Thanks for sending me to Cullowhee!

The NCNPS Cullowhee Scholarship Program sends participants to the annual Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University. Here, participants gather with field trip leaders David Cozzo and Adam Bigelow to look at two Table Mountain Pines on top of Little Green Mountain at the Tranquility Point Overlook. Photo by Sarina Dellinger
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By Sarina Dellinger, Amber Hawes, Katarina Holecek, and Ella Howie

Here are four scholarship recipients’ replies thanking NCNPS for the opportunity to attend last summer’s Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

The NCNPS Scholarship Program has provided scholarships to the annual conference since its inception in 1984. It awards approximately twenty scholarships each year to students, interns at botanical gardens, nature centers and/or parks, and to beginning professionals in a native plant-related field. The Cullowhee Conference emphasizes propagating and preserving native southeastern plant species in the landscape.

So Much More!

Sarina Dellinger is a North Carolina Certified Plant Professional and Certified Environmental Educator. Currently she is a public garden manager in Salisbury with a public park of 43 garden beds, many of which have native plants and support the life cycle of many native fauna. Sarina’s  previous experience as an intern at Highlands Biological Station enabled her to become “passionate about ecology and native plants.” However, Sarina said she realized that “this [Cullowhee] conference stoked that fire for me!” At Cullowhee, she learned about mushrooms, larval host plants, landscape design, Cherokee culture, seasonal maintenance, and so much more!

The Cullowhee Conference “will influence my management and work here” [as a public garden manager.] She learned about adding multiples of the same plants together for pollinators and having consistent blooms from early spring to late fall. She also gained insight into traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).

A Better Environmental Steward

Amber Hawes finds a wall of moss while at a Cullowhee workshop titled, “Moss Magic in Your Landscape with Annie Martin.”

Amber Hawes is an environmental educator at Reedy Creek Nature Center, Charlotte. While at the Cullowhee Conference, “learning more about native plants not only helped me be an informed environmental educator, but also it helped me become a better gardener and environmental steward.”

Amber particularly enjoyed the lecture “Connecting Ecosystems [with wildlife corridors] for Wildlife and Plantlife Biodiversity Conservation” with Johnny Randall. She noted that not only is it important to preserve biodiversity, nature preserves are surrounded by developed land. Amber intends to share that information with participants of the Reedy Creek Preserve’s programs.

She also cited the practical knowledge that Emily Driskill and Joseph Smith shared in ‘Seasonal Maintenance of Naturalistic Native Gardens’ as “being invaluable for me when I eventually have a place for my own garden.”

What An Impact This Has Made!

Katarina Holecek was effusive. “What an impact this experience made on my life and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.” What is her assessment of the opportunity from the NC Native Plant Society? “I can’t wait to come back!” and “it was life changing!”

This coming season Katrina will complete her studies in environmental sciences at UNC Chapel Hill and is “very excited to pursue a career in environmental education or green urban planning with native plants as a focus.”

For Katarina, a favorite part of the conference at Western Carolina University was the tree and herbarium walk. Taking another campus tour of “the new science building and its magnificent herbarium and rooftop garden” planted an idea for Katarina that she now wants to pursue when she returns to the Chapel Hill campus. Along with another intern she met at the conference, she now looks forward to meeting with people at UNC grounds facilities “to discuss what it would take to implement more accessible roof gardens.”

It Works for the General Good

After performing for the talent show at the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference, they strike a jubilant pose.

Ella Howie, a horticultural intern at the Coker Arboretum North Carolina Botanical Garden, felt somewhat new to the plant community. However, while she was at the Cullowhee Conference, she felt “instantly connected to other plant people.” She realized that “a sincere appreciation for nature, and especially native plants, is a gift that intertwines our entire life. Watching these folks greet new and old members, beam with excitement to recollect decades-old stories, or to kindly indulge me in their master expertise, showed me this conference is special.”

At the Cullowhee Conference, Ella appreciated well-articulated lectures “of highly talented botanists, ornithologists, and mycologists who communicated the urgency of conserving biodiversity.”  Being at Cullowhee, Ella said, “added further inspiration for me to join a field within conservation.”

“Your generous donation has been put to great use. Not only has it shown me where I could potentially see myself working long-term and why gardening is a great educational resource but [it was inspiring] because it works for the general good in biological conservation.”

By Sarina Dellinger, Amber Hawes, Katarina Holecek, and Ella Howie
Native Plant News – Winter 2022