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A certificate in Ecological Gardening from Phipps Conservatory will give you a strong foundation in good gardening practices as well as a holistic look at the native plants and ecosystems of Western Pennsylvania. With this background you will be able to create gardens and residential landscapes that reflect an understanding of natural systems and provide beautiful places of refuge for people and local wildlife. Courses will cover botany and plant science as well as sustainable plants (those which are well suited to local conditions and won’t take over, including natives) and how to identify plants in the field. Garden plant propagation will be explored along with the practical skills of maintaining the health of a garden using organic strategies. The certificate includes a look at the ecosystems of Western Pennsylvania and concludes with a course on home garden design.

The study of Ecological Gardening is for those who have a vision of their yards or gardens as ecological havens which provide for a community of wildlife and create an ecosystem of which the designer is a part. Our students are both homeowners and land care professionals looking to deepen their knowledge and understanding of local ecology and how to create more sustainable landscapes. Our qualified instructors will help you meet your goals as they lead you through a final design project and guide you toward the receipt of a certificate.

This certificate is designed to be completed in one year and begins in January and ends in December of each year. It is possible to complete this program in one year, depending on your choice of electives and availability to attend classes when offered. It can, however, be completed over a longer period of time. All core classes will be offered annually while electives will change; see the website for up-to-date information.

Ecological Gardening Certificate Requirements

To receive a certificate, students must satisfactorily complete seven core courses. Additionally, 20 hours of electives must be completed to qualify for a certificate in Ecological Gardening.

Core Courses

  • Botany for Gardeners
  • Sustainable Landscape Plants
  • Plant Propagation
  • Field Botany
  • Sustainable Gardening Principles and Practices
  • Ecology and the Designed Landscape
  • Home Garden Design 

Electives

Electives include various gardening and design classes which allow students to explore diverse topics and enhance their overall learning, including courses on native plants, plant health care and habitat gardening. At least 20 hours of elective credits are required. Several electives will be offered each semester and will change year to year. Check the website for updates and class descriptions.

View Classes

Home Garden Design Project

Your study of Ecological Gardening will culminate with a residential garden design showcasing your learning.

Outside Credits

If you have recently attended a university course or other continuing education program which you think could be applied to credits in an existing core course, please contact the Adult Education Administrative Assistant at 412-441-4442, ext. 3925. Successful completion of Phipps Sustainable Landcare Accreditation training will count toward the Sustainable Gardening Principles and Practices course as well as 10 elective credits.


Instructor Bios

Philip Bauerle
Philip is a Landscape Technician with Eichenlaub, Inc. Before that he was the Interim Master Gardener Coordinator with the Allegheny County Penn State Extension, where he organized volunteer projects and provided horticulture education. He earned his BA in Biology at The College of Wooster.

Joshua Beblo
Joshua holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from The Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Education from Duquesne University. He is an adjunct professor at Penn State University, and teaches courses on design and professional practice in the landscape architecture program.

Braley Burke
Braley is the coordinator of Phipps' integrated pest management (IPM) program, focused on environmentally responsible and least-toxic pest management strategies.

Meg Graham
Meg is the owner of May Apple Ecological Gardening and Design. She does garden design, installation, and fosters the creation and preservation of natural and built spaces in diverse environments both in the city and outlying areas. She is also a Phipps Sustainable Landcare Accredited Professional.

Leslie Kaplan
Leslie Kaplan is a Phipps Master Gardener and owner of Rush Creek Design, specializing in residential gardens. She enjoys collecting and using unusual and rare plants in her gardens.

Linda Kramer
Linda Kramer teaches our propagation classes. Linda is co-owner of the landscape gardening firm Garden! LLC and a woodland plant nursery Locust Spring Nursery. She and business partner, John Totten, have consulted on native plant projects for Chatham University, The Pittsburgh Zoo and Fallingwater. John and Linda founded the Audubon Society’s native plant nursery and have taught classes on native plants and their uses in the designed landscape for Penn State, Chatham University and Phipps.

John Totten
John Totten teaches our Native Herbaceous and Woodland Garden classes. John is co-owner of the landscape gardening firm Garden! LLC and a woodland plant nursery, Locust Spring Nursery. He and business partner, Linda Kramer, have consulted on native plant projects for Chatham University, The Pittsburgh Zoo and Fallingwater. John and Linda founded the Audubon Society’s native plant nursery and have taught classes on native plants and their uses in the designed landscape for Penn State, Chatham University and Phipps.

Photos © Louis Ruediger