Sustainable Gardens?

  Looking at the Sustainable Sites document ( the thrust is to install local, low maintenance plantings. For those of us who have been practitioners of eco-friendly landscape design for soome time now, this is not a big eye opener. Conservation of resources and preservation of pre-existing natural relationships has been the groundwork of what we do for a decade now. The problem we have all experienced, and no doubt the folks at sustainabale sites will come up against, is the natural tendency of human beings to use their immediate landscape as a means of distinguishing themselves.

People like to have clean looking, manicured properties that stand out. Of course you would not alwasye know that when you see house after house of grass, azaleas, and rhododendrons, or whatever your local version of the “lawnscaped” garden is, execept that even the sameness of those gardens represents a desire to have a certain look. Moving people from that to the Sustainabloe Sites utopian garden will be a stretch, and we submit, and impossible one.

Inevitably we will end up somewhere in the middle. The Southern Nevada Water Authority recognized this years ago. Las Vegas, completely dependent on Colorado river water, did not attempt to wipe out lawns in their region, but instead recognized that lawns are desirable to most residents, and do have ecological value. Instead, they gave people money to reduce their lawns by planting xeriscape gardens and installing drip irrigation. Incidentally, this involved very few native plants, since the deserts of Nevada are clearly not abundent in plants like other regions are.

By taking this tack, SWNA has reduced water usage and incidentally maintenance substantially, as well as created an environement where there can be more development. Las Vegas has limited water resources and can only grow if every citizen uses less water, than more water becomes available for new residents to move to las Vegas.

What makes the program effective, is the spirit of compromise, and the fact that the municipality is paying money directly to the consumer so that they can afford to make their property more eco-friendly. This pays off in reduced water use, new development, and ultimately a larger tax base for the city of Las Vegas and allows lawncare, landscape, and irrigation proifessionals to continue to grow and thrive as well.

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