Registration for Cullowhee Native Plant Conference ends July 11

The 2015 Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University will feature more than a dozen new plant walks and workshops, plus a demonstration of how drones can aid in environmental conservation mapping.

Registration is open for the 32nd annual conference, which will be hosted by WCU beginning Wednesday, July 15, and continue until noon Saturday, July 18. Information about the conference can be found by visiting nativeplantconference.wcu.edu. The site includes a link for online registration. The deadline to register is Saturday, July 11.

“The Cullowhee Conference is the oldest and largest native plant conference in the Southeast, and its reputation grows and spreads farther each year,” said event director Robert Wyatt. “I think we have once again outdone ourselves in putting together a stellar group of speakers, field trip leaders and workshop directors.”

The first day of the conference features 11 optional daylong native plant field trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains, six of which are new, and three workshops, all of which are new. Walks at Gorges State Park and nearby Rainbow Falls and at Alarka Laurel Preserve are among the new field trips. New workshops include drawing in nature and rain garden certification.

Workshops and field trips have a limited capacity. When that capacity has been reached, the field trips no longer will appear as options on the online registration form.

The conference lecture series will kick off on opening night with an evening presentation by actor and playwright Kirk R. Brown, a highly sought-after speaker among the country’s largest landscape, nursery and gardening associations. Brown’s presentation will feature his impersonation of America’s most famous landscape architect in a program titled “Frederick Law Olmsted: Environmental Visionary.”

The conference agenda is filled with numerous talks about how to grow and care for native plants. Topics to be covered include wildflowers and waterfalls, using mosses as an alternative to lawns, and designing gardens with native plants. The live drone demonstration will include a flight over the conference location to demonstrate how quadcopter drone technology can provide real-time, high-resolution imagery for environmental conservation efforts.

In addition to offering broad appeal to casual as well as professional gardeners, the conference also appeals to landscape architects because they receive continuing education credits for attending garden design sessions. “The conference provides a wide array of plant and ecosystem information as well as hands-on learning for landscape architects,” said Matt Sprouse, principal and managing partner at Siteworks Studios, a landscape architectural firm in Asheville. “Everything I learned at the Cullowhee conference can be applied in an almost daily fashion in my practice of landscape architecture.”

This year’s conference also will include the always popular native plant vendor section.

On-campus accommodations are available for the conference as part of the registration package. Pricing options for the conference are available on the online registration form.

For general information about the conference, contact Bobby Hensley, associate director of WCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education, at 828-227-3066 or email hensley@wcu.edu.