RINLA’s annual meeting fosters linkage with CELS

By Rudi Hempe
CELSnews editor

The relationship between the RI Nursery and Landscape Association (RINLA) and the College of the Environment and Life Sciences grew stronger recently when the association held its two-day annual meeting in the unique accommodations provided by the college’s Center for Biotechnology and Life sciences.

The event, held heretofore at other venues around the state in years past, brought    employees and owners of green industry firms together for a series of informational presentations including one which described the latest research findings being done by members of the Department of Plant Sciences and Entomology. Some 45 vendors had displays at the meeting which was attended by 250.

While RINLA has been involved with URI for many years (it was responsible for building the URI Botanical Garden) the connection has grown in recent years. The association has a small office space at East Farm and many of its educational programs involve URI faculty and staff.

The annual meeting took place between semesters and thus the college was able to put two large lecture halls, the atrium and the large foyer at CBLS at the disposal of RINLA. In addition, the university provided convenient parking in the Chafee Hall faculty parking lot. The first floor foyer and the plaza under the atrium were used for vendor displays and tables and chairs for meeting attendees for break refreshments and lunches.

Welcome speeches were delivered by URI President David Dooley and Curt Spaulding, administrator of the EPA’s new England Region on the first day and CELS Dean John Kirby via video on the second day. Kirby was in California attending a science conference.

In his remarks, Spaulding, former executive director of Save The Bay set the tone for one of the RINLA meeting’s main themes—that water, especially excessive stormwater issues, will be a challenge for the future as climate change brings about troublesome weather patterns.

“We know we are in big trouble,” said Spaulding, noting that climate change is changing weather patterns across the country including extreme rain storms.

Others at the conference also referred to storm water issues including Janet Coit, director of the RI Department of Environmental Management, Tobias Wolf of Wolf Designs who showed various projects designed to handle storm and drought conditions and Dave Renzi of Out in Front Horticulture who noted he is changing his business into a new role of addressing water issues such as construction of rain gardens.

The keynote speaker was Paul Fletcher of the F.A. Bartlett Tree expert Company who described the firm’s history and philosophy.

Other topics covered during the meeting included digital marketing, native pollinators, successful business practices, the decline of bees, branding and the value of public gardens.

An annual presentation was given by Dr. Richard Casagrande on the projects URI researchers are working on including the emerald ash borer (advice: don’t plant ash trees); the Asian long-horned beetle ( expect Rhode island will be affected soon); hemlock wooly adelgid (resistant trees look promising); phragmites control (a moth may be released in two years to combat the invasive); birch leaf minor (biocontrol project is a success) and black swallow-wort control (a moth may provide biocontrol soon).

Heather Faubert reported on the downy mildew problem affecting impatiens plants and suggested the landscapers not plant them. New Guinea impatiens are not affected.

She also talked about the crypt gall wasp which affects oaks, boxwood blight, winter moth (a fly may provide biocontrol) and the new small fruit pest, the spotted wing drosophila, which is now in Rhode Island.

Vanessa Venturini of the URI Outreach center provided information on the Rhody Native program which is intended to promote more native plants in landscaopes, the URI Master Gardener program, the Master Composting program and the activities at the Botanical Center in Providence.

An Award of Merit was given to Kenneth Ayers, chief of the RI Division of Agriculture for his many years of service. A Lifetime RINLA Membership was given to Wilfrid Gates and Robert Matthews of Robert Allen Matthews design was given the Young Nurseryman Award.