Phipps recommends:
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood


Explore eco-friendly landscape design, biodiversity and more with the nation's leading experts.

Our annual Native Plant and Sustainability Conference brings together national experts on plants, landscapes and our roles as environmental stewards. Presented in conjunction with University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and held at William Pitt Union on the University campus, this one-day forum will explain how a well-designed landscape can be a place of beauty while fulfilling important ecological functions.

To attend, please register online or call 412/441-4442, ext. 3925. Registration costs $90 for Phipps and Osher members and $100 for nonmembers on or before Oct. 11. After Oct. 11, the cost is $105 for Phipps and Osher members and $115 for nonmembers.* Registration includes morning coffee and light breakfast items, as well as a lunch buffet with vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Questions? Please contact us at

This conference counts as 3.75 hours credit hours for ASLA and PCH, as well as elective credit for Phipps’ Native Plant Landscapes, Sustainable Horticulture, and Landscape and Garden Design Certificates.


8:30 – 9 a.m.


9 – 9:15 a.m.


9:15 – 9:30 a.m.

Setting the Scene: Local and Historical Context for the Day
with John Totten

9:15 – 10:30 a.m.

Looking at the Layered Landscape
with Rick Darke
Rick Darke will discuss the living layers in local and regional landscapes, both as they naturally occur and as they are often modified by humans. This exploration will provide a basis for understanding the essential characteristics of healthy layers and how they can be conserved and enhanced in home gardens and shared landscapes.

10:45 – noon

Specialized Relationships in Nature
with Doug Tallamy
Doug Tallamy will explain how specialized relationships between animals and plants work; why these relationships determine the health of local food webs that support animal diversity; why it is important to restore biodiversity to our residential properties; and what we need to do to make our landscapes function as ecosystems.

Noon – 1 p.m.

Lunch and Book Sale

1 – 2:15 p.m.

Designing and Maintaining the Living Landscapewith Rick Darke
Rick Darke will illustrate and discuss how an understanding of living layers and relational biodiversity can be put to practical use in creating and maintaining residential gardens and community landscapes. He will also present detailed strategies for employing organic architecture in building beautiful, highly functional layers.

2:10 – 2:40 p.m.

Panel Q & A           

2:40 – 2:45 p.m.

Concluding Remarks


Rick Darke is an author, photographer and design consultant whose work blends art, ecology and cultural geography in the design and stewardship of livable landscapes. He has been featured in publications like The New York Times, and his books include The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest, In Harmony With Nature: Lessons from the Arts & Crafts Garden, The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes, and The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition. His latest work, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, was written in collaboration with fellow conference presenter Doug Tallamy.

Doug Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 80 research articles and taught courses for 32 years. Chief among his goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, is a seminal work for native plant enthusiasts. In 2014, The Living Landscape, a new book co-authored with Rick Darke, was released.

John Totten holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and the Environment. He is co-owner of the landscape gardening firm Gardens! LLC and has taught classes on native plants at Phipps, Chatham University and The Pennsylvania State University.

* Cancellation policy: In order to receive a full refund, less a $10 administrative fee, you must cancel by Oct. 24. After this date, there will be no refunds. No-shows will not be refunded.

Photos © Rick Darke  

Other Featured Exhibits & Events

Three More Nights of Winter Lights
Jan. 30, 2015; 5 – 11 p.m.
Feb. 6 and 13, 2015; 5 – 10 p.m.
Take one more walk through the dazzling light displays in our Outdoor and Children’s Discovery Gardens while our indoor spaces transform for the Orchid and Tropical Bonsai Show.
Orchid and Tropical Bonsai Show
Jan. 17 – March 1, 2015
Chase away the winter blues with the spectacular sight of orchid specimens arranged in beds and baskets, and see unique selections from our permanent collection of tropical bonsai.
Tropical Sundays
Sundays, Feb 1, 8, 15 and 22, 2015
Wear a tropical shirt and receive 50 percent off admission to relax under the palm trees, sway to music of Matthew Mazza and Carmen Bruno of the Tropical Sands Steel Band, and taste tropical fruit.
Biophilia: Pittsburgh
Next Meeting Feb. 5, 2015
6 p.m., with networking and refreshments at 5:30 p.m.
Biophilia: Pittsburgh is the pilot chapter for a Biophilia Network of creative minds meeting monthly to discuss strengthening the bond between people and the natural world through education, discussion and action. Meetings are free to attend; advance RSVP is required. Join the conversation!
Tropical Forest Congo
Opens Feb. 7, 2015
The beauty of the tropics flourishes as we unveil Tropical Forest Congo, a new exhibit featuring some of Africa’s lushest landscapes. See varieties of flora never before showcased at Phipps and discover how indigenous tribes use plants to sustain and enrich their lives.
Tropical Forest Congo Opening Festival
Feb. 7, 2015
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Be among the first to see our new Tropical Forest Congo exhibit as our guest at a special opening celebration. Family-friendly activities include a storytelling performance, African-inspired food sampling, cultural crafts and a pot-a-plant station — all free with Phipps admission.
Party in the Tropics
Select Fridays
Next Party Feb. 13, 2015
7 – 11 p.m.
Ages 21+
Gather your friends and get ready to dine, drink and dance the night away at Phipps! Make our paradise your own as you indulge in sweet and savory morsels, taste unique cocktails, and dance to the beats of a live DJ in our Tropical Forest Conservatory. Entry is free with Conservatory admission.
Hothouse Happy Hours
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015
6 – 8 p.m.
Join us on Feb. 19 as we partner with the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP) to kick off Hothouse Happy Hours, a series of events for young professionals, featuring specialty cocktails, beer and wine, inspired bites and dynamic special guests.
Seed, Perennial and Seedling Swap: 2015 Garden Season Opener
Feb. 28, 2015
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Main
Join Phipps and Grow Pittsburgh at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland to swap seeds and plants, learn tips and get ready for a great season of gardening. Bring seeds you saved from last year and take home an exciting selection to grow in your garden this year. Admission is free to the public.
Garden Railroad
Closes March 1, 2015
A unique twist on the traditional Garden Railroad, this year's display takes you back in time to the California Gold Rush — complete with water features, interactive buttons for children to push, and miniature living plants.