Education becomes a community opportunity for Tree of Life Email
Tuesday, September 08, 2020 05:00 AM

Tree of Life LandscapesEach year, the Tree of Life Landscapes team gathers to discuss their strategic plan for the coming year. In 2018, company leaders asked staff, “What do you need for inspiration?” That discussion led them to offering a day of education to benefit not just the Tree of Life team but their green industry colleagues.

They talked about traveling to a conference or visiting a garden to educate and inspire. They also discussed bringing in an expert to speak with them. But in listing names of those they wanted to invite, they realized that by opening their speaker event to a larger audience, they might be able to attract—and afford—one of the “dream guests” on their list.

After a quick web search, they found and contacted Rick Darke, whose consulting firm focuses on the conservation, design and management of living landscapes. They organized that first event in 2018 around a full day of lecture and discussion with this well-respected expert—a format that they feel supports their goal of the event.

“Most conferences are a collection of topics like business planning, design, tree care, etc.,” said Johnny Moore of Tree of Life. “We wanted to focus on design.” The vision of the one-day, annual conference is to provide inspiration for plant-driven design and sustainability in Colorado’s unique conditions. At Tree of Life, they want to encourage good design work, which means that a landscape is both beautiful and long-lasting.

The Create Beauty Design Conference is named for the Tree of Life slogan. “Create beauty is our company motto,” said Emily Maeda, vice president and designer. “Aesthetics and sustainability go hand in hand. If a landscape is beautiful, it’s going to be good, and sustainability is part of that.”

Each event has been hosted at the Longmont Museum in early spring. The location has room to grow as the conference evolves, though they enjoy the benefits that the smaller scale of the event provides. They also enjoy offering education outside of the usual Denver-focused locations. Attendees come from all disciplines: master gardeners, home gardeners, landscape architects, designers, and even staff from local municipalities and botanic gardens.

The 2020 event was scheduled for Friday, March 13, the day that the state shutdown due to coronavirus began. Organizers made the difficult decision to cancel the evening before the event, even though their speaker has already arrived in town. They felt that the connections made in-person at the event are most important, so they rescheduled for spring 2021.

“We feel that there’s a lack of communication between the different branches of the green industry. Our conference creates that connection,” said Moore. The event featured longer breaks and a lunch offering that both allow for time to network and share ideas among attendees and with the presenter.

The Colorado green industry has recognized the value of the event as well and demonstrated their support. DBC Irrigation Supply has been the conference’s main sponsor, with additional support from Green Spot Nursery, Little Valley Wholesale Nursery and Colorado Materials.

The conference has also grown organically to feature a supporting event, when an opportunity arose in year one to offer a screening of the film “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.” Oudolf and Darke, year one’s speaker, co-authored Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes. The screening was a successful, complementary event to the conference, and organizers look forward to offering similar after-hours events that can help them reach more people.

Tree of Life Landscapes was profiled in greater detail in the September-October issue of Colorado GreenRead the full profile online here.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
Weather-related messaging available for landscape pros
National Preparedness Month is more relevant than ever
Small Business Week goes virtual in rescheduled event
Landscape contractors invited to Colorado Springs Utilities meeting