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West Jordan Journal

Plant Convention Focuses on Water-Wise Gardening

Aug 04, 2016 03:27PM ● By Tori LaRue

Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District’s Plant Con on June 11 introduced participants to water-wise plant alternatives. Several nurseries sold those plants onsite. – Tori La Rue

 By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

West Jordan, Utah - Salt Lake County has become a hub for enthusiast group meet-ups—from the comic book fanatics’ Comic Con to the Preparedness gurus’ PrepperCon and the fitness buffs’ FitCon. Recently, plant lovers joined in the convention culture with their second annual Plant Con at the Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan. 

“We wanted to connect people with growers of the plants that they can have in their gardens, and have a day of classes geared-toward showcasing these plants that are suited to Utah, connecting people to the latest information,” Clifton Smith, garden manager, said. “We came up with the name Plant Con as a joke, but it kind of stuck.” 

The garden’s inaugural Plant Con in summer 2015 sold out, so the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy team expanded the program this year,  offering 150 spots at the convention, which sold out several weeks before the event on June 11. 

At the convention, participants attended classes about new plant species, Utah native species and water-wise landscapes from conservancy district representatives, local gardeners, Utah State University personnel and keynote speaker Nan Sterman, host of the TV show “A Growing Passion.” 

“I’m from Southern California, and we’ve had huge drought issues, which has pushed us into a movement—well, I think it is a movement—to change to having climate appropriate gardens,” Sterman said. “That’s why I’ve started my TV shows and started traveling around the world to teach these principles.” 

Some business parks in Utah have started using water-wise designs, but, according to Sterman, the state far from being environmentally friendly compared to Southern California. While Californians learned to be smart about their gardens from a major drought, Sterman said Utah’s water shortage isn’t bad enough to force people to be water-wise. 

Lawns continues to dominate gardens and yards throughout Utah, even though grass takes the most water to maintain, because residents are used to seeing it. 

“It can be hard to encourage a radical change in the aesthetic of the land,” Sterman said. “It can be really scary to people because they think that their neighbors will judge them.” 

Sterman’s belief is that neighbors might change adapt their yards to the environment around them, if they see trend-setters start the environmentally friendly garden movement in Utah. Sterman saw this theory play out in her own neighborhood when her neighbor across the street hired a water-wise gardener to design her front yard like Sterman’s. 

“There’s still practical use of lawn, like for recreational and aesthetical uses,” Shaw Moser, another presenter said at the convention, said. “But what we’re trying to convey here is that if you have less lawn, you can actually get more out of your land. You can have more patio space and a vegetable garden.” 

Moser called the Conservation Garden Park a “hidden gem” in the community that most people don’t know about. The garden is meant to be a grounds that inspires residents to implement similar features in their own gardens. 

Catherine King, a participant in the convention, purchased succulent plants for her neighbors from vendors at Plant Con. In recent years King has traded her geraniums and petunias for “more interesting native plants,” she said. 

“I’ve always liked gardening, but I used to be more of a traditional gardener,” King said. “Now I’ve realized there are these fantastic plants that really fit in with the environment.” 

Shirley Hansen, from Pleasant Grove, left Plant Con early. She was anxious to get over to a nearby nursery to buy new plants that she’d heard about at the convention, she said. 

“I love to get outdoors and get out into the Utah deserts,” Hansen said. “I see the wild flowers, and I think, ‘I wish I could have that in my garden,’ and I’m learning that perhaps I can.”