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Native Vs. Non-native Plant Landscaping

Tom Stone tstone at cyclewise.com
Wed Nov 10 07:17:51 EST 1999

Dan Smith wrote:

> Issue Questions:
> 1.  What is your general background in regards to plants, landscaping,
> environment, etc.?

25 years experience in golf course management and landscape industry.
Several years ago, I literally stumbled into a job installing trees and
shrubs for a golf course being renovated.  They were "naturalizing" non
play areas of the course to reduce maintenance, irrigation, fertilizer and
chemicals.  The native areas also provided buffering for nutrient runoff
from reaching water bodies.  Up to that point in my career, I was bored
with typical landscapes and design.  The challenge of recreating a native
ecosystem (not really an ecosystem, it just looks like one for a long
time) which are self sufficient is a greater challenge than designing
something "pretty" and having to mow, water, prune, fertilize, spray,
mulch, weed it to maintain that pretty picture we envision.  Native
landscapes are also appealing to the eye.

> 2.  What % of a large land area (i.e.-TESC Campus) available for
> landscaping should be made available for native plants (100%=all
> available landscaping area devoted to natives.)?

A landscape consultant told me one time that landscapes are the support
system for a building or facility.  They provide soil stabilization,
utilities, dispose of waste (drainage).  On a playing field, the turf
maintains the terrain desired for the desired activity.  Looking at the
landscape and the campus from that view, what functions does the landscape
perform on the campus?  How much money is being expended to perform those
functions?  Are areas of the campus being maintained at a high level of
intensity where it is not necessary?  If you divide the landscape of the
campus into three categories A,B,C, where A is intensive maintenance, B
requires minimal maintenance, and C requires minimal, semi-annual or
annual maintenance, then the C areas of the campus are the areas to begin
considering for naturalization.  Your goal when utilizing native plants
should be to create self sustaining natural environments, not landscaping
with native plants, whether that area is 1000 sq. ft. or 50 acres.

> 3.  In consideration of the above, what % should grasses/lawn cover?

I don't think that the football team will appreciate playing games in foot
high prairie grasses, but other areas may be appropriate for their use.

> 4.  Should wildlife be encouraged with native plantings?

Yes, but I would not suggest planting the favorite snack foods for the
local bear population to hang around all the time.  By attracting birds
and smaller mammals to these areas, you will also attract the predators to
these smaller animals, so be aware of cause and effect.

> 5.  If non-natives were to be replaced, how would that affect the
> image of the landscaped area (aesthetic values, etc.)?

If you mean removing a ligustrum to replace it with a native shrub which
will look the same, then why are you bothering?  Getting back to the
classification of the campus by A,B,C,  leave the high profile areas
alone.  Worry about them later, if ever.

> 6.  If your stance is pro-native, what resolutions would you suggest
> to make a change in current trends?

My stance isn't pro-native. It is  naturalize areas, reduce water use,
fertilization, chemical application and maintenance expenditures.  Spend
that money where it is needed, in the high profile areas of the property.

> 7.  How would you summarize this issue if you were to advocate your
> position, considering both pros and cons?

Utilizing native plants in landscaping is more than just plant selection.
If you plant a native plant, but then have to irrigate it continuously
because it is not in it's correct environment, then you have missed the
point of utilizing natives.  The goal should be to reduce, irrigation,
fertilization, etc., and manpower. Are you naturalizing your landscape or
just landscaping with native plants?

Tom Stone

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