Celebrating twenty years of promoting environmentally safe and beneficial landscape practices, the Ecological Landscaping Association (ELA) held their early March annual conference in Springfield, MA. While originally a New England organization, the group’s influence has spread to the mid-Atlantic states; ELA now boasts over 300 professional, business, and community members.
This year’s conference was held over two days and offered intensive workshops on urban landscapes and wetland restorations, as well as individual presentations on design, pest management, soil and water. CEU credits were given to landscape architects, as well as arborists, master gardeners, foresters, and pesticide applicators. Presenters included a practitioner from California who spoke on “water neutral” gardens using gray water, as well as a geneticist who dug deep into the subject of soil microbes and the use of beneficial biological products.
And right outside the presentation rooms, a vibrant and product-filled room boasted environmentally friendly items, such as gray and black water systems, non-chemical herbicides, compost, and fish fertilizers. Educational programs, including George Washington University and the Massachusetts Conway School of Design showcased their sustainable programs with teachers, students, and project presentation boards. Nearby a temporary bookstore contained books for purchase on various ecological subjects; documentaries were previewed throughout the two days in an adjacent room.
But it wasn’t all serious stuff….after an optional trip to the Smith College greenhouse bulb display, a 20th birthday party was held at the nearby hotel where most guests stayed. Following the second day of presentations, a jazz hour with drinks and hor d’oeurves warmed up the crowd for the dinner and the keynote address, “Landscapes Coming Full Circle: Cultivating Resilience in a Time of Transition,” given by Ben Falk.
While dealing with environmentally important topics, the ELA staff made sure that the guests and speakers had a really good time – and will return another year. Take a look at the ELA website http://www.ecolandscaping.org/ for information about the annual conference as well as programs throughout the year.
by Cece Haydock