by Risa Edelstein
The energy and enthusiasm at last week’s Summit was inspiring. Held in an intimate setting at Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, an old-style mansion in the Boston area, ELA’s first annual Summit was a full day of networking and learning opportunities and embodied the spirit of ELA’s mission.
The Summit began with a morning panel moderated by Karen Howard, a landscape designer and longtime ELA member. The panel covered ecological practices and the issues we all face to make these the norm. Audience participation added to the discussion and there were many valuable comments and questions. Lawn care was a hot topic as well as stormwater management, rain gardens, and native plants. The panel included industry veterans that were happy to share ideas and experience. Monique Allen operates her own landscape firm, The Garden Continuum; Carl Brodeur, is a business owner and an arborist; and Grace Koehler from the Chicago area, is in charge of Sales and Marketing for Pizzo Native Plant Nursery and was past President of MELA (Midwestern Ecological Landscape Alliance). Each panelist contributed a unique perspective and a wealth of knowledge to the conversation.
We were fortunate to have Laura Solana, a principal at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. present our keynote address. This firm has been spearheading ecological work for many years, long before it was fashionable. Laura reviewed a wide variety of projects completed by the firm in the past several years, highlighting the key ecological components. One of their most interesting projects was the George W. Bush Presidential Center where Laura Bush was apparently a huge champion of ecological practices including a reduced size parking lot and a wonderful native meadow.
The afternoon panel was very animated, with discussions focusing on running an ecological business. Risa Edelstein, ELA’s President moderated this panel of additional industry veterans. Scott Hokunson, the principal at Blue Heron Landscape Design in CT, Peter Van Berkum, principal at Van Berkum Nursery and Michael Talbot owner of Talbot & Associates had great insight and wisdom to share with the group on maximizing profits while ensuring customer satisfaction in an ecological business.
It was a terrific way to wrap up the landscaping season with other professionals who share a common dedication to sustainable landscaping practices and to look forward with renewed inspiration and enthusiasm to the upcoming season.