Plant Natives 2020! Symposium

For Immediate Release.

CONTACT: Tennessee Valley Wild Ones at or leave a message at 423-847-2012

Ninth Annual symposium “Plant Natives 2020!” and Native Plant Marketplace and Expo to be held March 14, 2020 at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga University Center

Chattanooga, TN. The Tennessee Valley Chapter of the Wild Ones is holding its ninth annual native plant symposium “Plant Natives 2020!” on March 14 at University of Tennessee Chattanooga University Center starting 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. with registration beginning at 8 a.m.  This annual event brings gardeners, conservationists, landscapers and policy makers together for inspiration and education and focuses on the importance of native plants as the foundation for preserving and promoting biodiversity.

Keynoting the symposium is Benjamin Vogt, owner of Monarch Gardens LLC, a prairie garden design firm.  Vogt speaks nationally, and writes a sustainable garden column for Houzz. His book is A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future (New Society Publishers, October 2017).  The book title is the theme for Vogt’s keynote, with his second presentation “Busting Garden Management Myths,” that will challenge some traditional practices that aren’t in sync with more natural plant processes.

Vogt is a former board member of the Wachiska Audubon Society, a prairie conservation and wildlife organization overseeing 1,000 acres in southeast Nebraska. He also runs the Facebook page Milk the Weed, a lively space where 10,000 folks share the joys and purpose of milkweed, native plants, pollinators, and curbing climate change. Benjamin has an M.F.A. (Ohio State) and Ph.D. (Nebraska) in English and has taught over fifty college classes for which he’s received multiple awards. You’ll find his essays in anthologies like The Tallgrass Prairie ReaderNatural Treasures of the Great Plains, and Prairie Gold, while his Pushcart Prize nominated poems have appeared in over sixty publications. He is the author of three poetry collections and two unpublished memoirs — the memoirs are based on family and gardening as well as homesteading the prairie environment in the 1800s.

Following Vogt is Philip Juras, an Athens, Georgia-based landscape architect and landscape painter.  Juras’ presentation will be “Picturing Nature’s Design in the Landscapes of the South”, which coincides with his exhibition opening March 4 at the University of Georgia Circle Gallery.

Juras portrays the rich aesthetics of a wide range of ecologically intact environments by combining direct observation with the study of the natural science and history of the subject. A native of Augusta, Georgia, he holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (1990) and a Master of Landscape Architecture degree (1997), both from the University of Georgia. His MLA thesis examined pre-settlement southeastern grasslands, a subject that continues to inspire his artwork. Since 2011, he has exhibited his southeastern landscapes at the Telfair, Morris, and Marietta-Cobb museums in Georgia and published two books in conjunction with those exhibits. His Andean landscapes were exhibited in Bogota, Colombia, and Washington, D.C., in 2017. His ongoing projects include the tallgrass prairie ecosystem in Illinois (on exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden from May-September 2020) and fire adapted landscapes of the Southeast. More at

The symposium concludes with a presentation by Bodie Pennisi, PhD.  Pennisi’s presentation is “Creating a Healthy Biodiverse Community with Native Plants, Pollinators, and Other Beneficial Insects.”  Dr. Pennisi is an Extension Horticulture Specialist in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia. She received her Master of Science in 1996 and Doctoral degrees in 1999 from Environmental Horticulture Department. of University of Florida in Gainesville. Currently, she has statewide responsibilities for the Georgia landscape industry.  Dr. Pennisi will present her research findings on native plant and insect connections, a vital topic given that insects have suffered tremendous losses in recent years.  These losses send a ripple effect through the entire food web, resulting in bird, amphibian, fish, reptile and mammal species loss and population declines.

Dr. Pennisi serves as educational advisor to the Georgia Green Industry Association (GGIA), the Urban Agriculture Council (UAC), and the national non-profit organization Green Plants for Green Buildings (GPGB). She serves on the environmental committee of the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH). Dr. Pennisi also serves on the board of directors of the Griffin Region College and Career Academy (GRCCA).

The symposium will be hosted by Amy Katcher, Regional Director of External Affairs, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation where she serves as a point of contact for department stakeholders, including local governments, State and Federal government agencies, the regulated community, public interest groups and citizens.  Prior to joining TDEC in 2018, Katcher spent a year working as the Communications Coordinator for the Hamilton County Department of Education, and previous to that 15 years working in broadcast television as an AMS-certified meteorologist, prime time news anchor and reporter in television stations from Maine to West Virginia to Chattanooga.

Throughout Saturday, the Native Plant Marketplace and Expo will offer native plants, artwork, garden inspiration and opportunities to talk with representatives from area environmental nonprofit organizations, and students with poster presentations. The Marketplace and Expo is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The cost for the symposium is $60 for Wild Ones members, $70 for the public for registrations before March 11, or $75 at the door on the day of the program.  College students are $25 with a valid student ID.  Lunch is included, and there will be door prizes, exhibitors and plenty of friendly people to meet.  For more information and to register, go to .  Wild Ones memberships will be taken at the registration desk, or persons interested in joining may go to for more information and to become a member.  The University Center is located at 642 E. Fifth Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Wild Ones is a national non-profit organization with over 55 chapters in 17 states that promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities. For more information about the Wild Ones, go to  For more information about the Tennessee Valley Chapter or “Plant Natives 2020!” go to, email or call 423-847-2012 and leave a message.