Impact Conference

The Impact Conference

Save the date: October 20, 2020


Below is the 2019 schedule. Check back for the 2020 schedule.

Are you passionate about approaching the landscape and landscaping in a more sustainable and ecologically focused manner? Attend Impact to be inspired, understand why, and learn practical strategies which can immediately be adopted.

This year’s theme addresses the common “Design, Build, Maintain” landscape industry process. We’ll be exploring how this process would benefit from more strategic cross-collaboration between various disciplines, and how this collaboration ultimately translates to a healthy, economically stable, and resilient landscape.

How do designers and architects consider establishment and maintenance in all aspects of the design process? How does a landscape contractor execute the original vision and intentions of the design through the installation and maintenance process?

Practitioners will discover real-world solutions to the industry’s most pressing issues, and gain key insights into the most cutting edge trends in the sustainable landscape movement.


Landscape Architects can earn up to 5.25 CEU’s for attending Impact!

7:30 – 8:30 a.m. REGISTRATION


8:30 – 8:45 a.m. INTRODUCTION

Brandon Losey, Sustainable & Ecological Landscaping Committee Chairman
Scott Grams, ILCA Executive Director


 8:45 – 10:00 a.m.   KEYNOTE

Planting in a Post Wild World
Claudia West, Phyto Studio, LLC
Location: Alsdorf Auditorium, session sponsored by Davey
Our planet is rapidly losing the ecosystems and plants that sustain us and life on earth. Creating more ecological and functional landscapes in our cities and suburbs is urgently needed. However, many native plantings that focus on ecological benefits suffer for aesthetic and functional challenges and fail to inspire the public. Great design that follows successful planting strategies is an essential part of the solution. Join us as we dig deep into inspiring design principles derived from wild plant communities and learn to create successful planting systems that provide essential ecosystem functions and contribute to our quality of life. Known for her passionate advocacy of plant-driven design, Claudia West is a leading voice in the emerging field of ecological planting design. She will introduce you to an innovative form of planting design that works with natural principles and marries horticulture with ecology.

 10:00 – 10:10 a.m.   BREAK


 10:10 – 11:10 a.m.   BREAKOUTS

Regenerating Suburbia, One Garden at a Time
Nadia Malarkey, Nadia Malarkey Garden Design
Location: Alsdorf Auditorium, session sponsored by Pizzo Native Plant Nursery
Join Nadia as she shares her philosophy that both supports the regeneration of landscapes and shapes her design aesthetic for bio-diverse landscapes. Attendees will gain an understanding of how regenerative landscape design can mitigate habitat loss and climate change through native plantings and organic land practices.

Dirty Little Secrets, What Every Tree Wishes Every Designer and Installer Knew
Lesley & Bruce Smith, Arborsmith Ltd.
Location: Linneaus, session sponsored by Nels Johnson Tree Experts
Trees are the most expensive and valuable structural elements, and are often misunderstood, to their detriment and our loss. Even though landscape professionals are always working with and around trees, the commonly held misconceptions about trees often leads to oversight of their basic needs. This session will clarify the simple things we can do to protect, preserve and sustain trees, giving them opportunities for thriving. Learn from the trees about the misconceptions that allow for a good deal of abuse; often of their most vulnerable and hidden parts, their roots. This presentation is intended to provide the basic information of how to preserve and protect our tree friends during the planning, construction and aftercare phases of landscape installation and maintenance, correcting easily preventable errors to insure the trees survive long after the completion of the job.

Fixing the Soil
Dan Nielson, Biogreen Organics
Location: Pullman, session sponsored by Fiore Nursery & Landscape Supply
Healthy soil!…healthy plants! – taking the guesswork out of soil analysis and inputs to improve the soil…organically, sensibly and easily! In this session, attendees will learn the basics of mycorrhizae. We’ll also examine why nutrient levels need to meet minimum standards and the “red flags” to look for in soil test results.

 11:10 – 11:20 a.m.   BREAK


 11:20 a.m. – 12:35 p.m.   BREAKOUTS

Deluge & Drought: Using Sustainable SITES Criteria for Home Landscapes in a New Era
Julia Bunn, The Spirited Gardener
Location: Alsdorf Auditorium, session sponsored by Wakefield Biochar
Explore a project that achieved LEED Residential Platinum status because of choices that were made for the LEED 3.0 system! The focus went beyond those criteria to embrace even more of the Sustainable SITES objectives, that our industry needs to embrace in all of our projects. See how sustainable SITES principles were used during inception of a project and saved the client money in the end.

A New Vision for Permascaping
Ken Williams, Horticulturist
AnnaMaria Leon, Permaculture Chicago Teaching Institute
Location: Pullman, Session Sponsored by Contree
Attend this session to review the differences between sustainable landscaping and ecological landscaping. You’ll also learn examples of how regenerative landscapes created community and can draw on economic renaissance. The audience will discuss how to participate in the development of integrated landscapes that provide for the needs of today without compromising the potential of tomorrow.

 12:35 – 2:00 p.m.   LUNCH


 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.   BREAKOUTS

Green Infrastructure Maintenance: Standards and Lessons Learned
Alyssa Schmitt, Stormwater Solutions Engineering, LLC 
Location: Alsdorf Auditorium, session sponsored by SavATree
The topic of whether green infrastructure (GI) is “worth it” can be a divisive one. Proponents say that GI is more cost-effective than grey infrastructure and provides multiple benefits. Opponents argue that GI maintenance is too complicated, and a time suck they can’t afford. In an attempt to heal the divide as part of its efforts to bring about a cost-effective, large-scale increase in green infrastructure in its service area, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (District) contracted with Stormwater Solutions Engineering, LLC (SSE) to develop standards for bioswales, green roofs, rain gardens, porous pavement, wetlands, stormwater trees, cisterns, native landscaping and soil amendments. In this interactive session, we’ll share these maintenance standards, “lessons learned”, and ask landscape professionals for input on communities doing things right.

Birds in the Garden: Creating an Eco-friendly Bird Oasis
Pam Karlson, Waxwing Studio, Inc. 
Location: Pullman
Inviting native birds into gardens is a joyful way to connect to nature and help sustain bird populations. Having documented over 110 bird species in the Chicago bird habitat she created, Pam Karlson discusses landscape enhancements and eco-friendly practices to attract resident and migratory birds. With so many native birds in serious decline, creating an inviting habit is a way everyone can help sustain bird populations. This photo rich presentation includes Pam’s photographs of many visiting birds, pollinators, and the plants that attract/support them. Tips include landscape enhancements, eco-friendly practices and plant selection, with an emphasis on natives/nativars. Also covered is Chicagoland’s importance along the migratory route, bird species diversity, diet/foraging, nesting, supplemental water/feeding and citizen science.

 3:00 – 3:10 p.m.   BREAK


 3:10 p.m. – 4:10 p.m.   KEYNOTE

Design with Maintenance in Mind
Julie Snell, TEND Landscapes, Inc. 
Location: Alsdorf Auditorium, session sponsored by Davey
Landscapes don’t take care of themselves. Designing with maintenance in mind means realizing there is no such thing as a ‘no-maintenance’ landscape. Just as you wouldn’t buy a new car, never change the oil and expect the engine to last, you can’t expect a landscape to function and provide beauty and environmental benefits without planning for maintenance. Creating a shift in thinking and practice is a challenge for any industry. How do we raise the bar? How do we increase the perceived and actual value of maintenance, particularly when we are expecting more from built landscapes such as layered green infrastructure and the need for ecosystem services in our dense urbanized spaces? This presentation will focus on challenging these perceptions and consider ways to shift attitudes and actions to drive change.

 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.   NETWORKING RECEPTION

Reception will include a live band and raffles. 

Want to Learn More?

Contact AnneMarie Drufke ( for further information about Impact Conference: Building Sustainable Landscapes.

Thanks to our Premier Sponsor!

Thanks to our Session Sponsors!

Thanks to our Tabletop Sponsors!

Thanks to our Green Sponsor!