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If you buy local, turn out the lights, and recycle, you could be ready for a weekend crash course in native plants at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens. Titled "Natives and Beyond: Sustainable Plants, Gardens, and Communities," the Mid-South Native Plant Conference returns to the Dixon after a 13-year hiatus, and Dale Skaggs, the museum's director of horticulture, says the time is right.

"At this point, we've been successful in promoting awareness of native plants, but now it's time to look at the bigger picture," Skaggs says. "Native plants are about clean air, clean water, and reduced use of pesticides. Plus, they promote regional identity, and what's more local than that?"

Intended for both landscapers and gardening enthusiasts, the conference will feature speakers discussing the best plants, practices, and designs for gardens that are beautiful, practical, and good for the planet. "This conference is not just for professionals," Skaggs says. "We want to show people what they can do in their own backyard."

Columnist and native-plant guru Felder Rushing will kick off the conference Friday evening with tips on "How To Get Away with Growing Wildflowers in Town." There also will be a meet-and-greet with refreshments, and participants can explore the Dixon's redesigned shade garden. "We've installed a new fountain that uses all-natural processes to keep the water crystal clean," Skaggs says.

On Saturday, author and teacher Cole Burrell will discuss the best native plants for tough site conditions, and environmental educator Ann English will promote rain gardens, green roofs, and conservation landscaping. Other speakers include Peter Wyse Jackson, garden designer Rick Lewandowski, and nurseryman (and storyteller!) Don Shadow from Winchester, Tennessee.

On Sunday, participants will head outdoors for a series of tours. They can visit the woodland gardens of local residents, get an inside look at OyVey Nursery in Arlington, or view the seasonal wildflowers on a guided stroll through Overton Park.

Mid-south Native Plant Conference, Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Friday, October 8th, through Sunday, October 10th.

$100 for members; $125 for nonmembers. Call 761-5250 to register.

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