Friday, April 27, 2007

Little Else Matters

I'm often asked why:

  • we focus on native plants
  • we promote water conservation as but one part of overall sustainable landscaping
  • we challenge homeowners to identify and remove exotic-invasive plants
  • we will not recommend planting Crepe Myrtle, Privet or Wax Leaf Ligustrum, and several other traditional landscape plants
  • we recommend holding accountable developers, builders, municipalities, plant growers, landscapers and homeowners for misuse of water and other natural resources and for destroying habitat with exotic-invasive plants

    To fully answer these questions, I would need to write a book (and I will.) I think this blurb I wrote for a recent presentation summarizes our philosophy best:

    Without clean water to drink, soil to grow food for people and wildlife, air to breathe, or nature to enjoy; little else matters. Protecting our planet is the responsibility of everyone who inhabits it —not just the politically active. Texas faces enormous challenges to healing its environmental wounds. However, each of us can make a significant impact by making small changes at home. Someone once said, “Leave the world a little better than you found it.” Gandhi wrote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Go ahead, take the pledge to do your part. And inspire others to follow your lead. Together, we can leave the planet a little cleaner, a little healthier, a little better for future generations.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another Award!

One of our projects in Plano has received a City of Dallas Water Wise Landscape Recognition Award! Plan to attend the self-guided tour on Saturday, June 2nd, 9am to 3pm. Here is the link to the flyer:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A tree-climbing dog?

Folsom surprised us last summer by climbing David's mom's Magnolia tree. Since then, he has climbed many trees in search of squirrels. We took this pic Saturday in Gainesville; Folsom is nearly 12 feet in this Live Oak. Crazy dog!

Whoa, intimidating

While we were at the FNPS conference Saturday, Folsom played at Miss Kathleen's Pamper Camp in Gainesville, FL. This was the first time we left him with someone. Look how sad he looks!

Photo of our award

Eastern Lake Nursery, Seagrove, FL

David and Folsom posing in front of the nursery on 30-A. This is the nursery where David and I worked for one year (Sept 2002-Sept 2003) before coming home to Plano to resume biz.

What's Mommy Doing???

Folsom, Be Careful!

Topsail Hill Nature Preserve

Look at this lovely dune lake lined with Pines:


This guy was slithering across the sandy road as we drove into Topsail Hill Preserve. David slammed on the brakes, nearly throwing Folsom and me into the dash. The snake was under Daisy but had not been hit. David attempted to relocate him to the brush and this is the snake's reaction:

Somewhere in Louisiana

The Florida Native Plant Society conference in Gainesville was well-planned and -executed. We met a few native plant growers/nursery people. There were a few designers and architects, and some researchers. But mostly we met native plant enthusiasts who promote them for the same reasons we do: when used properly native plants conserve, preserve, restore and celebrate natural resources.

Karina Veaudry, executive director of FNPS and landscape architect, gave us a glorious introduction. Photos of our project in Santa Rosa Beach (Walton County) flashed on the screen as she read excerpts from the narrative about the project. We approached the podium to accept our award and congratulations from one of the judges. I looked out into the audience, believed to be one of the best-attended FNPS conferences, and found a sea of beaming smiles. Cameras clicked and flash-bulbs illuminated us holding our award. After the ceremony several members greeted us and invited us to "come back and do more projects in Florida." We appreciate their hospitality.

If you have never visited Gainesville, I recommend planning a trip soon. It's home to University of Florida, so arts, sports and college-mentality permeates the community. Joggers and cyclists enjoy the extensive trail system. Live Oaks with Spanish Moss dangling like necklaces from their branches define this as a Deep South city. People were friendly and intelligent, seemingly very earth-focused. I really enjoyed this adventure; I discovered there is more to Florida than lovely beaches.

The next day, Earth Day, we spent hiking Topsail Hill Nature Preserve in Walton County. I'll post pics later. What a gorgeous place! We also found our friend, Kendall, in Grayton Beach and visited with her and her friends before joining them for a WaCo Ramblers concert in Gulf Place. Home by 8pm, we enjoyed dinner with friends and hosts, Angie and Steve. All in all, I think this was the best Earth Day weekend. Ever.

David has packed the truck and is waiting for me to finish this post. I have a boatload of plant pics and other stuff to download this evening when we return home. Stay tuned! And Happy Belated Earth Day!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Folsom Moved

Here's the Angel's Trumpet:


(Pardon me if this post rambles a bit. David has turned up the music far too loud and I'm distracted. I'm pretty sure that's the Allman Brothers.)

Posting from the NativeDave Mobile Office -- Daisy. We're traveling to Gainesville, Florida, to receive our 1st place award from the Native Plant Society during their conference. The view is lovely. So far, I've counted Texas Bluebonnet, pink Evening Primrose, Red Clover, Lyre Leaf Sage and White Delphinium. Everything looks freshly sprinkled (by nature, not humans.)

(Is that really Krokus 'Ballroom Blitz'?)

Anyway, back to our drive. Rolling green plains peppered with wildflowers; I'm truly enjoying the scenery. Folsom is a great traveling buddy. For a while he sat on my lap and watched farm animals. He seemed puzzled by their size and grazing habits -- oh look, Giant Coneflower! Awesome. I guess Folsom never figured out why those 'big doggies' were moving slowly and not chasing each other. He's lying on the seat between us, snoozing.

(Oh good, he changed the channel. Dio's 'Rainbow in the Dark'. Is it still 1980-something?)

This morning as we were leaving, we noticed our Angel's Trumpet (Datura wrightii) is blooming. I'll upload the pics later. I would do it now but Folsom is sleeping on the camera-to-computer cord. Yes I know my dog leads a charmed life...;-)

More posts from the road soon...I hear 'Copacabana'...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Don't Miss Collin College's Earth Day TOMORROW in Frisco

Preston Ridge Campus in Frisco (just east of Preston on Wade Blvd.) -- IN THE QUAD
Fun Run and Bike Cruise begin at 9am
Earth Day Proclamation will be read at 11am
Vendor booths open immediately following the reading of the Proclamation
Lectures begin immediately following the reading of the Proclamation, in the Event Center
11ish: Journey of a Water Molecule: Drought, Native Landscaping, and the Trinity River Basin with David and Christy Ilfrey,
Noon: Peace Corps Experience with Jeremy Starritt, Environmental Education Coordinator for the City of Frisco
1pm: Changing Our Attitudes: How to Sustain Our Earth, student/faculty panel discussion

All events are free and open to the public!

Greening Up: Part One, Online Design

A couple of months ago we pledged to do more for the planet. We attended City of Plano's kickoff event declaring 2007 the Year of Living Green. Through their website -- -- we vowed to shave minutes off our shower time (to conserve water), to replace at least one light bulb with a CFL (to conserve energy) and to buy more local food (to promote our own health, organic gardening and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other benefits.) Our home is greener than most in our neighborhood, but like everyone, there is much room for improvement. Since we office out of our home, we thought it would be a good idea to evaluate our processes as well as our services.

Currently, most of our office supplies, including our printing paper, is manufactured with 100% recycled materials. I'm still looking for 100% recycled paper on 24 x 36" rolls and 11 x 17" laminating pouches made from recycled plastic. Instead of printing and mailing invoices we email them in pdf format; this reduces paper consumption and greenhouse gas emissions transporting mail from our office to your home. Our home/office is powered by 100% renewable energy from Green Mountain. Two of our three websites are hosted by ThinkHost, which is powered 100% by renewable resources (e.g. solar and wind.) We find second and third uses for every consumable item and/or its packaging; we recycle the rest. Our trash -- both business and personal -- amounts to two plastic grocery bags per week. Through our home and office, we already employ the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle, rebuy and replace, with one exception...

The largest part of our carbon footprint relates to driving. We travel a lot of miles to visit with clients, participate in events and present educational programs. Last year we spread our fuel usage over three vehicles: Daisy, Bluebonnet and Sabal (as in 'minor', or Dwarf Palmetto.) Daisy is our white diesel workhorse. Last year she hauled many tons (literally) of plants and landscape materials. She is no longer a work truck, since we are not doing the installations in-house this year, but we still need her. Her job now is to carry all our equipment and plants for display to meetings, events and presentations. Bluebonnet is our old worker that was retired from heavy duty when we adopted Daisy. Bluebonnet gets better gas mileage than diesel Daisy but really isn't suited to hauling equipment and plants anymore. But she starts up every time and asks for nothing; we can't seem to part with her. Sabal is our passenger car that saw very little action after Daisy came on board. We sold her earlier this year. Our plan was to sell all the vehicles and buy one super fuel-efficient vehicle.

But, as it is with most of us, practicality supercedes idealism and we find we must keep both trucks for now. So now we have a dilemma: how do we continue to conduct our business yet reduce our fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions? Our answer -- online design! Initially online design was intended to serve clients in areas beyond our service area. However, we have realized increased interest within our local clientele, too. We hope more of our new clients will opt for this service because by moving our workload online we: a) reduce our impact on resources such as oil and air quality; b) spend less time driving and more designing; c) turn around designs more quickly; and d) pass along these savings to you. Our online design fees range $400-500, compared to a minimum of $1,200 for "in-person" design services, and you will still receive one 24 x 36" customized design, to scale; 11 x 17" laminated copy of your design (not to scale); detailed list of plants and materials; care and maintenance instructions; and referrals to vendors and installers to help you implement your plan. The only difference between the design packages is one is online, the other onsite at your home.

Part Two of this Greening Up initiative will be announced soon. Stay tuned, and thank you for your continued support of our mission to make positive changes in our community!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Warmth of Denton

Saturday Denton's Redbud Festival went on as scheduled, 10am to 4pm. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was windy. And grey. And, as the day progressed, temperatures fell and winds picked up. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds for a few seconds -- what a teaser. I would not attempt to convince you this was the optimal day for talking about plants. But what a terrific day it was!

The friendly folks at Keep Denton Beautiful ( are troopers. They dressed in layers for the day, and inspired all the vendors and attendees with their smiling faces and upbeat personalities. Our booth was situated on an exceptionally windy corner of the Denton County Courthouse, so they suggested we move closer to Native Plant Society, Trinity Forks Chapter, and some other related vendor booths. I still don't know exactly why we decided to stick it out next to the War Memorial. By 11am I think my brain was frozen -- my speech, as well as my judgment, might have been impaired the rest of the day.

The vendors were incredibly supportive, as well. In fact, even the attendees shivering in their shoes offered assistance as a gust blew away our sign. Everybody we met smiled, joked about this 'lovely spring weather', and made us feel warmly welcome in Denton. Some even bought plants!

David already committed us to next year's event. We hope you will join us, rain or shine or wind or hail or...

Friday, April 13, 2007

To Help Along Your Journey

Here are some cool planet-friendly events to look into this weekend:

Come to the Redbud Festival in Denton. (We'll be there, rain or shine!) Check for details.

Plant sale at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. Check for more info.

Free recycling and e-cycling collections at Green Living in Dallas. Check for specifics, e.g. what to drop and when. While you are there, spend some time perusing their products. Great people, great stuff.

Join the parade of people around the US promoting initiatives to slow global warming! Check for an event near you. Tell your family and friends!

And don't forget about Earth Day at Collin College's Preston Ridge Campus in Frisco. Wednesday, April 18th, 11am to 2pm. Here's the news release:

Discussion about 'Being Green' in honor of Earth Day

As a member of Co-Op America's Green Business Network, I actively participate in online forums and email threads. This network has proven to be far superior in terms of support, business interchange, information exchange, and even leads, to any chamber of commerce or other trade group we joined in the past. (Sorry, not knocking chambers or trade groups, it's just that none we have attempted to participate in had an interest in green business practices or products/services. Eventually we stopped renewing those memberships because we get more out of the aforementioned CABN.) Recently there has been much discussion within our network about the chain email circulating which compares George W. Bush's "eco-ranch" in Crawford to Al Gore's home in Tennessee. (Check with to read the full message.) Apparently all the information contained in the 'assessment' is correct, but incomplete, i.e. Bush 'heats' his home with geothermal power but there is no mention of how he powers or cools it. My problem with this email is that without complete information the arguement is misleading. Furthermore, the great green debate has now been elevated above political discourse: protecting the planet is no longer about liberals vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans. The state of our planet pertains to all of us inhabiting it, period.

The great thing about CABN, I have discovered, is that its members are traveling this green path at various paces and distances. Some have been earth-conscious since the 60s, some just became enlightened recently. Like yesterday. LOL. Seriously, each has some area of expertise but also has a broad understanding of environmental issues facing our planet. It's a remarkable group of motivated, intelligent, mutually supportive business people who understand planet-friendly values can also be profitable and stimulating to our economy.

Our discussion has been lively about Bush vs. Gore, and many of the posts fill in the gap-riddled arguement or direct readers to research-based information. (I love their perpetual interest in education, by the way.) However, I decided to pull three posts that addressed the green issue without political boundaries or ideologies; these people focus more on the collectiveness of being green, rather than the individuals who promote it. All three, in my opinion, illustrate the current state of greenness in an eloquently philosophical way (but not preachy.)

Hope you enjoy reading their comments as much I have. And if you would like to join Co-Op America, as an individual or business member, please visit their website: You will receive the Green Pages, an invaluable guide to green products and services...and the membership is growing...

It's About the Message, Not the Messenger

"...this [debate about what it means to be green] is not about who's right, better, smarter, more authentic, or setting an example of the truth they espouse, although that is what I believe we all desire as a basic standard for anyone who has the courage to take a stand in the world, regardless of their message.

For me, it's about the message, not the messenger. If it fits, wear it. But it's not about killing off the messenger. The guy's got guts, he's reached a lot of people and made progress, and he's put his money into educating middle America. Enough said.

I come from a rather infamous macrobiotic sub-culture family background that has often been unsavory public fodder due to family scandals, family cancer deaths, stuff that would likely make your toenails curls, but is like oil on water for me. People around the world have haunted me with questions, judgements, complaints, biased assessments, and my response is usually similar. It's about the message, not the messenger. No one is making claims about being a saint, walking on water. Everyone has their own path to fulfill, and the ones that find it usually end up getting the flogging. We are human, learning, growing, transforming, evolving.

Nonetheless, macrobiotics has changed millions of peoples' lives for the better, pioneered the natural foods movement, and the message still exists separate from the messenger. I would hope and expect even more from the force, power and money that Gore has put out to the people.

We are all doing our part, to whatever degree we are capable, have the resources, courage, passion and conviction. It's about the message folks."

--Melissa Kushi,

Form, Join or Lead the Parade

"What we're doing together isn't about Al Gore or George Bush.

Or in my country (Canada) it's not about Stephen Harper or Stephan Dion.

Mr. Gore happens to be the self-appointed spokesperson at the present time for a 'parade' on global warming.

Mr. Bush seems to be the elected spokesperson at the present time for those who have different views.

Several years ago I used to use one of Mr. Gore's quotes in speeches I was asked to give. He apparently was asked by someone interested in some cause about how to get political support. What he replied essentially is that 'a politician is someone who sees a parade forming, and decides to lead it'.

I think this is wisdom. Most politicians don't form parades. They see a parade forming, and run to get in front of it.

This parade is bigger than Al Gore, or George Bush, or Stephen Harper or Stephan Dion or Tony Blair or Vladimir Putin or......

This parade is about how we each can live more sustainably and do so with a high quality of life, and lots of happiness. Not living in a cave and not foraging for berries, because that's 'not on'.

I suggest that when we make someone a hero, there will always be someone ready to cut the hero down to size.'s not about Al Gore. Or about Dick Cheney. Or any of those guys.

It's about us.

We're the ones who form the parades in our own communities.

We're the ones who understand that to care for the earth isn't a Liberal or a Conservative or a Republican or a Democrat idea. It's what we all need to do because we 'ARE' of the earth. We're made of stardust; we breathe air; we excrete CO2 and some other stuff; we drink water. We're one of the millions of species that live on this thin layer of Biosphere on this piece of rock hurtling through space.

What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves."

--Norm Ruttan,

Recognize Green Is In Transition

"Over the past weeks there have been discussions about
* What is green
* How green is green
* Al Gore's house

Recognize that Green is in transition. A few years ago it was sort of a lifestyle at the edge. Some practiced it, few talked about it.

That is changing now.

We are moving into an explosion of awareness and acceptance. This will lead to some contradictions and turbulence, such as:

1) People who have opposed everything green will suddenly become converts. For example, the CEO of ConocoPhillips just announced that he changed his mind about global warming. As a result the news reports:

April 11, 2007 – ConocoPhillips today announced its support for a mandatory national framework to address greenhouse gas emissions and has joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a business-environmental leadership group dedicated to the quick enactment of strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

This, by the way, is a huge victory for green. As the first oil company to do this, the rest are now on the spot.

2) People will evolve through shades of being green. For example, Al Gore had devoted his life over the past six years to saving the planet. And yet, he still lives in a large home -- which some are criticizing.

Recognize that no one is 100% green - unless you live in a cave and eat raw berries that you find by walking about in the forest while you plant new trees.

We are all learning our way into the process. And most of us are stuck with where we are or what we have. It will take time to change.

I fully expect that Al Gore's home will be more green within a year or so. (Actually, since Al is a major celebrity, his home is really more a business center than a traditional home.)

3) The people who started the green movement will be replaced by the people who have opposed them. (For example, check this week's issue of Newsweek to read about how Arnold is leading the way. And you will notice that Al Gore receives sort of a cameo mention.)
While this may be a very disturbing thought, it is a natural step in making green a world-wide lifestyle.

In fact, green can only succeed if the really Big People support it. Then major changes will occur.

Once CEOs realize the economic potential in this, it will look like a stampede. For example, imagine what would happen to the auto industry if gas powered vehicles were declared obsolete with the requirement that everyone must use public transportation or a small electric cart within ten years. The auto industry has been trying to make current models obsolete since it started - this would be a dream come true because everyone would have to buy a new vehicle.

The point is, we need to focus on moving forward instead of worrying about being green enough.

That means we must find ways to include everyone who wants to help. This is important because by including others, regardless how green they may appear or how much they know about being green, we are then in a position to influence their participation.

And at the same time, we benefit from their participation.

After all, we're trying to save the planet -- not run an exclusive club.

Hey, based on their houses it's possible that Al Gore would be rejected and George Bush accepted into the Green Pages. [located at] "

--Steve Kaye, One Great Meeting,

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hiking Lake Tawakoni State Park

This time of year, we honestly have no personal life. My dad lives approximately one mile away and yesterday marked only the second or third time I've seen him in 2007. David's mom lives a couple miles away, in another direction, and I could count the number of times we've visited her this year on one hand. Six long days per week we meet with clients, work on designs, prepare for speaking engagements, address various admin duties, and talk to many many people by phone and email. Often Sunday becomes cleaning/laundry/dishes day. But this year we are making a focused effort to spend one or two Sundays per month outside our home/office doing what we love best: playing outdoors.

A few weeks ago we hiked Cedar Hill State Park. April Fools' Day we made the hour-and-a-half trek to Lake Tawakoni State Park. The deluge the previous day flooded out many low-lying areas throughout the trail system. Mosquitoes were everywhere, making our hike a fast-paced clip to the end of the trailhead. Keep moving, keep moving. We had the trails to ourselves -- only we fools set out on a humid, hot, soggy, mosquito-infested excursion through this East Texas park. And it was an incredibly rewarding experience, surprisingly.

We found May Pop foliage standing all around us about 18-24" tall. The tropical-looking leaves are the size of dinner plates. David recalled seeing them 'in the wild' when he was in school in Pennsylvania, but confessed he had never seen them in their natural habitat in Texas. What a find. Wood Sorrel (a type of Oxalis) are blooming in small pockets at the base of trees. Vibrant, sapphire Spiderwort line the front where wooded areas converge with open prairies. Texas Toadflax, too. I fell in love with this little guy. There was also a yellow dandelion-looking plant (see pic below); I need to identify it ASAP. So cute. All of these plants grow without fertilizers, irrigation and human interference, and most are found naturally in shady areas.

David, Folsom and I finished our 5-mile loop completely sandy and muddy and with sopping wet feet. And despite all this, we had so much fun we talked all the way home about our experiences. Definitely, we recommend you check out Texas' most recently integrated park.

Oh, I forgot what this is. Will ask David when he returns this evening.

Wood Sorrel in Lake Tawakoni State Park, April 1 2007

May Pops in Lake Tawakoni State Park, April 1 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It's Still About the Plants

This morning we have received abundant gifts of great news. One of our clients in Plano has decided to enter their front yard project for consideration for City of Dallas' Water Wise Tour. They emailed us this morning the description of their project, from design through installation to maintenance. Written in their own words, it is apparent that they truly understand the concepts we proposed for them and agree with our mission. If you have ever experienced that feeling, that moment when somebody speaks your language, you know what I must have felt reading that email. My eyes welled up with tears of joy and gratitude.

Recently we have received a lot of positive media attention. There's the incredibly complimentary piece written by Amy Sandling Crawford for Plano Profile in this month's issue. Dallas Morning News "Neighbors" section, covering Cedar Hill and its environs, commented on our presentation at Petal Pusher's Garden Emporium. A classic pic of David and me laughing was included. (If you know us, you know we laugh a lot, often at ourselves!) D Home Magazine mentioned us on their blog and will publish something about us in their May issue (I think that's the one, anyway.) Those of you who have met us know I'm not reporting on these things to brag, I'm just sharing good news with you, our readers, our clients, our friends. I guess what I'm feeling today, as I write this, is total elation. Not only do our clients get it -- our mission and our message -- the general public is beginning to take notice, too. Although in the beginning it was difficult to turn away a request to plant Privet, Crape Myrtle and 'color' (annual plantings), especially when we really needed to buy groceries (more about my Bok Choy diet later), we knew eventually we would have plenty of clients to sustain us. We knew that once we compromised our integrity we could never get it back. So I lost 10 pounds that first winter, and my stomach hurt from worrying about how we would make ends meet. So what. I can honestly say, it has all been worth it and to all of you who have been with us since the beginning, who have encouraged us to keep spreading the word, we will always and forever appreciate you.

I know, I'm getting a little emotional and sappy. You have no idea, LOL. Earlier when we received some really grand news I sank into my chair and began to cry. Many of you know what it's like to believe in yourself and your life's mission, even when larger forces of Profit or Ignorance or Downright Meanness try to shake you off your path. But when suddenly you find growing numbers of supporters are encouraging you forward, "to fight the good fight", because they believe in you and your mission, well, you smile through tears of joy and gratitude. And that's where I am today.

This morning we learned we are receiving an award from the Florida Native Plant Society for a project we designed in Santa Rosa Beach (Walton County), Florida. Florida allocates billions of dollars per year for restoration purposes, and many communities in coastal areas have mandated landscaping with native plants. This has increased their property values, but has also curbed water consumption and encouraged responsible resource management. (See 'New Urbanism' developments, e.g. Seaside, Florida.) Our project has taken 1st place in the Landscape Awards as an "exemplary project"; we have been invited to attend the FNPS conference in Gainesville Earth Day weekend to receive our award. WOW, what a distinct honor it will be to accept this recognition.

So, at the end of the day, it's not about publicity or profit or accolades. As it has always been, it's about the native plants and the myriad benefits they afford our landscapes, neighborhoods and lifestyles.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Nominations for Environmental Community Awards!

City of Plano would like to recognize individuals and organizations for environmental service to the community, and they need your help. The awards are Environmental Community Outreach Award and Environmental Community Partnership Award. Please email Heather Merchant at to obtain an electronic version of the nomination form. I've reviewed the document and it's brief, but a huge way to thank people for all they do for the environment and the community.