WV Nursery & Landscape Association Winter Symposium

There may be snow on the ground, but now is the time to plan for spring gardens. Attending the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association’s Winter Symposium on January 26 at the Four Points Sheraton in Charleston is a good place to start.

The daylong event will offer sessions centered on garden design with speakers Rick Darke and Carol Reese. Marty Grunder will offer sessions geared towards financial success for those who want to dig into the business aspect.

Thanks to Julie Robinson, West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association’s (WVNLA) Executive Director, I had a chance to connect with the speakers before they visited Charleston. I admit to being a little nervous – these speakers are big names in the field – but they were generous and kind to this gardener in pearls.

Rick Darke is a field botanist, horticulturist, author, speaker, and photographer. Oh, and he has a cute golden retriever pup. He was the Curator of Plants at Longwood Gardens for many years, and his research and career opportunities have taken him around the world.

In prepping for my talk with Rick, I did not look further than my bookshelf. I have his book, The Living Landscape, Designing for beauty and biodiversity in the home garden co-authored with Doug Talley.

Quickly we discovered that we both believe gardens and landscapes tell stories. Rick and his family started camping in West Virginia in the ‘70s. He feels our state is a place of “constant inspiration” for his work. By using natural plantings in his landscape and those he designs, he can recreate the feeling special of favorite travel spots.

Being a skilled photographer, Rick has captured landscapes and natural moments from his travels. He will share many of his photos during his WVNLA sessions.

His use of native plants and planting a garden with intent is a theme of his work. In his garden, he has created a self-sufficient landscape that allows his family to travel without worry. Meaning, there is no need to set sprinklers or hire the teenager next door to water.

The garden is designed to sustain itself. This is done with strategies to use establish plants, develop strong root systems, and know your land and its characteristics.

Carol Reese, a retired University of Tennessee Extension Horticulture Specialist, will present the afternoon sessions. Her focus will also be on using native plants. She will share “facts and fallacies” learned from her years spent having her office near the University trial garden.

Carol is a professor, contributor to several publications, author of the blog Garden Rants, and speaker nationally known for her plant knowledge and witty delivery.

Garden design is great, but you need a financial plan to create a successful business. Marty Grunder, President and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co, and the Grow Group, will share his wisdom.

Marty took his used lawn mower, bought as a teenager for $25, and grew his business to be a success throughout the Midwest. He has been named entrepreneur of the year by Ernest & Young and the U. S. Small Business Administration and earned many awards.

The West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Winter Symposium is packed with information and tips, geared towards professional landscapers and nursery owners but open to everyone. With separate speaker tracks for design and profit, this is a place for learning.

To register for the January 26 symposium, visit wvnla.org or email wvnlassoc@gmail.com. The registration fee is $100 for non-WVNLA members and includes lunch.