts and children’s gardening programs, and it has prompted stronger community ties and neighborhood improvements. One of Evans’ proudest accomplishments was overseeing the transformation of a notorious illegal dump near Summit Lake into a cheerful children’s garden.

Evans is leaving her job because of illness. Her successor, Lisa Nunn, said Evans’ wish is for volunteers and donors to make improvements to her beloved children’s garden.

Johnson joined Hower House in 1987 as its first paid staff member.

When she started, the Second Empire Italianate mansion was in good shape, she said, but the third-floor ballroom had not yet been restored. She counts among her accomplishments the installation of a slate roof, the conversion of the attached garage for handicap-accessible restrooms and storage, the restoration of the carriage house and the expansion of tour hours.

Johnson, who called herself “a frustrated architectural historian,’’ said the job fit her passion for preservation and her love of Victorian houses. “It was just the right thing for me,” she said.

She intends to remain active in old-house preservation by joining the Massillon Woman’s Club, which occupies the historical home Five Oaks, and serving on an advisory council for New Franklin’s Tudor House. She also intends to work with the Portage Lakes Historical Society and continue her involvement with the Christ Child Society of Akron.

A new director has not been named.

Design and Beyond

“Perennial Diva” Stephanie Cohen will headline Design & Beyond 2013, a symposium presented by the Master Gardeners of Summit County.

The event is 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at St. Sebastian Church’s Zwisler Hall, 348 Elmdale Ave., Akron. Check-in starts at 8 a.m.

Cohen will give two presentations, Natives With Bling and Shrubaganza. The noted garden writer and lecturer wrote The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer, Fallscaping and The Non-Stop Garden and is a contributing editor for Fine Gardening magazine.

Other presenters at the symposium are Judy Semroc of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who will talk on The Many Faces of Conservation, and Lorree Cummings of Stone Cottage Farm & Garden in Cuyahoga Falls, who will give the presentation Urban Homesteading.

Cost is $40 for registrations postmarked on or before Jan. 4. The cost includes materials, a continental breakfast and lunch.

If space is available, late registrations will be accepted until Jan. 12 at $45.

Details and a mail-in registration form are at www.summitmastergardeners.org. To request a form by mail, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Sherry Beam, 2633 Hudson-Aurora Road, Hudson, OH 44236-2325.

For more information, call Beam at 330-342-0969.

Events, programs

• Holiday Memories, noon to 3:30 p.m. today and 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Hower House, 60 Fir Hill, Akron. Victorian mansion is decorated to reflect memories of holidays past. $8; 65 and older $6; students $2; children 6 and younger free with adult. 330-972-6909 or www.uakron.edu/howerhse.

• Deck the Hall, 5-8 tonight and Sunday, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path, Akron. Music-theme holiday decorations in the Manor House, lighted grounds and entertainment. Members, $13.50 for adults and $5.50 for youth; others, $17 for adults and $7 for youth. 5 and younger admitted free. 330-836-5533 or www.stanhywet.org.

• Glow, through Monday, Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Blvd. Holiday plantings, trees and decorations, along with entertainment, a gingerbread house display and a Garden Express train ride. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. Spiced Sachets With the Western Reserve Herb Society, 1-3 p.m. today. Glow admission: $12; children 3 to 12, $6.50; members and younger children, free. 216-721-1600 or www.cbgarden.org.

• Warm Up Akron meeting, 2 p.m. Thursday, Danbury of North Canton, 181 Applegrove St. NE. Members knit or crochet squares that are used to make afghans for needy people in the Akron area. Information: 330-699-3252 or http://warmupakron.webs.com.

• Needlework Circle meeting, 6 p.m. Thursdays, Seville Library, North Center Street. 330-769-2852.

• Hook & Needle Club meeting, 10:30 a.m. Friday, Buckeye Library, 6625 Wolff Road, York Township, Medina County. Registration: 330-725-4415.

• Knitting and Crocheting Circle meeting, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 5, Highland Library, 4160 Ridge Road, Granger Township, Medina County. Learn the basics or bring your projects and swap tips. Registration: 330-278-4271 or 330-239-2674.

Submit notices of classes, programs and events two weeks in advance to mbrecken@thebeaconjournal.com or Home and Garden News, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640. Please include name and phone number. All events must be open to the public.

Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or mbrecken@thebeaconjournal.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.