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“Native by Design: Gardening for a Sustainable Future” is held every September at the Arboretum. This Native Gardening Conference promotes 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 on their own property. The program welcomes people with a range of interests and experience.

The all-day event features expert-led workshops, a keynote speaker, tours of our Wisconsin Native Plant Garden, an extensive resource packet, and ample time for Q&A. Presentations cover a wide range of topics: garden design, native meadow and gravel gardens, rain gardens, garden planting and maintenance, soil health, trees and shrubs, edible restoration, and butterfly gardens.

Registration for the 2016 conference is now open. Download a 2016 NGC brochure (PDF) or register online.

2016 Native Gardening Conference

Native by Design: Gardening for a Sustainable Future

Sunday, September 18, 2016  |  8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Early bird rates through June 30: $60 ($54 FOA, $30 student w/ID)  |  Starting July 1: $65 ($59 FOA)

Using the Arboretum’s Wisconsin Native Plant Garden as an outdoor classroom, this conference offers workshops, take-home tips, and living examples to inspire you and help you become a successful native plant gardener.

Experts will lead you step-by-step through developing, maintaining, and improving your garden. Beginners through experienced gardeners are welcome. Come with questions, learn from fellow gardeners, and go home with native gardening resources. Lunch provided. Dress for the weather.

Keynote address by Heather Holm, author of Pollinators of Native Plants.

Session Descriptions

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. Dr. Howell is a professor of landscape architecture at UW–Madison. Her background is in plant community ecology.

Native Meadow and Gravel Gardens – Jeff Epping

Learn how to develop native meadows—replacing lawns and traditional perennial beds with sustainable and beautiful native grasses and sedges—and environmentally sound gravel gardens. Epping has been Director of Horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens for more than 20 years.

Rain Gardens – Frank Hassler

Don’t let rainwater flow away—capture it with a rain garden, where it will soak in to rejuvenate groundwater. Rain gardens are dry most of the time because the deep roots of native plants absorb and percolate rainwater. Learn how to create a beautiful functional rain garden. Hassler is the founder, ecologist, and president of Good Oak Ecological Services.

Session II: 10:45 a.m.– 12:15 p.m.

Plant & Maintain Your Native Garden – Susan Carpenter

Explore native gardening in the home landscape from initial planting to long-term maintenance. Learn how to maintain diversity, manage invasives, and enhance plantings as your garden develops. Carpenter is the Arboretum’s native plant gardener.

Living Soils – Amy Jo Dusick

Below-ground fauna are vital to soil health, fertility, and stability. Get to know the soil food web and how to support these valuable organisms in your garden. Dusick has an MS in Environment & Resources from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. She works in ecological restoration and sustainable landscaping.

Native Trees and Shrubs – David Stevens

Learn about trees and shrubs native to our area and their ornamental characteristics, ecosystem benefits, and site considerations for the home landscape. Stevens is the curator of Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, the Arboretum’s woody ornamental plant collection.

Lunch: 12:15–1:15 p.m.

Session III: 1:15–2:45 p.m.

Edible Restoration – Judy Kingsbury

Learn which native plants bring both beauty and flavor to your life, provided you beat the wildlife to the harvest. We will share ideas for wild edible landscaping of yards large and small, sunny and shady, with samples to taste. Kingsbury is a horticulturist and permaculture designer. She has spent 14 years creating her own edible native plant gardens.

Butterfly Gardening – Ann Thering

Learn how to lure swallowtails and other butterflies to your yard. Thering will cover native nectar sources for butterflies, food plants for their caterpillars, good insect gardening practices, and common backyard species. If weather and time permit, we will visit the native plant garden for butterfly watching. Thering is a butterfly and pollinator enthusiast who photographs the insects of her garden and in natural areas and parks around southern Wisconsin.

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.

Heather Holm, “Attracting Bees and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants”

Most insects have a positive impact in our landscapes. Native plants can be selected to attract specific bees and beneficial insects including predatory and parasitic wasps, beetles, flies, true bugs, and lacewings. Learn about the predator-prey relationships of these flower-visiting beneficial insects and how they help keep problem insect populations in balance. The life cycles, diversity, and nesting habitat of native bees will also be covered along with examples of native plants for different site conditions.

Holm is a landscape designer and consultant specializing in pollinator landscapes and native landscape restorations. She studied horticulture and biology at the University of Guelph in Canada, and for the past 20 years she has worked as a horticulturist and landscape designer in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions. She is a passionate advocate for the use of native plants to attract and support pollinators, beneficial insects, and wildlife in residential and commercial landscapes, organic farms, and restored landscapes. Holm is the author of Pollinators of Native Plants.