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Native Vs. Non-native Plant Landscaping

Frank Reilly freilly at mail.vt.edu
Wed Nov 10 10:49:17 EST 1999

Boy Tom that was a great response.
Very well organized, and complete.  The native ve non-native idea is a
constant battle here in Northern VA.  So let me throw a little fuel on
the fire
What constitutes a Native Plant?  For example Phragmites australis is
almost universally considered an invasive alien, yet fossil evidence
points out that it was here long before any europeans intruduced it
(more than 4,000 years).  Another example of the question is does the
wild-type need to be considered as the only "true native,"  or are
desirable cultivars (chosen from a natural sport) like sparkle berry, or
disease-resistant elms "Native?"

Tom Stone wrote:

> 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
> NaturGolf

<x-rich><bold><italic>Frank Reilly

Extension Associate - Urban Nutrient Management

Virginia Cooperative Extension - King George County

P.O. Box 410

King George, VA 22485

Phone: 540-775-3062

Fax: 540-775-5645

Internet: freilly at vt.edu


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