There are probably as many different styles to people in the hort world as there are varieties and cultivars of plants! And yesterday I met a new breed, the stewards of mother earth at the ELA (Ecological Landscaping Association) conference in Springfield, Mass.
I don’t know how I managed to do this – but I filled up my month of March with conferences and flower shows. This one I attended yesterday was a spontaneous sign-up. I saw it listed via the Master Gardener newsletter and the seminars were different from former types I’ve attended, plus I didn’t recognize the speakers’ names, so I thought it would be great to see some new faces.
So what is the ELA conference? It is hosted by the Ecological Landscape Association. They are a ‘non-profit organization of dedicated landscape professionals, individual gardeners, and community groups who believe in using landscaping practices that are environmentally sound. They also believe that natural systems are the best guide for learning how to develop and maintain healthy landscapes.’ These are just two of their bullet points listed on their pamphlet.
I attended several seminars, one titled “Design Evolution: Engaging the Present, Adapting to the Future” by Ann Kearsley of a design firm. Also, a session by Carolyn Summers of Westchester Community College’s Native Plant Center titled, “The Practical Challenges of Designing with Native Plants.” I was happy to see some of the plants I have used in my designs were part of her presentations because she explains in detail the benefits of their uses as natives. She discusses how to choose cultivars, open-pollinated indigenous plants, and covers other aspects regarding minimizing maintenance. I particularly liked an example of two topiaries she displayed of equal proportions and shape, but one was a native while the other wasn’t. We often overlook to just select a native that is just as beautiful, can do the same job in the garden, yet it has the added benefit of supporting our eco-systems and animals in our environments.
In the afternoon, I stepped out of a “Soil Development for Healthy Flowering Trees” seminar by Dan Kittredge to attend something a little less intense for he was very technical and reminded me of my UCONN Professors, and I was just a bit too drowsy. So looking at “At-Risk Pollinators” on the screen as Ellen Sousa of Turkey Hill Brook Farm described how to encourage them was more in line with my low-energy.
And I was bummin’ I missed one lecture called “Designing Ornamental Gardens for Highly Effective Stormwater Infiltration” by Kevin Beuttell of Stantec because many attendees commented about how excellent it was. But like with many of these conferences, the sessions run simultaneously so you can’t see them all. Fortunately, the hand-outs were available as part of the enrollment from the website. No paper copies were reproduced (save trees) and you even bring your own eco-friendly water bottle to this event.
There was a market place at the show filled with all kinds of products to use in the garden – all natural based, sustainable, native, eco-friendly, focused on conservation, and concerned with all aspects good for the environment with a special focus of doing no harm. One display in particular caught my attention. It was a papermaking demonstration made with a base of invasive plants. In fact, there were a few vendors showcasing how to use invasives to our benefit. One person wrote a book about the medicinal properties of invasive plants. This is good news. We have to find ways to use invasive species for a good purposes if we can’t rid of them completely from the landscapes and forests. Everytime I see a roadside stand of Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) or Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata), I think about how if only we could use these problem plants in a good way – and some stewards have.
But back to the papermaking. The woman demonstrating the process was Louise Barteau Chodoff of bubblewrapture. She had three tables lined up with the plant remnants, dried, or chopped up with the papermaking screens as part of her demonstration. She is someone I would be interested in talking to about having a how-to class on papermaking and this special focus of using invasive plants in a good way feels good too. She can be found on www.inliquid.com.
Other exhibitors included Neptune’s Harvest, a manufacturer of unique, specialized cold processed organic Liquid Fish and Seaweed fertilizers, and The Great American Rain Barrel Company that re-purposes shipping drums into a complete water collection system. A booth by Project Native was well-designed. They are another organization dedicated towards inspiring the stewardship of natural resources by cultivating native plants and restoring our local landscape. They are located in Housatonic, Massachusetts and their website is: www.projectnative.org. Their organization began in 2000, when Raina Weber recognized the need for a native plant nursery in the Berkshires.
While many of the people, vendors, and speakers at the ELA Conference are north of my state, they are great neighbors to get to know. It will take me a while to digest all the valuable information gained yesterday. So off I go to read more! For more information, refer to http://www.ecolandscaping.org/. Cathy T