Are Landscapes Going Green?

By Larry Bartlett

Well, actually the landscape industry has always been green. The environmental movement has caused an increased awareness of the importance of plants and horticultural practices on the world we live in.Delphinium

Through the steady pressure of political activism and scientific research, the landscaping industry is being transformed from a primarily aesthetic service to one that impacts the very sustenance of life on our planet. It is an industry today that places a heavy emphasis on interdependence and personal responsibility.

The good news in this new mantle we must carry is that we haven't lost our original mission-that is an aesthetic one-to beautify and to soften the effects of an urbanized world. It only requires that we begin to change the way we think about what makes a beautiful landscape.

This can be a challenge for somebody like myself whose creativity leans more towards the traditional, manicured landscape. It's about overcoming the urge to yank out a weed as soon as it comes out, or in some cases planting material closer together than it should be. Part of perfecting our art is being challenged to create outside of our heads.

The second shift in thinking is a rational one. I have never been one to follow the crowd. My first response to the call to follow the "green movement" is, "why should I?" I believe that a person should do things on purpose-being fully convinced through empirical evidence and an intellectual examination of the facts. So with that in mind, decide for yourself what cause in this movement you believe in and jump right in. Perhaps, like me, you may need to take baby steps.

The following is a brief description of the hottest new trends in the green movement:

Xeriscaping - The design and implementation of a landscape plan using native species, ground covers, and grasses that require little or no irrigation.

Green Roofs -Used primarily in hotter climates and on commercial buildings, rooftop gardens help to absorb the radiant heat from the building and serve as a buffer from the sun. The vegetation converts carbon dioxide to oxygen actively because of the heat.

Rainwater Harvesting - A storm water containment system that collects water off impermeable services such as roofs and stores it in an underground cistern to be used for irrigation and non-potable needs like flushing toilets and laundry.

Sustainable Landscapes - A design approach with the goal of minimal maintenance. A sustainable design may involve a limited turf area, native species of plants, or using gravel as a mulch.

Permeable Pavement - A specially designed brick or concrete paver used in driveways, parking lots and patios that allows storm water to drain through the surface. Permeable pavers filter the water through a gravel base and replenish groundwater supplies, instead of redirecting runoff into rivers and streams.

What's coming next? Perhaps a carbon-offset rating on the price tag of the plant you buy. I don't know if I'm ready for that, but I'm sure that somehow we'll figure out a way to do that creatively as well.