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On Deck: The R & R Conference

Written by: Julie Snell, ELA Board Member

The conference formerly known as The Mid-Atlantic ELA Conference is returning live and in person! If there was a silver lining in pandemic times, it might have been we had the opportunity to reach folks far and wide when our ELA conferences went viral, oops, I mean virtual. We took that opportunity to rename this conference to reflect our intentions with this event better. So began Regenerative Solutions for Resilient Landscapes, which will be held this year on November 10th at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. We hope you can join us! 

The theme for this year’s conference is Ecological Landscape Maintenance. As we know, every landscape requires maintenance. And as you also know, maintenance is the low-profile heavy lifter that makes good design work. At this conference, we will shine the light on the historically under appreciated field of landscape maintenance. We will consider the critical links between design intent and how maintenance is planned for and carried out. We will consider the role of maintenance during the design process and how designing with maintenance in mind helps reduce maintenance costs and makes landscapes more ecologically sustainable. We will hear from speakers who are elevating the understanding and appreciation of this critical task and the people who do it. We will hear from practitioners about how they focus on and communicate the value and benefits of proper ecological maintenance with their clients and the greater community. We will learn how we can all encourage the industry to design with ecologically sound practices to minimize fossil fuel consumption and maximize local ecological benefits. 

We are thrilled to feature a fantastic lineup of speakers: 

Kate Austin, Green Infrastructure Asset Coordinator for the City of Lancaster, PA, manages the City’s award-winning green infrastructure operations and maintenance practices and the Small Stormwater Project permitting program. Kate’s talk will draw on this experience and highlight strategies, design innovations, and monitoring protocols that have made this urban GSI program successful.  

Gregg Tepper, Senior Horticulturist at the Arboretum at Laurel Hill in Bala-Cynwyd, PA, manages gardens throughout Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries, including Nature’s Sanctuary, a SITES Gold accredited landscape. Gregg is also past Director of Horticulture at Mt Cuba Center in Hockessin, DE, a current board member at the Delaware Botanic Gardens in Dagsboro, DE, and co-author of Deer Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast. Gregg’s talk will focus on the award-winning stewardship manual he created for the ongoing care of Laurel Hill’s green burial area, Nature’s Sanctuary.

Rashid Poulson, Director of Horticulture for Brooklyn Bridge Park, NY, manages a large crew of gardeners and skilled workers on the day-to-day operations of this amazing waterfront park. Former Deputy Director of Operations Rashid recently stepped into the role of Director for this iconic landscape. His talk will focus on how BBP has built up its team, developed methods to incorporate crew members’ input, and how to pay attention to communication to create a sustainable approach to maintenance that values the work and the people. 

Matt Benzie, President and Owner/Operator of Indigenous Ingenuities, Doylestown, PA, is a landscape architect and arborist who had a vision of what an ecological design-build-management firm could look like and then did it. Matt’s firm walks the walk; they design landscapes to promote ecological function and beauty, provide organic land care run on battery-powered equipment and have a thriving business in the suburbs outside Philadelphia. Matt’s work proves we can do the right thing and make a profit doing so. 

Mallory Sustick, Stewardship Manager & Claire Racette, Lead Steward from Refugia Design, will tell us about Rufugia’s growing network of native habits, 160+ and growing, within their Ecological Greenway Network. Learn about practices that differ from traditional landscape maintenance and design, supporting the company’s mission to reduce lawn and create beautiful, resilient, functional refuge for humans and wildlife alike.


Bob Harris & Bonnie Swan from The Delaware Center for Horticulture will share the successes and challenges of the DCH workforce development program, Branches to Chances. With a focus on experiential learning that leads to ‘light-bulb’ moments, they have developed strategies that cultivate a sense of accomplishment and create real and long-lasting opportunities. 

Wait, that’s not all…the last session will be a panel discussion with the speakers moderated by yours truly. Bring your questions and share your challenges and successes. 

Come ready to reconnect with old colleagues and meet some new ones, all at the backdrop of the always inspirational Longwood Gardens. We at ELA look forward to lively engagement with all of you!


Register here!