• Most of Owen’s topics are suitable for professional and non-professional audiences including home gardeners.
  • The approach and depth of material will be different for the two types of audiences, to be sure attendees get information at their level.
  • Recommended lengths may vary depending on the amount of time available for Q&A and discussion after the talk.
  • Ask about custom programs and other topics in development. Owen is always updating his talks and creating new ones.




This is Owen’s signature presentation, in which he shares his vision of how environmentally and socially conscious landscaping can make a huge contribution to a brighter future. This dynamic, eye-opening talk will forever change the way the participants understand their relationship to the landscape. One part practical lesson in sustainable landscaping techniques from one of the masters of the craft, and one part rousing motivational sermon by a respected “philosopher of horticulture,” this immensely popular talk always sends people away excited about the future and eager to take part in creating a better world.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASustainable Landscaping: A Visionary Look at the Future of Gardens includes a wealth of specific ideas on how to create stable, beautiful landscape systems that really work for property owners and for the environment. It is suitable for home gardeners, as well as professional audiences who can learn how to create profitable business opportunities by incorporating sustainable landscaping principles into their projects. Owen has delivered this presentation to thousands of people in the United States and abroad. Sustainable Landscaping: A Visionary Look at the Future of Gardens is a good first lecture, and combines well with Owen’s other topics for multi-part events. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1.5 hours.)


A03112_044This lecture uses an award-winning sustainable residential landscape to explore how the principles of sustainable landscaping can be applied to a typical site. Plenty of before-and-after images illustrate the benefits and advantages of sustainable approaches to typical design and construction challenges. This talk provides participants with plenty of practical ideas for implementing their own designs. It can stand on its own, but is especially good as a follow-up to Sustainable Landscaping: A Visionary Look at the Future of Gardens. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 45 minutes.)


Over a 20-year design life, 80 percent of the total cost of a typical landscape is maintenance. That’s unnecessary. Anyone who cares for public or private landscapes will profit from learning how to reduce labor and costs, increase income, and help the environment by switching to sustainable practices. There is rarely, if ever, a need for toxic pesticides, smog-belching power equipment, chemical fertilizers, labor-intensive weeding, pruning to control the size of plants, frequent replacement of plants, or any of the other practices of what Owen Dell has termed “adversarial horticulture.” Find out when and why our gardens went from being places of peace to noisy, toxic, greenwaste-strewn battlegrounds. Learn how to get back to the sensible, quiet, clean and environmentally friendly practices that characterized millennia of good garden management, and also explore cutting-edge maintenance techniques usable in all kinds of landscapes. Come away with a new strategy for dealing with the land in your care. Owen started his career in landscape maintenance and has an intimate knowledge of management practices, both good and bad. His insights will change forever the way participants think about their work. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)


Ten Tips SlideA fast-moving, inspirational talk on some of the simple things anyone can do to make their landscaping easier to live with, cheaper to care for, and better for the environment. Having a few key things to go home and do is a great way to motivate an audience to start changing the way they garden. This talk is funny, lively, and full of great insights. (For property owners. Recommended length: 1 hour.)


No landscape can truly be called sustainable if it is made from materials that create damaging impacts at their source or bring toxins or other problems to the site. Owen will show you how to develop a landscape using sustainable, non-toxic, earth-friendly materials. Participants learn how the proper choices in materials can reduce fossil fuel use, preserve natural areas, conserve resources, transform waste into valuable and creative landscape elements, protect the health of workers and users, and support local, living economies. They will see examples of specific materials, find out how to re-design projects for minimal off-site impact and maximum durability, develop cost-effective and environmentally friendly hardscape features, and tap the waste stream for great free materials. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)


Most garden designs focus on how a garden looks, not how it works. Truth is, a successful garden is more than just a pretty scene; it is also a highly functional, stable ecosystem. Without developing the functional side of the design, the garden won’t perform well. It will cause environmental problems, cost more money than it needs to, and it won’t last. In this fun, participatory workshop, attendees learn the essential steps to creating a beautiful home garden that will suit their lifestyle and won’t eat them alive caring for it. The class will guide participants through the basics, inspiring effective solutions and leading them away from common design mistakes. Participants will learn the essentials of environmentally friendly landscape design. Suitable for both home gardeners and entry-level professionals. (For property owners. Recommended length: Three 2-hour sessions.)


Adobe MakingAttention landscape professionals! If you’re not offering sustainable landscaping options to your clients, you are missing out on the biggest business opportunity in the green industry today. This very popular class will cover some of the great new possibilities for expanding into the booming field of environmentally sound landscaping practices and products. There’s no easier sell in the industry, because sustainable landscaping saves clients money and appeals to the values of the 85% of Americans who consider themselves environmentalists. The workshop will show participants how to make money in developing profit centers such as ecoroofs, pervious paving, watershed friendly landscaping, integrated pest management, alternative building methods and a lot more. They will go away with a new enthusiasm for their work, and they will be eager to change their whole outlook on their businesses. Suitable for landscape architects, landscape contractors, landscape maintenance professionals, and others in the industry, as well as those interested in a career in landscaping. WHEN IT COMES TO BUSINESS, GREEN IS RED HOT! (For professionals and aspiring professionals. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)




MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHome food growing is more popular than ever, and with good reason. There’s nothing quite like the taste and nutritional value of fresh, organic, home-grown produce, and nothing like the pleasure of growing and harvesting it. Owen has been designing and managing residential-scale food gardens for decades, and in this lecture he shares his knowledge and inspires people to give home food growing a try. As a landscape architect he understands the value of beauty, and shows how to make an edible landscape just as beautiful as an ornamental one. He is also on the cutting edge of research on the environmental efficiency of home food production and shares tips on how to grow crops at a net gain and in a way that’s friendly to the environment. This talk includes lots of inspiring images of beautiful food gardens. (For property owners. Recommended length: 1 hour.)


MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to the National Gardening Association, 35 percent of Americans grow food at home or in a community garden. A sunny front yard is often the best spot for edible crops. In this zesty, fun talk, Owen will teach how to create a beautiful, productive garden in the front yard. In addition to practical ideas and lots of great images of beautiful front yard food gardens, the talk will address legal issues, safety considerations, and neighborhood food sharing strategies. (For property owners. Recommended length: 1 hour.)


“If you can’t do it without fossil fuels, by definition, it ain’t sustainable.” These were the words of world-renowned author and oil expert Richard Heinberg (“Powerdown” and “The Party’s Over,” New Society Publishers). It’s true, isn’t it? But don’t despair! Beautiful gardens existed long before there was fossil fuel. Our dependence on oil for the creation and care of gardens and landscaping is not a necessity, just a bad habit. The wise garden enthusiast and the savvy professional can redefine their practices to make the best of the transition to fossil-free landscaping. Indeed, fossil-free is the Next Big Thing in horticulture.

PICT9140_2Many of the practices that are currently standard fare in landscape construction and management will become part of the dinosaur era as oil prices continue to skyrocket. This includes the use of power tools and equipment, off-site materials, irrigation systems, pesticides, water intensive plantings and a lot more. How will home gardeners and landscape professionals operate in this radically new environment? What would a fossil-free landscape look like? How would it be constructed and maintained? Is such a thing even possible in the modern world? Fossil-Free Landscaping: Horticulture For A Very Different Future will explore these questions in a fascinating, one-of-a-kind workshop.

Owen Dell is the founder of the Fossil-Free Landscaping Group in Santa Barbara, California, believed to be the first of its kind anywhere. He has been researching and developing solutions to fossil fuel consumption in landscaping and gardening. Come hear the latest information on this timely and important subject. Participants will come away with a fossil-free plan for their gardens and businesses, specific strategies to reduce or eliminate fossil fuel use in the landscape, and a new outlook on the future of horticulture. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)


The built landscape has become an integral, and often damaging, element of the urban watershed. We treat rainwater as a waste product instead of a valuable resource. This leads us to install drainage systems that efficiently sluice water off site and into public streets where it causes flooding and eventually finds its way into streams, lakes, and oceans to cause pollution and eutrophication. In the meantime, our landscape plants go thirsty and we are forced to purchase inferior and environmentally damaging municipal water to make up for what we threw away. It’s an upside-down approach to what should be a no-brainer: keep the rainwater on the site!

IMG_0414This fascinating workshop will bring participants up to speed on the many ways that gardeners and landscapers can not only mitigate the impact of their work on the watershed, but how they can have a positive effect on both the watershed and their own projects by harvesting water, installing eco-roofs, permeable paving, dry streambeds, bioswales, and more. Whether participants work on residential, commercial or public projects, or just putter in their own gardens, this information will give them valuable skills and resources, improve their work, save them money, and open up new opportunities for themselves and/or for their clients. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)


MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERACollecting rainwater in tanks, cisterns, rain gardens, bioswales, and other landscape elements is increasingly popular. It’s time to stop treating rainwater like a waste product and start enjoying the benefits of saving it on site. Harvested rainwater is good for plants, it’s free, and it offers added security in times of drought. Keeping rainwater on site reduces urban flooding and pollution. And it’s easy to do! Learn about storage strategies, in-ground techniques, and practical information on how to develop and implement a rainwater harvesting plan for any property. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 1-1/2 hours.)


Thirty to 60 percent of urban fresh water in the U.S. is used to keep lawns alive. Americans use 270 billion gallons of water per week on their lawns, which is enough to grow 81 million acres of organic produce. And that’s not all. Most landscapes are designed to waste valuable rainwater, causing urban flooding and pollution and depriving the land of the water it needs. Water is then taken from often-distant watersheds at great environmental and financial expense and applied to landscapes with stunning inefficiency as a result of poorly designed irrigation equipment, never-adjusted conventional irrigation controllers, and brain-dead water management practices. This has got to stop.

Water In The Landscape: Strategies For Conservation will provide professional and amateur landscape managers with the tools they need to understand how to conserve rainwater and manage imported water with optimum efficiency and maximum benefit to users and the environment. Participants will learn about rain gardens, pervious pavement, bioswales, dry streambeds, percolation chambers, and other cutting-edge water harvesting techniques, as well as how to develop a water management plan, do a water audit, track landscape water use, retrofit inefficient irrigation systems, choose state-of-the-art smart irrigation controllers, and a lot more. This class will pay for itself with the savings in your first water bill. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)


IMG_0644Consider the impact of poor planting choices. A plant that is not suited to soil conditions, watering regime, climate, light levels, or other factors will be weak, susceptible to pests and diseases, short-lived, and generally troublesome. A plant that is too big for the space allocated to it will require constant, expensive, laborious, and environmentally-damaging pruning to control size; this will continue until the hapless plant is eventually replaced with a more appropriate one. Why create conditions for failure? Learn how to choose the right plant for every condition and how to create stable, sustainable plant communities that require minimal or no inputs of water, fertilizer, pest control, pruning, and the other costly and harmful needs that are most often created by bad planting design. This class isn’t just for beginners; judging by the work done by many licensed professionals, there is a burning need for this information to get out to the industry as well as to home gardeners. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)


A small percentage of garden plants and fungi are responsible for the majority of plant poisoning cases. Most victims are children under the age of six years old. An awareness of the problem and a little knowledge can save lives. This short lecture presents the commonest poisonous plants and fungi, and is suitable for day care centers, nursery schools, and similar institutions, as well as for parents of small children. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 1-1/2 hours.)


The average 1000-square-foot lawn will cost more than $50,000 to maintain over a 20-year life span. Lawns are the most consumptive and least interesting part of the garden. They offer nothing to wildlife, use more fertilizer in the United States than is used in the entire Third World to grow food, necessitate the use of highly polluting mowing equipment, relentlessly deplete our limited water supplies, and demand constant attention for very meager rewards.

Fortunately there are many alternatives to the traditional American lawn. What to Do With the Lawn explores new and exciting options for turf areas. The class will cover design ideas, organic ways to remove an old lawn, alternative low-maintenance meadows, organic lawn-care tricks and tips, how to install new plantings and irrigation, and much more. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 3 hours.)


You’ve just come home with a carload of plants from the nursery. Now what do you do? Join Owen Dell for a practical, hands-on class that will teach you how to provide a good home for your new plants. Learn the insider tricks for picking a good location, checking soil conditions, making appropriate improvements to your soil, choosing and using tools, and getting plants established. You’ll even learn the easiest way to dig a hole! This is a lively, fun class that will make you a planting expert. (For entry-level professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1-1/2 to 2 hours.)


PICT7238The non-living features of a garden, or “hardscape,” are critical to successful home landscape design. Sustainable Hardscape: Floors, Walls, And Ceilings is an introduction to sustainable hardscape elements that balance aesthetic, environmental, and practical concerns. Participants tackle the three elements of the outdoor room: the floor, the walls, and the ceiling. Each segment covers the most environmentally friendly materials and techniques, with plenty of stylish examples and information on availability, design and construction techniques, and creative professional design techniques. The take-away is a new vision of how to develop a cutting-edge hardscape without destroying the planet. Suitable for home gardeners and professionals. (For property owners. Recommended length: 2 to 4 hours.)


Slopes are special: difficult and dangerous to work on, susceptible to erosion and landslides, costly to terrace and retain. Yet for all their challenging ways, hillside gardens can be the zestiest and most interesting of places. This class focuses on the special needs of the hillside gardener: erosion control, runoff management, retaining structures, access, appropriate plantings, irrigation systems, and maintenance. It will also cover design approaches and offer examples of successful designs (as well as horrific failures). (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.)


Whether your house is surrounded by forest, chaparral or non-native landscape plantings, you really need to consider the safety of your home in a wildfire. We are all potentially at risk, even those of us who don’t live in so-called “high fire hazard areas.” PICT2246Through lecture, videos, and handouts, Firescaping: Making Communities Safer In Wildfires will teach how to prepare for wildfire by evaluating and making changes in your landscaping and it management. You will also learn how to evaluate the fire safety of your house and make appropriate modifications. Owen Dell is a nationally recognized expert in firescaping, co-designer of the Firescape Garden in Santa Barbara, California, and a consultant on urban/wildland interface fires to the United States Forest Service, National Fire Protection Association and other organizations. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 2 hours.) 


Those who are planning to design or install their own sprinkler or drip irrigation system, or who want to understand how irrigation systems work, will find this class eye-opening and useful. Sustainable Landscape Irrigation: The Nuts And Bolts de-mystifies residential irrigation systems and makes them understandable to even the most technologically challenged gardeners. Participants learn how to evaluate the water needs of plants, measure the water pressure, choose systems for specific areas, make a plot plan, engineer the system and even install it without any mishaps. Owen makes this potentially dry subject fun. (For entry-level professsionals and property owners. Recommended length: 3 to 6 hours.)


MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASmart garden designers arrange plantings according to water need. With plants grouped in dry and not-so-dry zones irrigation can be properly accomplished, plants will get just the right amount of water for their needs, and both water and money will be saved. This class will show how to know which plants go together, and how to set up an irrigation system in hydrozones for optimal water conservation and successful plant health. Hydrozoning is one of those tricks that will benefit all landscapes and keep our increasingly water-thirsty communities on a path towards optimal conservation of this precious resource. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 hour.)


In this unique experiential field class, participants learn to really see a landscape in depth. We visit a public site to look at the aesthetic, legal, safety, engineering, environmental, cultural, social, and emotional aspects of a landscape and learn how to integrate them into one’s own garden or designs. Emphasis will be on the integration of function, aesthetics, and the environment. The first half of the class is an on-site walking lecture. During the second half, participants go in pairs to look at a new section of the property and develop their own impressions. At the end, everyone participates in a group session to discuss what they’ve found. This class is about more than just technical things. It is about developing a way of perceiving, about deep seeing. Participants will enjoy learning different and eye-opening ways of understanding the garden. NOTE: This field class requires advance planning to select an appropriate site, transportation to and from the site, and adequate liability insurance coverage, all to be provided by the sponsor. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 2 hours plus travel time.)


The work of architect Christopher Alexander has influenced generations of architects and designers of all kinds. His groundbreaking “pattern language” provides a set of archetypes inherent in all built environments from the interior of a living room to the configuration of a regional or major urban area. Pattern language offers much to the designer of landscapes, acting as both inspiration for the process of deep design and as a means of checking one’s work against a standard for what Alexander calls the “timeless way of building.” In this thought-provoking workshop, Owen walks participants through the use of pattern language in landscape design, sharing the core patterns relevant to outdoor environments of all sizes and discussing their application in real-world practice. (For professionals and property owners. Recommended length: 1 to 1.5 hours.)

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