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What a Site

Sustainable home landscaping attracts international attention

Landscape for Life logo
ABOVE: The logo of the Landscape for Life program. Image courtesy of landscapeforlife.org.

Spring has nearly sprung, and with it so has interest in sustainability in the home garden. The Wildflower Center and its partner, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), had barely advertised its upcoming Landscape for Life™ Train the Trainer webinar series before registration was closed due to extremely high interest.

The webinar series—which will air from the Wildflower Center over five Tuesdays starting April 30—is based on an in-person training led in Washington, D.C. last year by sustainable landscaping expert and former Wildflower Center employee Heather Venhaus. Attendees of that training have gone back to their communities to train others to create sustainable landscapes using a five-part curriculum Venhaus developed and that is available at Landscapeforlife.org. Venhaus is principal at Austin-based Regenerative Environmental Design and author of the sustainable design guide, "Designing the Sustainable Site."

Landscape for Life™ is a website and complete kit of teaching resources which can be used to conduct classes in sustainable home gardening. Materials available on the website include a downloadable, illustrated teacher's manual and five slide presentations that illustrate the curriculum. It is based on the principles of The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™), an interdisciplinary effort led by the Wildflower Center, USBG and American Society of Landscape Architects to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.

Wildflower Center education manager Alice Nance says the Center and USBG are thrilled with the interest shown in the webinars. "We've had interest from 35 states including the territory of Puerto Rico, Canada and as far away as Australia," Nance says. The first series will be limited to 100 attendees, and a running waitlist was established that now has about 35 applicants.

Each two-hour webinar covers one of the five subject areas in the Landscape for Life™ curriculum: soil, water, plants, materials in the home garden and then, finally, design of the home garden. "The focus is not about teaching sustainable landscape techniques, but on how do you use and teach this curriculum to train others to create sustainable landscapes," says Nance.

Jane Longan, a Northern Virginia Master Gardener, feels fortunate to have attended Heather Venhaus' in-person Landscape for Life™ training with four other members from her group of master gardeners last May.

"Once we attended the training we started planning our own classes right away and offered our first series this winter," says Longan. They completed the fifth of six sessions this past Saturday. Longan says that they have been able to drop the LFL materials from the website directly into their Power Point presentations, and then customize content to local conditions and resources.

Tending baby loblollies at the Wildflower Center tree nursery
ABOVE: The Landscape for Life Instructor's Manual contains invaluable tips for creating sustainable links between your home landscape and the surrounding environment.

For example, during the session on water conservation Longan and the other trainers shared information on a rainbarrel workshop offered by their county. Representatives from other organizations attend each session, as for example, when Audubon at Home came to the session on native plants.

Like the Center allowed more applicants to participate in its upcoming webinars than originally intended, Longan and her co-trainers agreed to include three more households than planned—bringing the total attending the series to 23 households and 31 participants.

"We've had a great response: now there's a bit of clamoring by members of our group for these workshops—and it's helping Master Gardeners spread the word to the community," says Longan.

Nance is hopeful that those who attend the upcoming webinar trainings are equally as successful as these master gardeners have been in applying the LFL workshops in their communities.

"Landscape for Life™ is really exciting because it distills the principles of the cutting-edge Sustainable Sites Initiative findings down to the homeowner level," says Nance. "We are actively training people because we want to get this information out and have it applied nationwide and beyond. That we've had this type of interest in these webinars without any big national promotional push for Landscape for Life™ is a sign of how much people want to make sustainability a priority in their gardens."

Story by Christina Kosta Procopiou

The Wildflower Center offers in-person Landscape for Life classes through Go Native U starting March 20. Visit http://www.wildflower.org/gonativeu/ to register and for more information.

© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center