Monarch on native prairie thistle

Monarch on native prairie thistle

“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, invasive jumping worms, visual tools to enhance your garden, garden planting and maintenance, birdscaping in the Midwest, multifunctional rain gardens, beneficial insects, and school and community gardening.

Registration for the 2017 Native Gardening Conference is now open.

2017 Native Gardening Conference

Native by Design: Gardening for a Sustainable Future

Sunday, September 17, 2017  |  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)
Register by September 7.

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. Some workshops spend time outside, so please bring clothing for variable weather conditions and walking.

Keynote address by Benjamin Vogt, landscape designer, Monarch Gardens LLC, and author of A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future (to be published this fall).

Refunds will be given minus a $10 administrative fee until registration closes. After registration closes, a refund of half the paid fee may be given if we have someone to fill the spot. Registration may close before Sept. 7 deadline if capacity is reached. No walk-in registrations.

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.

Invasive Jumping Worms: The Impact of a New Soil Invader – Brad Herrick

Invasive jumping worms can damage ecosystems, from native forests to urban gardens. After a general overview of earthworm biology, Herrick will discuss best management practices to minimize the spread of jumping worms and the latest research on impacts and control options. We will also go outside to find and handle jumping worms. Herrick is the Arboretum’s ecologist and research program manager.

Visual Tools to Enhance Your Garden – Georgia Gomez-Ibanez

Patterns, cycles, and change surround us in gardens and nature. In this workshop, create and explore circular visual tools to document observations, evaluate practices, compare sites over time, and deepen understanding. Learn how to use these “wheels” diagnostically, descriptively, and artistically in your garden. Gomez-Ibanez is an experienced educator working with youth observing and restoring their school woodland and using these visual tools to better understand it.

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.

Birdscaping in the Midwest: Creating a 5-Star Bird Habitat in Your Yard – Mariette Nowak

Learn how to increase the variety of birds in your yard by growing native plants offering habitat and a smorgasbord of berries, nuts, seeds and insects. Native plant enthusiasts play a vital role in restoring and preserving native communities that support birds and other wildlife. Nowak is the author of the book Birdscaping in the Midwest, past director of the Wehr Nature Center in Milwaukee County, an avid birder, and founder and president of the Kettle Moraine Wild Ones chapter.

Multifunctional Rain Gardens – Gail Epping Overholt

Rain gardens help communities deal with stormwater, yet they are truly multi-functional gardens. Adding one to your yard will not only help absorb stormwater and recharge ground water, it can also improve pollinator and bird habitat and provide year-round interest. This presentation will highlight the basics of rain garden design and appropriate plants to consider for your garden. Epping Overholt is the Arboretum’s outreach and education program coordinator.

Lunch: 12:15–1:15 p.m.

Session III: 1:15–2:45 p.m.

Beneficial Insects in the Garden – PJ Liesch

Insect pests often draw our attention in the garden while many beneficial insects get overlooked. In this workshop, we’ll take a closer peek at the many beneficial insects (predators, decomposers, pollinators) commonly encountered in gardens. Liesch is the director of the UW Insect Diagnostic Lab and is a regular speaker on Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Larry Meiller Show.

Restoring Our Connections to the Earth: Stories and Lessons from School and Community Gardens – Laura Green, Nathan Larson, and Maria Moreno

Find inspiration and ideas from this panel discussion on implementing and caring for native plant gardens in public spaces such as school grounds and community centers. Learn from the experiences of others. Participants will be able to ask questions of the panelists. Green is from the Catholic Multicultural Center; Larson is director of the Cultivate Health Initiative; and Moreno is from Earth Partnership. All bring experience with gardens on school grounds and other public spaces.

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.

Benjamin Vogt, “A New Garden Ethic”

This talk explores ecology, science, psychology, and philosophy as we ponder how to embrace gardens as places to create change benefiting all species. Through inspiring quotes, new research, and images of wildlife and sustainable landscapes, you’ll be taken on a soulful journey into gardening on a deeper level. In Vogt’s view, gardening with native plants is an ethical and even moral imperative in a time of changing climate and extinction.

Vogt is from Lincoln, Nebraska, but grew up in Oklahoma and Minnesota. He owns Monarch Gardens, a prairie garden design firm that works with local and regional clients. For nearly five years Vogt has written a native plant and sustainable design column for Houzz.com, for which he’s received a Garden Writer’s Association award, and contributed to dozens of other publications. His book A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future will be out this fall. Vogt and his wife dream of restoring 40+ acres to prairie, hosting an artist residency program, and creating a 1- to 2-acre display garden with 100 percent native plants.