After COVID forced the cancellation of WVNLA’s annual conference earlier this year, we are coming back with a bang, with an explosive Winter Symposium on January 26, 2022.

Marty Grunder and Rick Darke will headline the 2022 symposium at Charleston’s Four Points at Sheraton. Marty is a leading voice on green industry leadership, sales, and company culture. He will lead profit-track participants throughout the day. Rick is a broadly knowledgeable field botanist, horticulturist, and photographer. He will present the morning session of the design track.

Through the years, various WVNLA members have heard Marty speak and suggested that we bring him to the Winter Symposium. He was scheduled to join us this year but rescheduled to 2022 when COVID made indoor gatherings dicey.

Marty, who is based in Dayton, Ohio, is president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Company and of The Grow Group, a leading green industry consultancy.  He discovered his entrepreneurial spirit when he was just a teenager pushing a used lawn mower. He was looking for a way to put himself through college. Through determination and hard work, he grew his initial $25 investment into Grunder Landscaping Company (GLC), one of the most successful operations of its kind in the Midwest. GLC has earned more than 40 local and national design awards and is a two-time winner of the Better Business Bureau’s Eclipse Integrity Award. Marty has been named entrepreneur of the year by both Ernst & Young and the US Small Business Administration.

The author of The 9 Super Simple Steps to Entrepreneurial Success, he has coached thousands of landscaping professionals and companies across the US and Canada. He has delivered more than 550 talks, motivating audiences of all sizes, from small gatherings of 20 to a stadium of 9,000, to achieve success.

When Marty speaks, landscape pros listen because they know they’ll get the unvarnished truth from someone who’s faced many of the same challenges they’re facing and found a way to consistently come out on top.

Marty’s presentations include

  • The Four Pillars of a Successful Business
  • I Can See Clearly Now: Articulating Your Company’s Vision
  • Keep the Front Door Open and the Back Door Closed: Recruiting and Retaining
  • There’s a System for That: Processes and Systems for Success
  • Show Me the Money: Profit

Rick Darke is an independent consultant, author, and photographer based in northeastern Pennsylvania. His work is grounded in an observational ethic that blends ecology, horticulture, and cultural geography in the design and stewardship of living landscapes. His collaborative projects include parks, botanic gardens, postindustrial sites, transportation corridors, conservation developments, and residential landscapes.  Recent public projects include the Iron Garden at Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark, located near Pittsburgh, and the Moss Gibbs Woodland Garden at the Parklands of Floyds Fork in Louisville, Kentucky.

Rick began as a mechanical engineering major at the University of Delaware. He also took classes in art, cultural geography, and anthropology before graduating with a degree in plant science, with a dual focus on field botany and horticulture. Rick launched his independent practice in 1997, following 20 years on the staff of Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens. As curator of plants at Longwood, he played a major role in developing the gardens’ indoor and outdoor displays and in international plant exploration.   

Rick’s many books include The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest; The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable LandscapesThe Wild Garden: Expanded EditionThe Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, co-authored with Doug Tallamy; and Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes, co-authored with Piet Oudolf. He also teaches and lectures internationally on sustainable landscape design, planning, and conservation, and the ethical underpinnings of all of these. On the broad topic of livable landscapes, Rick has addressed audiences in the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Chile.

Rick has been studying and photographing West Virginia’s wild habitats and community places for nearly 50 years. He uses insights from this work to inform and inspire his creative projects in public and private landscapes and gardens.  Rick’s own garden, created with his wife and cohorticulturist Melinda Zoehrer, comprises 1.5 acres of rolling, piedmont  terraine adjacent to the White Clay Creek Preserve. It features locally native and adapted plants. The garden has served as their living laboratory for more than a quarter century.  For further information, visit

In his segment on drawing inspiration from West Virginia’s wild and wonderful places, Rick will feature many photographs of West Virginia flora. After a break, he will deliver a design lecture on the gardens he and his wife nurture.  A tech-savvy speaker, Rick can access anything from his own archives and online during his presentation to address audience members’ specific questions.

Registration for the Winter Symposium will open in November. The fee





The 2022 Winter Symposium will be held January 26 at Four Points by Sheraton in Charleston.


The 2020 Winter Symposium featured a great lineup of speakers for both tracks: one focused on design and the other on profitable business practices.

View the schedule here.

On the design side, Scott Beuerlein, who manages Botanical Garden Outreach at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, kicks off the day with “Woodies That Make Us Go ‘Wow!’” Scott is a garden writer and horticultural speaker whose articles have appeared in notable national publications. He was awarded gold medals by the International Association of Garden Communicators and is a certified landscape technician and arborist in Ohio.

Tom Vasale follows with a presentation on “Specialty Pruning.” Tom is a retired horticulturist residing in Charleston. He owned and operated Tom’s Word Horticulture Consulting, a small design-build landscaping business, for 23 years before retiring. Prior to that, he was the director of Municipal Beautification for the City of Charleston, the agriculture extension agent for West Virginia University in Kanawha County, and the state horticulturist for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

Michael Hasenmyer of West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design will show how to put technology to work for your designs when he discusses “Visualization Technologies in the Field of Landscape Architecture.” Michael is an associate professor of landscape architecture who teaches his students how to most effectively use computer technology in their designs.

After lunch and a chance to connect with colleagues and vendors, design-side attendees will hear from Scott Beuerlein again when he presents “Why Horticulture Matters.”

Irvin Etienne of The Garden at Newfields in Indianapolis will close the day’s talks, speaking on “Gardening without Privacy.” He’ll discuss his work in a public garden, where mistakes are not easily hidden in well-trafficked areas. In his designs, he relies on attractive, no-fuss perennials that look good in multiple seasons. Irvin is the horticulture display coordinator for the Garden at Newfields, where he has worked for more than 25 years. He writes an award-winning blog for GardenComm, as well as articles for Fine Gardening and other magazines.

Speakers in the profit track will focus on employee recruitment and retention, issues surrounding glysophate, workers’ compensation, and branding and marketing. The track finishes with an idea swap.

Danielle Collinson of Blades of Green Lawn Care and B.O.G. Pest Control in Edgewater, MD, cues up the day with “Recruiting and Retaining in a Digital Age.” Danielle is a division manager for the company and manages the Pest and Plant Health Care departments. She questions things that “have always been done that way” in her quest to advance the company. A passionate leader, she urges people on her team to learn new things and grow themselves.

Dr. Hannah Mathers has more than 26 years of experience, including training and research, in weed control for landscape and nursery crops. She’ll put that knowledge to the test when she takes on “The Great Glysophate Debate,” exploring the science behind claims that the active ingredient in RoundUp causes cancer. Previously a professor at Ohio State University and Oregon State University, she owns Mathers Environmental Science Services LLC in Gahanna, OH.

Clarence Lykins of Partners & Associates Insurance in Huntington, WV, will help attendees wade through the sometimes murky waters of workers’ compensation with “Understanding Workers’ Comp.” In addition to business insurance, Partners & Associates offers life, homeowners, and auto coverage.

John Auge of Auge+Gray+Drake Collective Works in Charleston is all about marketing. He’s going to get you excited about it, too, when he shows you the importance of branding and how it will help your business grow. In “Putting Branding to Work for Your Company,” he’ll show you how to differentiate your company from the competition. A company cofounder, John has more than 25 years of experience in branding and identity and corporate communications.

After John’s presentation, the profit track concludes with an idea swap. Have you tried something new that worked well? Or maybe flopped? Wonder if anyone else has tried this? Prepare to share! Let’s get the ideas flowing and learn a little something from each other.

The WVNLA Annual Meeting follows the symposium, starting at 4 p.m.

If you haven’t been to a symposium in some time, check us out. The cost to attend the 2020 Winter Symposium is $50 for WVNLA members and $100 for nonmembers.

Register for this Event