Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum

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The 29th Annual Landscape Design Symposium

Ecological Complexity in Landscapes for People

Date and Location:

Thursday, January 11 — Friday, January 12, 2018
Science Center Auditorium,
Montgomery County Community College, Blue Bell, PA

NDAL’s 29th annual conference explores a core challenge of contemporary landscape design: blending plants, wildlife, and people in spaces that advance ecological function and are enjoyable to be in. While the destination may be straightforward, the roadmaps are often ill defined or sometimes nonexistent. Learn from the fruitful journeys and occasional frustrating dead ends of a select group of landscape architects and designers who are creating places that effectively and consistently connect people and nature.

Featured Speakers:

  • Stefan Bloodworth has been the Curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University since 2002. He lectures on southeastern plant communities and is the owner of the design-build company Pine Hollow Landscapes.
  • David Buckley Borden is an interdisciplinary artist and designer whose work ranges from site-speci c landscape installations in the woods to data-driven cartography in the gallery. He is the Charles Bullard Fellow in Forest Research at Harvard University. He previously worked at Sasaki Associates and the design rm Ground, Inc. after receiving a Master’s in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
  • Judy Venonsky, Yuan Fan, and Chris Landau work at OLIN, a landscape architecture firm in Philadelphia where they have been developing new tools for the firm’s TECH LAB, researching ways to integrate technology and living systems for Olin’s Eco LAB, and developing ways to marry design excellence with ecology.
  • Laura Hansplant is the Director of Design at Roofmeadow. She previously worked at Andropogon Associates where she was involved with such projects as Sidwell Friends Middle School and the Phipps Conservatory’s Center of Sustainable Landscapes. She has developed workshops on planting design, sustainable planning, and the SITES rating system. She received her Master’s in Landscape Architecture from Pennsylvania State University.

To sign up on-line click here or call 215-247-5777, ext. 125

Complete Agenda

  • Thursday, January 11

    8:15 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast

    9:00 a.m. Welcome

    9:15 a.m. Rediscovering a Lost Landscape: The (Re)Construction of a Piedmont Prairie - Stefan Bloodworth The southeastern Piedmont prairie sadly now exists only as scattered remnants. Learn how a team at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens designed and constructed a one-acre simulation, how they produced more than 16,000 plants representing almost 100 species grown using locally collected seed, and what they’re learning from subsequent monitoring.

    10:25 a.m. Break

    10:45 a.m. A Model for Botanic Gardens: Celebrating Local Plant Communities - Gregg Tepper Get a behind-the-scenes look at the new Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek, a place-based garden celebrating the plant communities of the Delmarva coastal plain. From its 12-acre habitat-based woodland garden to its Piet Oudolf designed meadow, the gardens seek to delight and educate visitors and inspire them to preserve Delmarva’s native landscapes.

    11:45 a.m. Overlooked Aspects of Plant Community Based Design - Heidi Natura Using case studies from diverse projects, this session explores important but seldom-considered aspects of designing with native plants based on community models. Learn how attention to root morphology, species layering, and species competitiveness, as well as aesthetics, can maximize design outcomes and long-term performance.

    12:45 p.m. Lunch

    2:00 p.m. Management, Not Maintenance: a Panel – Stefan Bloodworth, Heidi Natura, Gregg Tepper, and Larry Weaner In plant community-based designs, we don’t maintain static plant compositions—we manage evolving living systems. How should our designs anticipate that approach and how is this best communicated to clients and contractors? Discuss these and other key issues with panelists.

    2:45 p.m. Pioneering Higher Ground: Designing Native Rooftop Plantings - Laura Hansplant Why do volunteer native species sometimes colonize green roofs while plantings of those same species often fail? This session demonstrates alternative design approaches based on study of native plant community dynamics in comparable thin-soil environments and extensive tracking of plant performance at pilot green roof projects.

    3:45 p.m. Break

    4:00 p.m. OLIN Experiments with New Tools for Integrating Plant Ecology into Planting Design and Documentation – Yuan Fan, Chris Landau, and Judy Venonsky Ecology is complex, and accounting for the variables in planting design can be tricky. To translate this complexity into executable planting designs, the landscape architecture firm OLIN is experimenting with modeling software and other tools. Learn how use of data, analysis, parametric modeling, agent-based modeling, and visualization combined with current ecological knowledge can achieve a more intuitive approach to design.

    5:00 p.m. Adjourn

    Evening reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Book signing with Larry Weaner.

  • Friday, January 12

    8:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast

    9:00 a.m. Drawing from the Experiential Qualities of Wild Landscapes - Toby Wolf Naturally occurring landscapes can offer inspiration that goes beyond their structure and species composition. Landscape architect Toby Wolf demonstrates how the experiential qualities of wild places can be translated into designed landscapes—urban or suburban, large or small, planted or paved—that feel authentic, immediate, and alive.

    10:00 a.m. Break

    10:20 a.m. Managing Expectations in a Changing Landscape - John MageeThe advent of more ‘naturalistic’ plantings requires clients, contractors, and designers understand how that vision is implemented and how it evolves over time. Learn how client and contractor expectations were managed on native design projects where effective communication played a significant role.

    11:20 a.m. Big Ecology in Small Landscapes: a Panel (¾ hr.) – John Magee, Larry Weaner, and Toby Wolf Many designers work primarily at small residences. How do we distill larger ecological patterns and processes to this scale and what lessons might this have for projects at larger scales? Explore these and other questions with panelists.

    12:05 p.m. Lunch Frederick Steiner’s book, Human Ecology: How Nature and Culture Shape Our World, will be available for sale and signing during lunch.

    1:15 p.m. Design Adaptations for Today’s Realities: Lessons from the Southern Highlands Reserve - Kelly Holdbrooks How do you maintain a design’s original vision while dealing with issues not anticipated in the original plan? When do you consider altering the design? See how North Carolina’s Southern Highlands Reserve, a native plant arboretum and research center with gardens designed by W. Gary Smith, is using creative, adaptive solutions to address water mitigation and other climate-change related challenges.

    2:15 p.m. Designing Productive Landscapes: Agriculture and Ecology - Phoebe Lickwar From fruit orchards to vegetable gardens to gentleman farms, food production has a long, rich history in landscape design. Using contemporary examples, landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar discusses the benefits and dilemmas of engaging agricultural productivity as a design strategy. Her presentation features diverse case studies showing how crop agriculture can be creatively combined with ecological restoration and clients’ aesthetic and functional expectations.

    3:15 p.m. Break

    3:30 p.m. Hybrid Vigor: Art x Design x Ecology – David Buckley Borden Our biggest environmental challenge is not rooted in ecology, but in culture. Without a shared ecological awareness, sustainable, environmentally-sensitive practice remains out of reach. This session presents work by an interdisciplinary artist and designer who is using unique landscape-based projects to communicate ecology through accessible, often humorous hybrids of science, art, and design.

    4:45 p.m. Adjourn

For a printable PDF of the Agenda click here.

For a printable PDF of the Brochure click here.

Sponsored by
New Directions in the American Landscape (developed by Larry Weaner Landscape Associates)
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
Connecticut College Arboretum

Co-sponsored by
PA/DE Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects

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Register Today!


Normandy Farm Hotel - visit and enter code LDS111, or call (215) 616-8500 and reference Landscape Design Symposium for discounted rate by Dec. 20, 2017.


Click here to download a printable PDF of directions to the conference »

Alerts & Updates

The Arboretum is open as usual. Click here for hours.

Please note that weather conditions can change quickly, check back or call (215) 247-5777 before heading out for a visit.

Weather conditions may limit garden access to certain features even if the garden is open – please check the web site or call (215) 247-5777 for updates before visiting. Our visitors’ safety in the garden is our top priority. Therefore when inclement weather is predicted, we will make decisions about closing the garden accordingly.