On August 7, over 100 people attended Plant NOVA Natives’ (PNN) first native plants conference for professionals, including representatives from 39 professional landscaping companies. PNN (outreach partner of Audubon at Home) and AAH collaborated to obtain “seed money” for the conference from Transurban’s Express Lanes Community Grant Program.
Although homeowners can drive demand for native plants, most residential and commercial landscapes in Northern Virginia are designed and installed by professionals. If our neighborhoods are to evolve in a way that supports the local ecosystem, leadership from the landscaping industry will be critical.
The Plant NOVA Natives campaign is not just about educating homeowners on why and how to use native plants as a first step toward creating wildlife habitat. The campaign also has resources tailored to the needs of professionals including a reference guide that identifies native plants that are reliable, widely available, beautiful, and suitable for conventional landscape settings. Curb appeal is important to customers and can be easily obtained using the right native plants. The reference guide for landscapers and other resources can be found on the PNN website in the professionals section. A quick start guide for homeowners can be found here.
The conference agenda included three hour-long presentations. Brad Motter from Gone Native Landscapes reviewed the critical role of insects in our ecosystem and the ecological benefits of native plants in the food web supporting wildlife, and he discussed how to promote them to customers. One of the examples he showed was the beautiful, native landscaping around Caboose Commons beer garden and coffee house in Fairfax. Ginger Woolrich - co-author with Tony Dove of the highly practical book, Essential Native Trees and Shrubs - highlighted the landscaping value of various trees and shrubs. Elisa Meara wrapped up the conference with a talk on the native perennials she uses most in her business, Native Plant Landscape Design Corp.
Several organizations collaborated to make the conference possible: Merrifield Garden Center provided the venue while the Northern Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association and the Audubon at Home program contributed logistical support. Meadows Farms publicized the event on their email list of professionals. The resulting turnout was very gratifying and demonstrated the need for future conferences as we work together to be conscientious stewards of our environment to mitigate the climate crisis.