Four photos of native plants blooming with overlaid text that says

Native by Design: Gardening for a Sustainable Future

The Arboretum’s native gardening conference is held every September to promote sustainable gardening practices and use of native plants in home landscapes. Expert-led workshops inspire and inform gardeners, homeowners, and landowners to create and maintain native gardens or small-scale restorations where they live. The program welcomes people with a range of interests and experience.

The 2024 conference will take place September 15 at the Visitor Center. The all-day event features expert-led workshops, lunch, a keynote speaker, tours of the Wisconsin Native Plant Garden, a resource packet, and ample time for questions and conversations.

Presentations cover topics such as: garden design, native trees and shrubs, butterflies and bees in your garden, garden planting and management, nature journaling, gardening for bird habitat, native plant identification, and beneficial insects.

The keynote by Skye Bruce, coordinator of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative, will explore the essential relationships between butterflies and their botanical partners.

Registration for the 2024 conference is now open.

Early bird registration: $65, through July 21
Regular rates: $70, starting July 22
Students (with ID): $35

The registration deadline is September 5. (Capacity is limited and the conference may sell out before the deadline.)

2024 Conference Schedule

Welcome and Introduction: 8:45–9 a.m.

Session I: 9–10:30 a.m.

How to Design a Native Garden – Evelyn Howell

Learn how to begin a native garden, including how to analyze your site, employ basic design principles of native gardening, and choose the right combination of plants. Evelyn is a professor of landscape architecture at UW–Madison. Her background is in plant community ecology.

Native Shrubs and Trees – David Stevens

Learn about incorporating native woody plants in your home landscape to attract and sustain birds and pollinators. David is the curator of Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, the Arboretum’s living collection of woody plants.

Garden Flights: Butterflies and Bees – Annie Isenbarger and Susan Carpenter

Discover butterflies and bees at home in your native plant garden. Learn how to identify these floral visitors, explore their habitats, and contribute data to conservation efforts. Annie is the Arboretum citizen science coordinator and Susan is involved in bumble bee monitoring and conservation.

Session II: 10:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Plant and Manage Your Native Garden – Susan Carpenter

Explore native gardening in the home landscape from initial planting to long-term management. Learn how to maintain diversity, manage invasive species, and enhance plantings as your garden develops. Susan is the curator of the Arboretum’s Native Plant Garden.

Nature Journaling in Your Garden – Jacki Whisenant

Journaling is a rewarding way to document your garden during the season, focusing on the fuller picture and on tiny details. Link your art and observation through the practice of nature journaling. (Drawing materials will be provided, but feel free to bring your own as well.) Jacki is an entomologist, artist, and nature journaling mentor.

Beyond the Bird Feeder: Birdscaping in the Midwest – Mariette Nowak

Learn how to increase the variety of birds in your yard by growing native plants that offer birds natural habitat and a yearlong smorgasbord of berries, nuts, seeds, and insects. Gardeners and native plant enthusiasts can play a vital role in restoring and preserving native communities that support not only birds but also other wildlife. Mariette Nowak is the author of Birdscaping in the Midwest and president of the Wild Ones Kettle Moraine Chapter.

Lunch: 12:15–1:15 p.m.

Session III: 1:15–2:45 p.m.

Native Plant Identification – Jessica Ross

NOTE: This workshop is full. Learn important characteristics, terms, and tools to identify plants. This session will focus on plants actively blooming in the garden, like goldenrods, asters, and grasses. Capacity for this workshop is limited to 20 people. Jessica is a scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Rare Plant Monitoring Program.

Beneficial Bugs: Hard-Working and Underappreciated Arthropods – PJ Liesch

Take a glimpse into the world of beneficial arthropods, such as predators and parasites. These insects often go unnoticed but can be surprisingly common and are an important part of ecosystems. This session will include a seminar, insect displays, and, weather permitting, a field component to look for common beneficial arthropods. PJ is a UW Extension entomologist, director of the UW Insect Diagnostic Lab, and a regular guest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Larry Meiller Show.

Native Plant Garden Tour

Explore and discover our diverse gardens. Experts will point out highlights for native plant gardeners and answer your questions.

Keynote: 3–4:15 p.m.

Butterflies and Botany: Cultivating Connections in Native Gardens – Skye Bruce

Explore the essential relationships between butterflies and their botanical partners. Learn how to integrate host and nectar plants into your native garden to support butterfly populations and enhance biodiversity. Gain practical tips on creating habitat to attract and sustain these vital pollinators throughout the year.

Dr. Skye Bruce is the coordinator of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative, a collective of over 50 organizations, agencies, and groups that works to establish monarch habitat in Wisconsin. Skye earned her PhD in entomology from UW–Madison, with a research focus on butterfly conservation and ecology in Wisconsin grasslands. Her work centered on optimizing butterfly habitat for monarchs and other butterfly species in both protected and pastured grasslands.