Thursday, May 03, 2007

Weep for the Wildflowers

This afternoon we were driving home from meeting with a new client in SE Denton County and decided to stop at one of our favorite fields. I couldn't believe my eyes: there were Mealy Cup Sage, Purple Shrubby Skullcap, Four Nerve Daisy, Gayfeather, Winecup, and many, many other in-full-bloom native species. No irrigation, no fertilizers, no intervention by human hands. The colors are lovely, but I couldn't help but feel a spark of sadness. This field will soon be plowed over to build an office building or a small hamlet of enormous homes, and the gorgeous blooms of the Blackland Prairie will once again be sacrificed. Less than .004% of this region exists today, due to overgrazing, single crop rotation, and irresponsible housing and commercial developments. Truly, it doesn't have to be this way. Build the shopping mall, fine. I appreciate conveniences as much as the next person. But require ALL NATIVE PLANTINGS in medians, commercial projects, HOA commons areas, and at least front yards of residential properties. Texas has more than 6,300 native plant species; there is absolutely no reason to plant Red-Tipped Photinia, Nandina, Japanese Boxwood, or Japanese Honeysuckle. We have plenty of colorful, drought-hardy native species that will provide year-round interest.

Momentum for restoring our ecosystem is on our side, as exponentially more property owners are demanding NATIVES over traditional landscape plants. However, we have a very long road to travel. There are innumerable opportunities to help restore Texas. We embrace the few companies who are familiar/interested in working with natives and sustainable design techniques, and hope that we can work cooperatively to take back Texas from the exotic-invasive species steamrolling our natural areas. If you can't find a contractor or nursery in your area to provide the plants we recommend, please be patient. Change is happening, in real time, before our eyes. Our goal is to bring into the fold as many designers, contractors, maintenance professionals and nurseries who promote NATIVES and sustainable design. Our approach can only then become mainstream and, ultimately, return Texas to Texans.

But beware of "greenwashing." Any company that purports itself to be "native" or "sustainable", and recommends Crepe Myrtle, Burford Holly, or Red-Tipped Photinia and any plants mentioned in the same sentence in Paragraph #1, is just "greenwashing." None of these plants, like many traditional landscape plants, is native. In many cases, these plants become exotic-invasive, which means they take over native vegetation. They choke out the sources of food and shelter that native wildlife depend on. If any of us truly love Texas, we should not only STOP landscaping with these nuisance plants, we should initiate legislation that abolishes the growing, selling or planting of them.

Communities that require high percentages of native plantings have observed jaw-dropping appreciation values of their property. Check out "Sustainable Communities" such as Seaside, Florida. The market is leveling out now, but home values are still remarkably high.

Together, we can guide Texas to restore its natural beauty AND drive up property values, which will only improve our appearance and economy. We have a beautiful state, and opportunities to retain its biodiversity, but we all must do our part.

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