VNLA Winter Meeting 2019

ichi-go ichi-e garden
Ichi-Go Ichi-E by Daniel Winterbottom

Green Works: Formula for Success

Sometimes you just have to keep going with what got you there. This year’s VNLA Green Works Winter Meeting very much played on that ideology.

From the way business was conducted over the past year to how the awards program was scheduled, VNLA has certainly stuck to the script.

Keynnote Speaker: Daniel Winterbottom

2019 VNLA Greenworks Conference
2019 VNLA Greenworks Winter Meeting

Moreover, Green Works Winter meetings can best be summarized by having a keynote speaker, awards ceremony and lectures. (and yes, more tacos) This may seem a bit boring to endure years on end, but with freshly designed landscapes and trending environmental concerns, there’s always a new voice to be heard.

Thus, this year’s voice and keynote speaker was landscape architect, Daniel Winterbottom. Simply calling Daniel’s work ‘therapeutic garden design’ is a disservice to his efforts. Winterbottom’s designs spans continents and cultures with emphasis on treating people with the natural world.

In truth, Daniel Winterbottom’s design focus can best be describes as biophilic. Biophilic design integrates elements of the natural world to contribute to the overall health and productivity of human beings.

Amazon Spheres
New Amazon Spheres building in Seattle, Washington incorporates biophilic design

Nature healing people isn’t a new concept, but now it’s being put into practice in rehab centers across the world and the results are encouraging. Specifically, higher test scores when access to green space is granted and lowered aggression levels when trees exist are of note.

Meet & Mingle

As I attended the VNLA Winter meeting this year solo, I intended on reconnecting with old faces with the hopes of meeting a few new ones as well. The break before lunch time allows for that and I took full advantage.

First, a stop to see Peter Van Berkum, owner of Van Berkum Nursery in Deerfield, New Hampshire. Picking Peter’s brain is something you must do if you’re in the industry. I’d been wondering whether we were pronouncing Agastache correctly and he was certainly the guy to inquire with.

Van Berkum Nursery booth
Van Berkum Nursery booth

Yes, the tacos were once again glorious. However, this year’s tacos were made distinctively delightful with the meeting of a new face. Chris Conant, Vice President at Claussen’s happened to be sharing the roundtable.

For the past several years, I’ve observed with great interest when it’s Conant’s turn to present the Allen B. Crane Award. He tells the somber story of an employee who respectfully served in the horticulture industry for over 40 years. There’s a sense in the room that upon receiving the Crane Award, the recipient has big shoes to fill.

Long story short, Chris turned out to be the exact person you see each year at the Green Works podium: a hard working, genuine Vermonter who is willing to give and share credit where it’s due while being the friendliest of neighbors. Suddenly, and with the introduction to all of his other contacts joining us for lunch, attending this year’s meeting didn’t feel so lonely.


Perhaps the meeting’s most impressive aspect entailed finding professionals to lecture on this years obvious theme: soil health. Starting from the very basic question of what soil is to managing our landscapes in ways that reduce chemical introduction, these lectures had it all.

From our view, the lecture from Bill Landesman stole the show. His obvious passion for the studies of soil microbial communities is unmatched. Though the material comprehension was tough, I certainly felt like a student in the classroom.


The biggest takeaway from Bill’s discussion was soil’s historical behavior. Prior to industrialization, soil retained carbon but now it is releasing carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. Moreover, because much of the releasing of this heat trapping gas is happening in hard to reach places, it’s quite difficult to know its full impact on the biosphere.

VNLA Green Works Industry Awards
The Industry Awards room where each winning project was on display

Lastly, we’d like to share our picks for the best industry projects of 2018-2019. Green Works has done a fine job recognizing exemplary efforts, but these were our personal favorites. It’s worth mentioning our limited amount of information of each project other than what has been released to the public and presented at the meeting.

Congratulations to all VNLA Green Works award winners. Check out the rest of the projects here. See you next year!

Hillside Challenge
Hillside Challenge – Distinctive Landscaping – Miles Weston & Christian D’Andrea
A Backyard for Outdoor Living
A Backyard for Outdoor Living – Landshapes – Caroline Dudek