Conferences & Symposia

Creative Approaches for Ecological Landscaping

The 24th Annual Land Ethics Symposium


Thursday, Feb. 15, 8 am – 1 pm

Held virtually via Zoom

General Admission: $150 ($125 - early bird discount through Monday, Feb. 5)

Student Admission: $35 with a valid ID

Can't make the symposium's livestream? All registrants will receive the recording after the event for later viewing.

Symposium Overview

Join us for the 24th year of this all virtual symposium geared towards homeowners, landscape architects, designers, contractors, land planners and municipal officials. Learn how to create ecologically sound and economically viable landscapes through the use of native plants and sustainable practices.

2024 Symposium Speakers

Continuing Education Credits

  • Association of Professional Landscape Designers - 4.0
  • ISA - International Society of Arboriculture - Management, Climber Specialist, ISA Certified Arborist, Utility Specialist, Municipal Specialist Aerial Lift Specialist - 5.0
  • LA CES™ - 4.0
  • NJ Nursery & Landscape Association, Certified Nursery & Landscape Professionals
    • Middle Branch Resiliency Initiative - 1.0 Design
    • Growing Relationships - 1.0 Plant
    • Past, Present, and Future of Native Plants - 1.0 Professional
    • Breaking the Rules - 1.0 Environment
  • Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association - 5.0 (VCH)

The 2024 Land Ethics Symposium has applied for the following professional credits. The page will be updated with their approval.

  • Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association
  • Maryland Nursery & Landscape Association
  • Society for Ecological Restoration

2024 Symposium Programs

Breaking the Rules: Ecological Landscape Design and Traditional Landscape Methodology with Larry Weaner

Using native plants requires more than simply expanding the conventional design palette. Based on observation of how native plants develop in nature, new design, implementation, and management techniques emerge, many of which are diametrically opposed to traditional horticultural practice. This presentation examines how alternative approaches on everything from selecting, arranging, and spacing plants to the simple act of weeding can yield more easily maintained landscapes that express the beauty and ecological richness of our native landscapes.

Larry Weaner, FAPLD, founded Larry Weaner Landscape Associates in 1982 and established New Directions in the American Landscape in 1990. He is nationally recognized for combining expertise in horticulture, landscape design and ecological restoration. His design and restoration work spans across the U.S. and in the U.K. and has been profiled in numerous national publications. His book Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change (Timber Press, 2016) received an American Horticultural Society (AHS) Book Award in 2017. In 2021 he received AHS’s Landscape Design Award and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) Award of Distinction.

Growing Relationships With Native Plants with Samantha Bean

A homeowner's perspective on the benefits of going native. Hear about how they got started using native plants and the journey that followed. Learn how one-and-done landscape design customers transformed into repeat clients who are vocal advocates for native plants and their landscape architects.

Samantha Bean loves to chronicle her discoveries about creatures that share her home while describing the habitats that exist for them on her blog. Blending the exhilaration of learning all about native plants that pique her curiosity every day with her love of writing, Flutter By Meadows is what she calls her home, her passion, her blog and her hobby. Watching the changes that take place just steps from her house, Bean is continually documenting those moments, inspiring others on the year-round magic of native plants.

Middle Branch Resiliency Initiative: Reimagine What is Possible With Native Plants with Justin Park, PLA, ASLA, Senior Landscape Architect of Biohabitats

The Reimagine Middle Branch Vision Plan, led by James Corner Field Operations and supported by Biohabitats, proposed an ambitious goal of reestablishing tidal marsh along the hardened Middle Branch shoreline in Baltimore, MD, in addition to pedestrian pathways and amenity facilities. The realization of this vision plan is coordinated by Greenvest, with design by Biohabitats and engineering support by Moffatt & Nichol. This comprehensive marsh buffer is divided into smaller projects to simplify funding, design and permitting, based largely on infrastructure and other physical constraints. The first fully permitted project is Site 5a, or Patapsco Delta East, which is an existing phragmites marsh adjacent to Hanover St. Bridge at the mouth of the Patapsco River. Patapsco Delta East will be reviewed in detail, along with the planting schedule, to showcase how the native selection will enhance resiliency to the Middle Branch.
Justin Park, PLA, ASLA, is a senior landscape architect with Biohabitats, Inc—an interdisciplinary ecological design firm based in Baltimore, MD. Park graduated with a B.S. in environmental science from the University of Mary Washington and an M.L.A. from Virginia Tech. Although he has been involved with stormwater LID and stream/wetland restoration projects, his career focus is on coastal restoration and resiliency along urban waterfronts.

PANEL DISCUSSION: The Past, Present, and Future of Native Plants: an Industrial Perspective with Jim MacKenzie, John Mark Courtney, Fran Chismar, Tom Knezick and Donna Dahringer

The nursery trade has seen quite a change over the past five years. From growing and propagation technology to retail trends, nurseries are evolving and responding to increased awareness of native plants and demands for a healthier and greener future. This panel will explore the evolution of consumer focus from purely ornamental gardens to those that are biodynamic and ecologically responsible. It will also explore what trends we expect to see over the next five years, and what they might mean for American landscape design.

Jim MacKenzie graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture in 1986. He worked subsequently in the field and related professions in Philadelphia and Warren, PA and Driggs, ID until 1993. In 1994 he became co-owner and president of Octoraro Native Plant Nursery. The nursery has been growing native plants for conservation and environmental restoration since 1990. MacKenzie is actively involved with the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA), serving previously on the PLNA board of directors for 13 years and continues on the government relations committee.  In 2003, then Governor Rendell appointed MacKenzie to the statewide water resources committee where he served as vice-chair until 2008.

John Mark Courtney is an avid plantsman, professional grower and lover of all things wild. He is the founder and owner of Kind Earth Growers LLC, a native plant nursery specializing in aquatic, wetland and upland perennials in Upper Bucks County, PA. After completing his B.S. in environmental design from Delaware Valley University in 1998, Courtney pursued his passion for growing native plants and environmental stewardship first at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve and then at Aquascapes Unlimited Inc., as the head grower and operations manager for 20 years. Courtney has helped educate and inspire others through published articles, lectures, keynote addresses and appearances on radio programs and Martha Stewart’s television show.

Fran Chismar likes to talk — and with over 30 years of nursery industry experience, Fran has a lot to talk about. He insists he is not an expert on anything, but knows just enough about everything to be dangerous. Fran brings his experience with music podcasting, and joins it with his industry knowledge in restoration and native plants, to help guide you through Native Plants, Healthy Planet.

Tom Knezick is naturally inquisitive, and his role as production analyst requires him to pull things apart and figure out how and why they work. Coupling this with growing up on a native plant nursery and his love of podcasts is what makes Tom a natural host for Native Plants, Healthy Planet.

Donna Dahringer, nursery manager of Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, has done planning and propagation for a floriculture venture, graphic design work for landscape architects in NJ and PA and nursery sales and landscape design at Rutgers Landscape and Nursery. While completing a M.A. in landscape architecture at Rutgers University, she did extensive research into optimizing ecological function on agricultural sites. Dahringer has designed native plant gardens for Duke Farms and a garden that combined native and ornamental plants at the New Jersey Pinelands Commission's headquarters.

Land Ethics Award

Purpose of Award:

The Land Ethics Award honors and recognizes the creative use of native plants in the landscape, sustainable and regenerative design, and ethical land management and construction practices.

Who is eligible for nomination:

Nominations may be private individuals, businesses, design professionals including landscape architects and site engineers, conservation and preservation organizations and local, state and federal agencies involved with environmental protection.  School groups may also be nominated for relevant team projects.

Individuals, non-profit organizations, government agencies, community groups, and business professionals are encouraged to apply. Application projects must be a minimum of six months year and a maximum of four years old.

Judging/Selection Process:

The recipient will be selected by a jury of professionals in the field of design, preservation and conservation. The Land Ethics Award will be presented at the Land Ethics Symposium on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

Nominates are currently open through February 1, 2024.

One highlight each year is the announcement of this year’s Land Ethics Awards, which honor and recognize the creative use of native plants in the landscape; sustainable and regenerative design; and ethical land management and construction practices.

With the recent push to revitalize the landscape on a more local and individual scale, this year’s judges chose winners whose actions reflect that ethos. No matter the size of your own landscape, the Preserve encourages you to use native plants, exhibit a strong land ethic and promote sustainable designs that protect the environment.

Past Award Winners

Best Community Effort: The Herrontown Woods Botanical Art Garden; Best Individual Effort: William and Jane Allis - The Bower – Native Plant Garden and Sculpture Park; Best Large-Scale Project: The 2022 Sourland Region Forest Restoration Project
Land Ethics Award: Best Community Effort: Union Meadows West for the Union Meadows West Pollinator Meadow; Land Ethics Award: Best Individual Effort: Keith Tomlinson; Land Ethics Award: Best Large-Scale Project: West Laurel Hill Cemetery: Nature’s Sanctuary Green Burial Area
Land Ethics Award: Best Community Effort - Heritage Conservency Jackson Pond Pollinator Project; Land Ethics Award: Best Individual Effort - The Sylvester Family; Land Ethics Award: Best Large-Scale Project - Linden Blue Acres Floodplain Restoration Project
Land Ethics Award: Best Community Effort: Lambertville Goes Wild; Land Ethics Award: Best Individual Effort: Glenn Blakely; Land Ethics Award: Best Large-Scale Project: American Littoral Society; Land Ethics Award: Project of Special Distinction: Neshaminy Creek Watershed Association
Congratulations Doylestown Township Environmental Advisory Council of Doylestown, PA Award of Merit: Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation/Princeton Hydro, LLC Director's Award: Marion M. Kyde, PhD
Congratulations to Wilma Quinlan Nature Preserve Committee of New Britain Borough Notes from the 2018 Land Ethics Award Jury: Starting with a considerably degraded site, the directors, designers, and volunteers created a nature preserve that exemplifies what the Land Ethics Award seeks to celebrate. Located along the Neshaminy Creek in New Britain Borough, Pennsylvania, the preserve demonstrates the creative use of native plantings to create a sustainable habitat for wildlife and a place for the public to learn about and enjoy nature, The combination of the use of native plants, volunteer involvement, educational component and well documented public and ecological impacts earned this project the top honor. Award of Merit: GreenVest, LLC Award of Merit: Princeton Hydro, LLC Award of Honor: Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust
Congratulations to United Friends School Notes from the 2017 Land Ethics Award Jury: Educate them when they are young and you have them for a lifetime. That is one of the key components of this student undertaking. This project beautifully illustrates what can be done with a minimum of money in a small space and dealing with an environmentally degraded area. The United Friends School students, as well as parent volunteers, created a school site vegetable garden, a functional rain garden and a small parking island garden, all in the midst of a highly urbanized area. The volunteers basically took a weed infested wasteland and transformed it into a green haven with the major thrust being the use of native plants. Perhaps the most salient feature of this project is that land stewardship is now a vital part of the students’ curriculum and the gardens provide an on-site demonstration as to how to get nature working for us, instead of against us. The well thought out maintenance plan will cement the project’s environmental gains in the years ahead. Award of Merit: Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens: Trout Creek Restoration Project Thank you to our 2017 Land Ethics Award Jury members: Don Borden, James Bray and Karen Budd
Public Space Category: Borough of Doylestown Rain Gardens Group Category: Grubs Ecology, Jamison Elementary School and Central Bucks School District, “Project Put Nature Back” Residential Category: Hess Landscape Architects, “Philadelphia Farm to Forest” Residential Restoration Director’s Award: North Creek Nurseries, Inc. Award of Merit: Weatherwood Design, Petrona Charles Residence Award of Merit: Pinelands Preservation Alliance Award of Merit: John Morgan Thomas Landscape Architects, Raab Meadow Award of Merit: Andropogon Associates, Ltd. & SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Gateway Center
Public Space Category 2015: Longwood Gardens Meadow Garden Expansion Spanning 86-acres, the Meadow Garden showcases native plantings and highlights the relationship between the human and natural worlds. Both sustainably managed and visually artistic, the Meadow Garden blends colorful plantings and grand vistas with best practices in land stewardship. The Land Ethics Award Jury commented that Longwood’s, “large scale Meadow project has it all: a sweeping landscape, a huge educational component, and the resources to maintain the area.” The judges were particularly impressed by Longwood’s use of corridors to link their meadow habitat to 700 acres of extant natural lands. The jury also admired the, “innovative learning pavilion where guests can not only view the beauty before them but learn how they can turn their home gardens into sustainable enclaves as well.” Group Category 2015: Ralph "Ozzie" Oswald and Buckingham Friends School Ralph “Ozzie” Oswald and Buckingham Friends School received the Group Award for their work on forest regeneration on the school grounds. Founded in 1794, Buckingham Friends School in Lahaska, PA is a Quaker day school for grades K-8. The 44 acre campus provides both traditional classroom and outdoor experiential learning. Approximately 30 acres of the site are wooded with a series of marked trails throughout. In 2013 the woodlands were suffering due to gypsy moth infestations, disease, aging, torrential rains, Superstorm Sandy, and over-browsing by deer. Under the leadership of Mr. Oswald, students and community volunteers began work on a 10 year forest regeneration and management plan. They removed invasive plants, implemented erosion control measures, identified and protected young tree seedlings, planted new trees, and installed deer protection fencing. Each grade is assigned an area of campus and a section of trail that they maintain throughout their school career. In the process they study plant life, soil, erosion, and environmental issues. By involving the entire school community in the program, the hope is to have both students and their parents better understand their environment and aid in its improvement and maintenance. Residential Category 2015: Jules Bruck and Sue Barton, Applecross In the residential category, the 2015 Land Ethics Award was presented to Sue Barton and Jules Bruck of the University of Delaware for the Applecross residential demonstration project. The jury commended the project for serving as a model for suburban residential properties. Designed and installed by researchers and students at the University of Delaware, a project goal was to introduce ecosystem services to a typical suburban residential yard, keeping in mind the homeowner’s desire to maintain a sense of community and overall curb appeal. Although the design incorporates a 6,000-square-foot meadow and a 3,000-square-foot reforestation area it maintains enough mowed lawn for play and entertaining. “The idea was to show people that you can incorporate a meadow and a forest into a residential landscape,” said Sue Barton, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD. “Almost all the plants are native and they’re quite showy. Sometimes native plants have a connotation of being less formal, less colorful, a compromise, and they’re not a compromise at all. It’s a very dramatic landscape. There’s almost always something blooming,” said Barton. The awards jury was impressed with how this project, “clearly demonstrates what can happen when several partners collaborate to change a sterile home landscape into one of environmental value.”
Our three recipients accepted their 2014 Land Ethics Awards at the Preserve's annual Land Ethics Symposium. Recipients were represented by: Linda Haan and Gylla MacGregor (New Jersey Audubon), Peg Prizer (Prizer Design Group) and David Hughes (Weatherwood Design LLC) for Bucks County SPCA, Peter Johnson and Tom Johnston (ThinkGreen LLC) for Haverford Reserve Community Recreation and Environmental Education Center. Our award recipients were selected by our 2014 Land Ethics Award jury, a group of experts who reviewed each award submission. The jury consisted of: Don Borden (Delaware Valley College; Quercus Studio), James Bray (Lower Makefield Township Environmental Council) and Pam Newitt (Naturalist and Educator). CONGRATULATIONS TO HAVERFORD TOWNSHIP’S HAVERFORD RESERVE COMMUNITY RECREATION & ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER CO-DESIGNERS: KIMMEL-BOGRETTE ARCHITECTURE + SITE & THINKGREEN LLC Notes from the 2014 Land Ethics Award Jury: What was impressive was the large scope of this project and the importance attached to environmental design parameters. This LEED certified building touches the land lightly and its sustainable design features infiltration basins, native meadows and vegetated native plant swales that result in capturing nearly 100% of the site’s storm water. We were also incredibly impressed with not only the building’s wonderful functional design but with the sheer beauty of the facility itself; it is literally breath-taking. CONGRATULATIONS TO BUCKS COUNTY SPCA- UPPER BUCKS SHELTER CO-DESIGNERS: PRIZER DESIGN GROUP, INC. & WEATHERWOOD DESIGN, LLC Notes from the 2014 Land Ethics Award Jury: We were especially impressed with the functionality of design of the facility and how artfully it blended into the Upper Bucks County side. The grass roots funding also played a significant factor in our decision. The choice of native plants in the design was also well thought out and helped create the low maintenance, environmentally sustainable landscape that was one of the main project goals. CONGRATULATIONS TO NJ AUDUBON – STEWARDSHIP DEPARTMENT Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Notes from the 2014 Land Ethics Award Jury: One of many things we admire about the Stewardship Department is the synergy developed by its link with other organizations, especially large corporations that have the assets to make things happen. Their link to the NJ Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), an organization of 18 NH companies promoting a common goal of environmental sustainability and responsibility, has been incredibly productive and resulted in major habitat restoration projects throughout the state. The effects of their work is far reaching and long lasting.
Congratulations to Haycock Community Wildlife Habitat: Notes from the 2013 Land Ethics Award Jury: We were impressed with this project’s focus on protecting wildlife for which there is far too little public awareness and funding. The inclusion of site work to control invasive plants adds real habitat modifications to foster their goals. This project is especially deserving of recognition because of the difficulty of accomplishing environmentally innovative projects in the context of municipal government. The project is also worthy due to the high caliber of scientific support and the extensive use of social media for public education. Nomination for Award - Haycock Community Wildlife Habitat Our three recipients accepted their 2013 Land Ethics Awards at the Preserve's annual Land Ethics Symposium. Recipients were represented by: Dr. Julie Fagan (Haycock Community Wildlife Habitat), Thom Almendinger (Duke Farms Foundation), Peter Johnson (ThinkGreen LLC) and Seth Budick (University City District). Our award recipients were selected by our 2013 Land Ethics Award jury, a group of experts who reviewed each award submission. The jury consisted of: Don Borden (Delaware Valley College; Quercus Studio), James Bray (Lower Makefield Township Environmental Council) and Leslie Sauer (author of The Once and Future Forest and land conservation advocate). Duke Farms' Skeet Shoot Field in 2012 Congratulations to Duke Farms Foundation Notes from the 2013 Land Ethics Award Jury: Duke Farms has become a premier institution for sustainability in the region by its dramatic transformation from a farm and garden into a naturalized public park. We urge every reader to visit this striking demonstration of sustainability. We also recognize and commend the extraordinary financial commitment made to this effort. Design for 42nd St & Woodland Ave in Philly Congratulations to ThinkGreen LLC and University City District's Woodland Green Pedestrian Plaza Notes from the 2013 Land Ethics Award Jury: This project achieved a total site transformation, bringing nature and a garden into the harshest of urban environments. This is an excellent example of re-greening to re-inhabit our cities. We appreciated the expansion of the original goals including stormwater management and the introduction of a tiny woodland habitat on Woodland Avenue. In addition the project appears to have accomplished a lot for a modest budget and overcame severe site restrictions. Long-term maintenance is included which is important to the project’s long term success. Nomination for Award - Woodland Green Pedestrian Plaza 2013 Nominations of Excellence Green roof at the Taylor Residence Margot Taylor - SITES Pilot Project at Taylor Residence Notes from the 2013 Land Ethics Award Jury: Hopefully this beautiful example of ‘green’ will inspire others to follow suit. The demonstration value of this project will have a wide impact due to its connection to the developing Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) program. Hopefully this landscape will be monitored over time in this program. For this project in particular it would have been helpful to have more knowledge of the before conditions and what kind of grading and other site modifications were undertaken.” Nomination for Award - Taylor Residence Notes from the 2013 Land Ethics Award Jury: A sustainable future is definitely dependent upon individuals such as Nancy who work unflaggingly in everything they do to demonstrate plant stewardship. Both as a professional and a dedicated volunteer, Nancy has been an important bridge between traditional horticulture and the use and protection of native plants. As the application noted, Nancy is an inspiration to us all. Nomination for Award - Nancy Beaubaire Floodplain creation in Trenton, NJ Notes from the 2013 Land Ethics Award Jury: This project epitomizes the state of the art in urban stream restoration, including the community networking, grant finding, and construction oversight that make such a project possible. Its presence in the City of Trenton only adds to its importance and educational value. We are especially impressed by the implementation of monitoring for this project, including the use of the Plant Stewardship Index.

2024 Land Ethics Symposium Sponsors






Larry Weaner Landscape Associates
Princeton Hydro
Wildlawn, by ArcheWild