From the Desk of Executive Director, Dolores Swirin-Yao

March 2024

This is particularly notable because it is the first time that the conference has been held in person since 2019; the 2020 conference was canceled on short notice due to Covid.  There have been virtual conferences since then, but this was the first one in person since I have been on staff.

The theme of the conference was “Designing Native Landscapes: How the Pros Select Plants.” 

I was impressed with the range of the more than 100 attendees, from landscape architects, arborists, and restoration practitioners who were earning professional credentials to ecologically minded home gardeners, experienced and novices alike, who are interested in conservation.  Our own Native Plant Center Steering Committee and membership was out in force.  

The high-caliber speakers represented a range of backgrounds and affiliations.  Edwina von Gal founded the Perfect Earth Project, an organization that promotes nature-based, toxic-free landscape practices.  Carolyn Summers, a Native Plant Center Steering Committee member, is the author of the recently published Designing Gardens with Flora of the American EastDarryl Newman is an owner of Planters’ Choice Nursery.  When Andi Pettis, senior director of horticulture for Governors Island, was unable to join us at the last minute, Michael Hagen, curator of the native plant garden at The New York Botanical Garden, filled in.  Special shout-out to Michael for his kindness and enthusiasm! 

I even learned a few things for my tiny urban gardens at home.  I learned that you should put stones in a birdbath because birds haveshort legs and are more comfortable using a birdbath if they can stand up in it.  I learned that it is perfectly okay for leaves to have holes in them from caterpillars, and they are hardly visible.  Edwina said to “use the 10-step program–if you take 10 steps back, you don’t see them.”  And I learned that birds cannot feed seeds to their young so if you are going to support bird populations, provide them access to a full diet, including a variety of insects. 

Congratulations to Director Carol Capobianco and her team Patty Butter, Mary Ietaka and Nora Manuele on a successful revival of the Spring Landscape Conference!

The Native Plant Center is continuing in its educational role in March: as a co-sponsor of Westchester County’s Invasive Plant Management Workshop and as a co-sponsor and planning committee member of the Faculty Senate Environmental Committee’s annual symposium, which this year is focused on SUNY and Sustainability.

This is all great timing because the annual Native Plant Sale is coming up on Saturday, April 27, at our Valhalla campus!