Registration slightly ahead of last year….

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This summer’s conference is fast-approaching, and registration is running slightly above the pace at the same time last year.

As of May 20, 118 native plant lovers are paid registrants for the conference (169 with speakers and staff), according to Bobby Hensley, Associate Director of Continuing Education at Western Carolina. While it’s wonderful that registration is slightly up year over year, we still have a way to go to meet Western Carolina’s goal of 250-plus paid registrants.  Please renew your efforts to reach out to fellow gardeners and members of garden clubs and native plant societies and encourage them to register for this always informative and enjoyable conference.

Thanks to all who attend the conference year after year and have spread the word about the 2019 conference. And, here’s a special thanks to the marketing efforts of the WCU staff and native plant societies throughout the region that have put the conference on their calendars. Thanks to everyone for getting out information about what is one of the country’s most informative annual native plant conferences!

Not surprisingly, with the increased pace of registration compared to 2018, interest in field trips also appears to be up.. In fact, three are already filled and are closed. Two of those are on Wednesday, July 17: FT7, Highlands Botanical Garden and Other Native Plant Gardens with Larry Mellichamp;and FT 10, Mosses of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with Ann Stoneburner and Robert Wyatt. One Friday, July 19 field trip, FT14, Bogs and Seeps of the Blue Ridge Parkway, is also full and is closed. If you haven’t already registered, be sure to do so as soon as possible to increase your chances of getting in on your first choice of the remaining field trips.

The field trips, which are always a highlight of the conference and will be again, could turn out to have an added element of interest this year. A spate of very warm weather earlier this year caused some plants to bloom earlier than usual, according to Kathy Mathews, a professor of biology at Western and a member of the Steering Committee. While there’s always lots in bloom in the mountains regardless of weather patterns, wouldn’t it be interesting if this trend continues and some things that don’t normally bloom until after the conference are in flower during walks this summer. Time will tell!

Pokeberry

The 2019 T-shirt

Each year, Weaver Haney, a lecturer in the Biology Department, solicits designs for the T-shirt, sends entries to the Steering Committee and invites committee members to vote for their favorite. This year, Weaver advised the committee that several designs were especially attractive and that we faced a difficult choice. He was right on both counts!

In fact, we had a runoff. The final choices came down to pokeberry (Phytolacca americana), trumpet creeper vine (Campsis radicans), wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), panax (Panax quinquefolius) and a collection of oak leaves. The winner was the pokeberry. “I love the idea of celebrating this beautiful native plant that has great cultural significance and is often demonized,” said Adam Bigelow, a Steering Committee member who is a graduate of Western Carolina and lives in the area.

Several committee members asked Weaver to use tsdesigns to produce the shirt. is Based in the Carolinas, tsdesigns uses organic cotton in their shirts. Weaver was also asked to be sure to include shirts cut for women. Proceeds from sales of the shirt benefit the scholarship program for the WCU Biology Department.

Sponsorships

More than 20 people from across the country, including several from the Caribbean, have applied for sponsorships (sometimes called scholarships) to this summer’s conference.

“The applicants were mostly emerging professionals wanting access to information to improve their product as well as improve business through networking,” said Preston Montague, a Steering Committee member who oversees the sponsorship process. A team of scorers is evaluating the applications and winners will be announced by the end of May. The number of winners will depend on how much sponsorship money is available.

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