Symposium to Explore New Ways to Landscape; Some Horticulture and Landscaping Experts Agree: It's Time to Rethink the Garden. [Derived Headline]

By Williams, Candy | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 15, 2016 | Go to article overview

Symposium to Explore New Ways to Landscape; Some Horticulture and Landscaping Experts Agree: It's Time to Rethink the Garden. [Derived Headline]


Williams, Candy, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Some horticulture and landscaping experts agree: It's time to rethink the garden.

For Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, aesthetics isn't the most important reason for taking another look at the makeup of home gardens, regardless of their size.

The keynote speakers at the 21st annual Garden & Landscape Symposium of Western Pennsylvania at the Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel, share the belief that anyone who dabbles in the dirt has an obligation to be a responsible caretaker of the land and our environment.

"We're both advocates for gardens that not only are places of beauty and interest, but are ecologically designed," says Rainer, a registered landscape architect, teacher and writer from Arlington, Va. He has designed public landscapes for the New York Botanical Garden, the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and more than 100 gardens from Florida to Maine.

He and West are authors of "Planting in a Post-Wild World" (Timber Press, $39.95), a new book that encourages the dynamics of aesthetics with the responsibility of ecology. At the garden symposium, they will discuss their efforts to move away from traditional planting designs to those that incorporate innovative strategies.

In addition to their keynote address, Rainer will speak on "Creative Approaches to Site Preparation, Installation and Maintenance" in one of several afternoon breakout sessions. West will present a talk on "Successful Rain Gardens Inspired by Native Plants."

Their book proposes alternatives to the familiar methods of horticulture, of arranging flowering plants in a row or rooting a structural shrub randomly in a plot of soil. Rainer recalls his childhood to illustrate his preference for "stepping back to nature" and remembering how wild species of flowers intermingled naturally in the wooded areas he explored as a boy to form dense plant "communities."

"In many ways, we are losing our wild spaces to parking lots and housing developments," he says.

Their hope is that home gardeners will consider creating landscapes that are sustainable year-round through the use of natural ground covers rather than mulch, and a layering technique that includes a ground cover layer, seasonal theme layer and structural layer. …

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