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Garden & Landscape Symposium of Western Pennsylvania caters to all skill levels

| Monday, April 17, 2017, 7:54 a.m.
Liz Brensinger and Ann Adams are the owners of Green Heron Tools.
Submitted
Liz Brensinger and Ann Adams are the owners of Green Heron Tools.
Speaker Jim Chatfield shows off a smiley-face sedum pot.
Submitted
Speaker Jim Chatfield shows off a smiley-face sedum pot.
Green Heron Tools
Submitted
Green Heron Tools
Megan Palomo of Tree Pittsburgh
Submitted
Megan Palomo of Tree Pittsburgh

Horticulture enthusiasts look forward to digging in the dirt this time of year — and also digging for updates on the latest trends in gardening, new plant introductions and ways to keep their gardens free from pests and diseases.

Philip Bauerle, Penn State Master Gardener coordinator for Allegheny County, says they'll find all that and more at the annual Garden & Landscape Symposium of Western Pennsylvania at Shady Side Academy Senior School in Fox Chapel.

The day-long program on April 29, presented by Penn State Master Gardeners, will feature four speakers who will address popular issues of interest to landscape designers and gardeners of all skill levels.

Bauerle says the most requested topic according to past symposium evaluations is home meadows, which will be discussed by Larry Weaner, principal and founder of Larry Weaner Landscape Associates in Glenside, Montgomery County.

His presentation will focus on meadow design, implementation and management strategies based on a series of case studies. Weaner also will lead a session on practical ways to adapt ground layer compositions as attractive alternatives to grass lawns.

Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design at the University of Delaware, will discuss another requested topic — the ecological impact of gardening — in her talk, which will include details of a three-year study by five faculty members researching biodiversity, water quality and ecosystem services at a private demonstration garden.

Author and lifelong gardener Andrew Keys of Topsfield, Mass., will share suggestions for some unusual and underused plants that thrive in the Western Pennsylvania region, based on his book, “Growing the Northeast Garden.”

The final speaker, James Chatfield, associate professor and extension specialist at Ohio State University, will focus on dispelling common gardening myths in his presentation, “What We Know for Sure, But Just Ain't So.”

His talk will focus on changes that have come about through new research to better understand nature, changing reality such as climate change, and the effect of genetic reality, including mutations and newly introduced pests.

“It is important to channel the latest information from reliable sources — not just studies done decades ago,” he says. “For example, plant pathogens that cause plant diseases mutate just like plants do: ‘Prairifire' crabapple is no longer ‘highly resistant' to apple scab because the pathogen mutated and overcame genetic resistance of this particular crabapple,” determined from a study at Ohio State University.

Tyler, Texas, and the nearby Fort Worth Botanic Gardens were once the center of rose production in the U.S. Today, the botanic gardens no longer have roses due to rose rosette disease.

“There was all sorts of information a few years ago that certain roses would not be affected by the virus that causes rose rosette disease,” Chatfield says. “We constantly learn differently — and rose rosette is here in Pennsylvania.”

He says the biggest mistake that gardeners make is in site selection.

“Realize that trees next to the garden will grow and produce shade over time, resulting in not enough sun for your tomatoes,” he says. “Large walnut trees 40 feet from your garden will have roots well into that garden that produce plant chemical warfare that will kill tomato plants.”

The symposium also will include a Daffodil Show by the Daffodil & Hosta Society of Western Pennsylvania, and a Garden Marketplace with perennials, annuals, shrubs and fruit and vegetable plants, gardening accessories and books for sale.

New to the Marketplace will be Liz Brensinger and Ann Adams, co-owners and founders of Green Heron Tools, a line of ergonomic garden tools designed to reduce injuries and make farming and gardening more efficient for women.

Based in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, Brensinger says she and Adams developed the tools after two years of research and development, working with designers at Penn State. Their expertise as a former nurse (Adams) and former health educator (Brensinger) was helpful in creating the tool line that includes a HERshovel, HERspading fork and other digging and cutting tools they will have for sale.

Tree Pittsburgh nursery manager Megan Palomo will have a variety of native trees and shrubs as well as some heritage species that thrive in Pittsburgh's climate and conditions.

“Most of our plants are grown from locally collected seed. This ensures that they have the genes to thrive in our area,” Palomo says. Plants range from 2 to 5 feet tall and cost $30 to $70, depending on size and species.

The manager of the Lawrenceville nursery says Tree Pittsburgh began as a community forestry nonprofit that aimed to enhance Pittsburgh's urban tree canopy. Over the past 10 years, it has grown to include the nursery and an expanded forest restoration program that plants and maintains trees in degraded or damaged greenspaces.

“Trees benefit us in so many ways,” Palomo says. “They cool and clean our air, provide shade and wildlife refuge, reduce flooding and even increase real estate value. Through events like these we hope to educate the community about the many wonderful benefits of trees and provide them with resilient locally adapted trees for their own yard.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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