Talks

Thomas Rainer is a highly sought after public speaker whose passionate and provocative talks have inspired and entertained audiences all over the east coast. 

If you would like to talk with Thomas about speaking to your group or symposium, please contact him at groundeddesign@gmail.com. Past topics are listed below, but topics can easily be tailored to your group and needs.  


2014 Talks and Lectures:

January 9-10  New Directions in the American Landscape, 25th Anniversary: Assessing & Reassessing Ecological Landscape Design. Connecticut College, New London, CT

9am-5pm. "Artful Interpretations" Join landscape architect Thomas Rainer to learn how an understanding of naturally occurring plant communities can reshape traditional landscape design aesthetics and offer new ways of looking at the native versus exotic debate. Specific strategies for adapting wild plant communities to a variety of urban and suburban settings will be explained, demonstrating ways to achieve a new level of aesthetic richness and ecological functionality in our designed landscapes. Other speakers include James Hitchmough, Nancy Aten, Travis Beck, Kurt Culbertson, Carol Franklin, Carol Gracie, Rebecca McMackin, Darrel Morrison, Nick Novick, Marc Pastorek, and Larry Weaner.


9am-5pm. "Artful Interpretations" Other speakers include Nancy Aten, Travis Beck, Kurt Culbertson, Nigel Dunnett, Carol Franklin, Carol Gracie, James Grimes, Rebecca McMackin, Darrel Morrison, Marc Pastorek, Thomas Rainer, Larry Weaner.


March 1  Miami Valley Gardening Conference, Dayton, Ohio. Gardening for the Next Decade

Keynote Speaker along with Jeff Lowenfels. Sinclair Comm. College Ponitz Center.


March 20  The New York Botanical Garden. 14th Annual Winter Lecture Series

10am-12pm. "Designing with Native Plants." This thought–provoking critique of the current approach to designing with natives will suggest an alternative: bold, modern composition based on artful interpretations of native plant communities. Even a limited palette can have the emotional power of a large landscape when it evokes our deeper associations with plants. This process of distilling native communities into striking, adaptable patterns—particularly in urban and suburban sites that have little in common with the native plants that once flourished there—provides an inclusive road map for creating lush, dynamic plantings that can be replicated in any setting.


May 20  Georgia Perennial Plant Association, Atlanta Georgia. 7pm

7pm. "Designed Plant Communities" Barbara Allen Memorial Lecture


June 7th  Mid South Hydrangea Society. Memphis, TN. Dixon Gallery and Gardens


July 19th Cullowhee Native Plant Conference. Western Carolina University

9:00-10:00am. Saturday morning plenary session.

October 17th Perennial Plant Conference, Scott Arboretum Swathmore College


Past Speaking Topics:

Native Plant Composition Based on Artful Interpretations of Plant Communities

This talk offers a critique of the horticultural approach to using native plants and suggests an alternative: composition based on artful interpretations of native plant communities.  This requires the designer to carefully understand native plant communities and abstract the visual essence of these spaces in order to create modern interpretations that convey a native community's sense of place and visual harmony.

Native Plants for a New American Cottage Garden

It's time to take a fresh look at the cottage garden.  This traditionally British form can be easily adapted for American gardens using American plants.  The charming jumble of perennials and shrubs can be a truly sustainable and beautiful model for small gardens.  American gardeners can have all the advantages of a cottage garden--the romantic appeal, the low maintenance, and the goopy prettiness of it all--with a wildlife friendly native mix.

The End of Groundcovers

The use of groundcovers may be the single most pernicious thing that gardeners have done to the environment since DDT.  Groundcovers represent a failure of imagination.  This talk examines the use, origin, and philosophy behind groundcovers and proposes real, workable alternatives for our toughest garden spaces. 

Using Perennials and Grasses in Tough Spaces and Public Gardens

Why do we reserve our toughest landscape spaces for only trees and sod?  Why can't we use large masses of perennials and grasses in tough, low maintenance areas?  This talk explores how to use the most ephemeral of garden plants--perennials and grasses--successfully in tough, barren, landscapes.  It time for our parks, commercial landscapes, and private gardens to embrace the seasonal beauty,  bold color, and ecological richness of perennials and grasses.  Proven strategies for success. 

Planting Style and Groundbreaking Planting Designers

This talk explores how to use plant selection and design to introduce personal style into gardens and landscape.  We will look at some of the top planting designers over the last century and examine how they use plants as an expressive an artistic medium.  How to create distinctive planting designs and elements of style are explored.

Advanced Compositional Strategies for Planting Design

This talk looks in detail at some of the latest innovations in planting design.  We will talk about how to confidently mix shrubs, perennials, and grasses in a new, more modern, and more ecological style.  Strategies include interplanting, matrix planting, block massing, and plant massing based on ecological succession models. 

Designing with Bulbs and Annuals

Bulbs (or geophytes--plants with underground storage) are often used for temporary effects, but many bulbs can be long-term performers in the garden.  This talk will focus on how to use bulbs for both impact planting and as a complement to perennial planting.  In addition, we'll explore how to intermix annuals into planting beds for heightened effect.

Planting that Responds to the Site

American landscapes are an amalgalm of washed-up ideas from the last century.  The real-estate market and our general conservatism when it comes to design limits our gardens from reaching their true, dynamic potential.  This talk focuses on how to create plantings that respond to the site, how to select plants that fit within its context, and how to make plantings that endure. 

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