By Wendy Brister
Over 300 people gathered in Millersville, PA in June for the 26th Native Plants in the Landscape Conference (NPILC). As Conference Coordinator, I was happy to welcome the membership of GWA joining us for the first time with a screening of the movie “Hometown Habitat.”
“Hometown Habitat” was produced and directed by Catherine Zimmerman and features Dr. Douglas Tallamy of The Meadow Project. In it Zimmerman and Tallamy share stories of communities joining forces to support local ecosystems through education and the addition of native plants within their patch of earth.
The movie screening was a culmination of three days of conference activities related to native plants, propagation, soil, ecology, invasive plants, new technologies, and so much more. There were field trips, workshops, and many sessions available…enough to make ones head spin. I must say running a conference is a daunting task. Will the attendees find value in our sessions? Will the weather hold out? Will food and housing be acceptable? Will the sound systems work properly?
Wednesday started out well, until an organizer’s worst nightmare occurred. We left someone at a field trip site. The bus drove off and minutes later my phone rang. Fortunately, all turned out well and it made for a good late night story.
Thursday opened more smoothly with Andy Moore presenting the history of the pawpaw tree. The day ended with a presentation by Rebecca McMackin on how public gardens are dealing with changing climatic conditions. The rain that had threatened during the day held off and attendees enjoyed a picnic dinner, complete with lawn games. After dinner, in typical NPILC fashion, we enjoyed live musical entertainment and a social – networking with nurserymen and women, sharing memories with friends, and enjoying local spirits.
Friday morning we were inspired by the research of Bill Powell and his work with the American Chestnut, Heather Holm and native pollinators, as well as many other well known speakers including Gregg Tepper, John Magee, and Ian Caton. As Conference Coordinator, I was unable to enjoy many of the sessions. However, I made an effort to hear our end of day keynote from Thomas Woltz, a landscape architect with the firm Nelson Byrd Woltz. Thomas presented an inspiring, emotionally driven talk on the importance of incorporating not only the ecology of a site but also the cultural heritage so stories from the past would not be forgotten. Thomas received a standing ovation, and rightly so.
The addition of Saturday field trips was a new feature for this year’s conference. The most popular one was a trip to visit two nurseries and a public garden. When just 13 people left on a big yellow school bus, I thought it was overkill. When they returned, they had filled all the empty seats with plants! I should have seen that coming.
The community that emerged during the conference was like no other. Friendships were formed, valuable knowledge was shared, and many plants were sent on their way to new homes. I would like to personally extend an invitation to GWA members for our 2018 conference, NPILC: Building Communities….One Plant at a Time.
Meet the Author
Wendy Brister is a landscape designer, lecturer, and online marketing consultant for green industry businesses, with a special affection for native plants. Wendy grew up gardening, went on to college to learn more about plants, and is now – in a variety of ways – sharing with others the horticulture knowledge she has spent her life learning. She earned a BS in Landscape Architecture from Temple University Ambler, served as an adjunct faculty member at Harrisburg Area Community College, and in 2010 opened Harvey’s Gardens, a native perennial nursery, which now sources native plants for retail and wholesale clients.