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2017 Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference focuses on Seeds and the Plains

Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha

The Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha

The HPGC had four Angelenos represented at this year's horticulture conference set in Omaha Nebraska Sept 24-26 and themed "Jewels of the Plains." Judy Kirshner, one of the club's Horticulture chairs, was joined by Julie Grist, Ginger Lincoln and Gina Brandt, who attended in her role as GCA Bulletin Chair.

The kick-off dinner inside Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium allowed conference attendees to roam the zoo and aquarium grounds for several hours which were abundant in both flora and fauna. Featured speaker that night was conservation photographer Michael Forsberg, a plains native, who gave a visually splendid and emotionally touching recounting of his multi-year effort to track and photograph the elegant sandhill crane population that annually swoops down on the plains in their migration across the heartland of America.

Monday's agenda included an overview of GCA horticulture chair initiatives, zone breakout meetings, and a panel discussion on the evolution of seed saving and plant breeding. It was stunning to learn that the US has gone from having hundreds of plant species and unique varietals of agricultural plants to only a few dozen currently propogated, due to agribusiness, hybridization and other factors. Yet today there is a resurgence of interest in finding, saving and reintroducing heirloom seeds and plants at universities and independent programs such as the Seed Savers Exchange.

Other conference events included a visit to the Lauritzen Gardens, a 20 year old botanical garden in Omaha. The night before our visit, Spencer Crew, Executive Director of Lauritzen Gardens, shared an enthralling tale of how the gardens were developed and designed which gave members' visit to the gardens a much greater depth of understanding on taking a barren plot of land and making it a sumptuous set of gardens and conservatories in just two decades.

A visit to the Glacier Creek Preserve was another conference highlight. Restoring the prairie is a Partners for Plants project of the Loveland Garden Club, just outside of Omaha. The club assisted in undertaking prescribed burns, collecting natives seeds and planting subsequent seedlings, and pulling and bagging invasive plant species. The club's ongoing work with the Preserve is remarkable and a fine example os something the HPGC might do with the LA River project.

HPGC attendees also enjoyed a variety of other 'break-out sessions" including: attracting pollinators, gathering and preserving garden seeds, demonstration of working dogs for invasive species control, resilient landscapes for the drought, and tree care and pruning, among dozens of offerings. All in all, the conference proved to enlighten and engage club members who will undoubtedly bring home some lessons learned back to fellow club members in Los Angeles.

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