Go Wild with Your Gardening

Returns in January 2024

You Have the Power to Make a Difference

Gardening for nature explored from six different angles by published authors, educators, landscape architects and citizen scientists. It is easier to go wilder with your gardening when you understand where you and your location fit into the bigger picture.

Access to nature is rare in many urban environments but you can transition to a more wildlife-friendly garden or greenspace and enhance your connection with nature. All levels of gardening experience are welcome for this full day of learning. Join us and find the tools you need to make your garden positively contribute to our natural Georgia network.

How we garden at home and in the community makes a big difference in the natural world.


>> Includes keynote speakers, general sessions, light breakfast provided by Summit Coffee, boxed lunch, vendors, and opportunities to gain knowledge and connections.

>> Books authored by keynote speakers along with other gardening subjects will also be available for purchase.

>> Doors open at 8AM for check-in

>> Register by Wednesday, January 25

General Public $80/CNC members $65. 

Symposium Schedule

Keep scrolling to learn more about the speakers

8AM: Doors Open for Registration
& Vendor Booths Open

Morning pastries and coffee available at registration kindly provided by Summit Coffee, your local community-driven café focused on remarkable and approachable coffee.
Relevant gardening books will be available for purchase from Eagle Eye Books.

9AM: The Bigger Picture: Key Findings from Wild Landscapes to Suburban Yards with Jaret Daniels

The important role that our growing human-dominated spaces can play in sustaining native wildlife populations has become increasingly recognized in recent years as have efforts to incorporate a range of landscape types, including farms, energy and transportation rights-of-way—suburban yards, and urban greenspaces into conservation planning. For this strategy to work, however, we must all participate and understand why the choices we make in our landscapes are relevant. While such spaces can never replace pristine, natural environments, they can provide important resources to supplement wildlife habitats and help reduce the sundry impacts of urbanization. A growing body of research supports the wildlife conservation benefit of these non-traditional lands. Conservation today cannot be limited to just large, wild spaces. Every landscape now matters – including yours!

10AM: Native Plant Communities: An Instruction Manual for Home Landscaping with Jake Brown & Kyle Lybarger, The Native Habitat Project

The natural landscape that we observe today would be nearly unrecognizable to the indigenous people and early settlers that called this place home. If we could turn back time, even just a couple of centuries, we would be surrounded by a rich mosaic of grasslands, forests, and wetlands that hosted some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet. Unfortunately, through changes in land use, the introduction of non-native species, and fire suppression, we have reduced this vast expanse of diverse ecosystems to a fragmented and degraded version of its former self.

But there’s hope! We can still find the relics of these ecosystems all around us, often in the most unusual locations. Roadsides, cemeteries, utility rights-of-way, and even community trash dumps are often the last stronghold for some of these plant communities. By knowing where your garden, greenspace, or property sits in the broader landscape and using the context clues that nature provides, you can find these rare, remnant plant communities, learn about their biotic and abiotic associations, and start to recreate a scaled version of them in your own yard!”

11AM: Break | Vendor Booths Open and Book Signing

11:30AM: How a Permaculture Perspective Can Support Our Local Ecosystem with Brandy Hall & Roxy Drew

Through a permaculture lens, learn how your garden can attract and support bees, birds and butterflies; grow foods like herbs, veggies, and fruit; store water in your soil for plants to access during drought; create healthy, fertile soil even if you’re starting from scratch; and get to the root cause of pest issues. Find out about the three pillars of a regenerative landscape and enjoy a walk through case studies that highlight eco-landscaping and sustainable gardening for any climate, any budget, and any experience level.

12:15-1PM: Lunch

1:00PM: Creating Buzzworthy Gardens: The Critical Role Residential and Other Small Scale Landscapes Play in Supporting Pollinators with Anne Spafford

Residential gardens, in aggregate, can play a huge role in providing much needed habitat, food/water, and nesting places for pollinators. No garden is too small to make a difference. With over 40 million acres of lawn in the United States alone, there are many opportunities to make room for pollinator habitat. While there is much concern for the plight of pollinators, many homeowners (garden novices and experienced alike) are unaware or unsure how they can help. Readily accessible and applicable landscape design guidelines will be shared that enable pollinator-enthusiasts to tackle their home and community gardens through strategies that will help them implement practical on-the-ground actions with an eye towards pollinator protection.

2:00PM: Your Yard is Nature’s Best Hope with Vicki Mann

Two very different yet similar books, “Your Yard is Nature” by Leslie Inman and “Bringing Nature Home” by Dr. Doug Tallamy, inspired Vicki to make changes in her own gardening practices and that, in combination with her hands-on learning at home, formed the basis of this action-oriented presentation. It’s time to get started no matter the size of your greenspace. Here are the 10 things you can do easily today and make a difference so that nature can flourish in your yard.

2:45PM: Break | Vendor Booths Open and Book Signing

3PM: The Humane Gardener: Nurturing Habitat for Wildlife with Nancy Lawson

Why do we call some insects “beneficial” while others are “pests”? Why do we welcome some animals to our garden while calling others “nuisances”? Why are some plants considered “desirable” while others are “weeds”? In this myth-busting talk, learn how common growing methods divide the natural world into false dichotomies and perpetuate misperceptions about the wild species living among us. Discover practical ways to put humane gardening philosophies into action by protecting nesting and overwintering sites; eliminating unintended hazards; identifying and nurturing plants that provide food and shelter; restoring habitat with minimal disturbance to animals; and humanely resolving conflicts with mammals and other commonly misunderstood creatures.

3:55-4PM: Closing Comments & Symposium Ends

About the Speakers

580 x 600 NL Symposium

Nancy Lawson

Nature Writer & Naturalist

Through The Humane Gardener, LLC, Nancy pioneers creative planting strategies and other wildlife-friendly landscaping methods. Her presentations at diverse venues—from national wildlife refuges to local wildflower preserves—have inspired even seasoned horticulturists and wildlife experts to look at their landscapes in a new way. Certified as a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional and Master Naturalist, she partners with conservation and animal advocacy organizations in the national capital region and recently helped launch a community science project, Monarch Rx, based on scientific discoveries made in her own garden. Her book and garden have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, O magazine, and other media outlets. Nancy authored The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife and the forthcoming Wildscape: Trilling Chipmunks, Beckoning Blooms, Salty Butterflies, and other Sensory Wonders of Nature.

580 x 600 JD Symposium

Jaret Daniels

Curator, Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and Professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UFL

An entomologist by training, Jaret Daniels specializes in the ecology and conservation of at-risk butterflies and other native insect pollinators. His lab works across many different landscapes from wild lands and farmscapes to roadsides and suburban yards in an effort to develop best insect conservation and management practices. He is additionally a professional nature photographer and author of many successful field guides, gardening books, and general interest titles on butterflies, insects, wildflowers, native plants, and wildlife landscaping including Your Florida Guide to Butterfly Gardening: A Guide for the Deep South, Butterflies of Florida Field Guide, Native Plant Gardening for Birds, Bees & Butterflies: Southeast, Backyard Bugs: An Identification Guide to Common Insects, Spiders, and More, Wildflowers of Florida Field Guide, Vibrant Butterflies: Our Favorite Visitors to Flowers and Gardens, and Insects & Bugs for Kids: An Introduction to Entomology. Click here to learn more.

580 x 600 KL JB Symposium

Kyle Lybarger  & Jake Brown

The Native Habitat Project

Kyle Lybarger, born and raised in Morgan County, AL, has been exploring the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This led him to an interest in wildlife and eventually a Forestry Degree from Alabama A&M. After college he became interested in the overlooked grasslands of North Alabama, which pushed him to start educating through social media and ultimately to founding the Native Habitat Project.

Jake Brown made some of his earliest memories with his grandmother on “nature walks” around the family property on the Piedmont region of Alabama, in search of anything that walked, crawled, swam, flew, or bloomed. From those experiences his love for the outdoors only grew deeper. He went on to Auburn University where he studied Civil and Environmental Engineering. Jake worked for a private engineering firm for six years before leaving to work for himself and joining the Native Habitat Project team.

580 x 600 AS Symposium

Anne Spafford

Professor of Landscape Design in the Department of Horticultural Science, NCSU

Anne Spafford is passionate about all of the subjects she teaches (and there is substantial overlap between them), but she has a particular fondness for planting design—under which she excels in high-performing landscapes: pollinator habitats, rain gardens, therapeutic gardens, and residential gardens. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture, which provided a foundation in plants, plant sciences, and small-scale design. Her Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture provided a foundation in cultural and social issues of design and research-applied design as well as experience in designing larger projects. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Design Program at NC State University where she is studying the effects of urban streetscape design on human well-being.

580 x 600 BH RD Symposium

Brandy Hall & Roxy Drew

Founder & Manager, Shades of Green Permaculture

Brandy Hall is passionate about leading a purpose-driven business that actively creates a healthier world. She earned a General Contractor’s license after completing undergraduate work and began training as a stone mason where she fell in love with the way intelligent design responds to the natural world. Brandy has nearly two decades of experience in building off-grid water systems, landscape construction, and integrated farming systems. Shades of Green Permaculture, the company she founded, has worked with over a thousand clients since 2008, from farms and municipalities to residents and businesses, who are applying permaculture across contexts. Her approach to eco-friendly gardening and permaculture has been featured on WABE and in many publications including Atlanta Magazine, Garden & Gun, Earth911 and The Washington Post.

When not in the field Roxy Drew conducts consultations and 1:1 coaching with clients to help them better understand their landscape and environmental impact. She focuses her education on how to grow, harvest, and use edible and medicinal plants, how to rethink common “weeds” and “pests”, and how to plant more native species. Her dreams of helping others live more sustainably and supporting the local ecosystem make her an invaluable leader on the Caretaking team.

Vicki Mann

Citizen Scientist, Co-founder Quiet Georgia

Inspired by “Nature’s Best Hope”, Doug Tallamy and “Your Yard is Nature”, Leslie Inman, and learning of new approaches to conservation at home, retiree Vicki Mann began making changes in her own yard and basic gardening practices. “Nature can actually flourish in our yards when we make the right choices,” says Vicki, who as co-founder of QuietGA has data that will surprise you, back-to-basics guidance as well as success stories to share from her own small beginnings.

580 x 600 VM Symposium

Questions? Contact Jacqueline McRae, Manager of Horticulture and Gardens j.mcrae@chattnaturecenter.org