2014 Symposium Program and Speaker Details

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga University Center

Saturday, March 8, 2014, 8 am – 4 pm Eastern Time

8-9 am

Registration. Welcome remarks at 8:45 am.

 9-9:50 am

Fred Spicer, Executive Director, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

“Good Things from the South”

The story of a kind of a love affair this former northerner developed for certain native plants…before he knew they were really southern native plants in northern gardens! The lecture touches on the impact of glaciation on plant ranges – even in the south – and takes a look at current range maps and of course the plants themselves, in the wild and in gardens. This presentation will give you a new appreciation for native plants, their beauty and their utility.


Fred Spicer is executive director of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Alabama’s largest living museum, containing over 30 distinct gardens in naturalistic and interpretive styles, and more than 20 works of original sculpture and garden art. Fred has 30 years in practice as a public garden administrator, landscape architect and nurseryman. He is a graduate of the Landscape Architecture program at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), where he was an adjunct instructor with its Continuing Professional Education office for more than 15 years.

Mr. Spicer is an experienced lecturer and has spoken throughout the northeast, mid-west and southeast to groups ranging from professionals and garden clubs to civic organizations, plant societies and home gardeners. He has written for a number of trade and home-gardening publications, and has appeared on numerous local and cable television programs, including Martha Stewart Living. Fred lives and gardens with his partner, interior designer Kim McBride, in Vestavia Hills, AL.

10-10:50 am

Matt Whitaker, Landscape Architect

“Piedmont Garden, Beautiful Habitat”

The presentation follows the design and construction of a house and landscape in the Virginia Piedmont. The design process covered the entire twenty-acre site, which consisted primarily of fescue pasture with areas of sparse tree cover and a silt-filled pond. Habitat restoration including work at the pond and conversion of pasture to meadow began in 2004. In 2007, construction began on the house. The house, garden and drive footprints were kept small and restoration projects were advanced. The house landscape was designed to blend into the surrounding ‘natural’ landscapes created by restoration efforts. The Piedmont Garden draws inspiration from culture and nature in formal and informal design forms and uses primarily native plant species. Many of the plants used are not often included in gardens. The resulting landscape provides year-round interests ‘changing every day.’  Native ecosystems and species relationships heavily influenced design.


Matt Whitaker grew up on the Cumberland Plateau of Alabama wandering the forest and creeks of Gunter Mountain. His education in biology and chemistry at the University of Alabama Huntsville and landscape architecture at the University of Georgia sharpened what the natural habitats had taught him. In 2013 he returned to the region where he grew up to practice landscape architecture. Matt’s past projects include cultural landscape planning for sites including the Washington Monument, Chickamauga Battlefield, and Cades Cove as well as design work for the National Zoo, Watercolor Florida, Virginia Tech, UVA, and various urban and residential projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

11-11:50 am

Dr. Johnny Randall, Director of Conservation Programs, North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Invasive Plants: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

A great deal has been learned about invasive plant species’ effects since the 1999 Executive Order on Invasive Species. Since then, advances have been made in risk assessment, early detection, rapid response, and invasive plant awareness has increased among the public and green industry. But risk assessment is not widespread and there are many who continue to ignore the negative ecological consequences of invasive plants. In this presentation, Dr. Randall will show what progress has been made since 1999 in invasive plant awareness and control, and how various governmental and non-governmental organizations are working separately and together toward common goals.


Johnny Randall holds B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in botany with over 35 years of plant ecology experience. After 10 years of teaching at UNC-Greensboro and the University of North Florida, he joined the North Carolina Botanical Garden in 1998 as Director of Conservation Programs. Johnny oversees the conservation and management of approximately 1,000 acres of nature preserves, and administers the Garden’s seed conservation and rare plant programs. Johnny is also adjunct faculty in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Curriculum for Environment and Ecology.

Noon-1:30 pm

Lunch will be available in the University Center Chattanooga Room, along with art sale and exhibits.  Plant sales in take place in the University Center lobby. Door prizes drawings will be held in auditorium.

1:30-2:20 pm

Duane Marcus, Organic Farmer and Teacher, The Funny Farm

“The Soil Food Web is the Web of Life”

The soil food web is essential to the survival of all living beings on Planet Earth. The interaction among plants, microbes, fungi, earthworms and the other organisms that make up the web makes it possible for plants to utilize solar energy to extract organic and mineral nutrients from the soil. The plants, in turn become food for animals, including us humans. The soil food web is where organic waste gets processed so that nutrients are recycled. Paul Stamets calls the underground mycelial network nature’s internet, allowing plants to share information and energy with one another.

We will examine the components of the soil food web to understand their roles, learn how to create and maintain a healthy soil food web and explore possible ways we can use this knowledge to benefit native plants and animals.


Duane Marcus is an organic farmer, herbalist, teacher and activist. He and his wife Robin started their suburban permaculture demonstration project called The Funny Farm 6 years ago on a 3 acre property outside of Atlanta, GA. They grow fruits, herbs and vegetables which they sell at local farmers markets. Duane teaches workshops on organic gardening, permaculture techniques and herbal medicine at The Funny Farm.

Duane has a Masters degree is Landscape Architecture and a B.S. in horticulture. He has studied the soil food web with Dr. Elaine Ingham, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute, vermiculture at Growing Power with Will Allen, and mushroom production with Paul Stamets, author of the book Mycelium Running.

2:30-3 pm

There will be a Question & Answer session involving all speakers.

3-4 pm

Concluding remarks, door prizes, and survey.  Plant sales will continue in University Center lobby and art sales/exhibits in conference room.  There is easy access for loading and unloading in the lobby.