Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Do They Have In Common?

Q. What do the following have in common?

Globe, Argyle, Athens, Avon, Bath, Belfast, Belgrade, Bremen, Bristol, Calais, Cambridge, Canton, Carthage, Damascus, Derby, Dover, Frankfort, Freeport, Ghent, Hamlin, Leeds, Limerick, Lisbon, Madrid, Manchester, Moscow, Naples, Newcastle, Oxford, Palermo, Rome, Stockholm, Troy, Verona, Vienna, Buffalo, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Fairbanks, Jacksonville, Ketchum, Long Beach, Monticello, Salem, Williamsburg, Virginia, China, Denmark, Egypt, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Poland, Scotland, Siberia, and finally, Eden, Purgatory, Sodom, and Promised Land.
A. First person to respond on this blog with the correct answer will receive a packet of 25 glassine seed-saving envelopes from one of my favorite garden entrepreneurs, the Seed Keeper Company.

I'll post the answer on Wednesday. 

50 Shades of Green

House nearing end of construction, last minute decisions, counting dollars, finishing details, and getting ready for the final C.O, is stress to the extreme.  Sound familiar?  Multiply that stress by one hundred with the builder having to submit the necessary particulars on a check-off application when the house is being certified “green.”   I recently overheard a builder blurt out in frustration “there’s many shades of green” when an explanation of what the criteria for landscape certification meant and why his choices were unable to be used.  While there are many green certification programs, there is only one type of “green,” and that is following the selected green organizations’ program criteria correctly.  Green certification takes organization, preparation, commitment, and knowledge of what benefits green certification provides both the builder and his client.  If proper steps are taken from beginning to end, green certification doesn’t have to be an arduous ordeal.

Conversations about what is really green and the much easier greenwashing[1] takes place mainly among researchers, green certifiers, and environmental standards organizations such as United States Green Building Council,  National Green Building Program,  EPA’s Water Sense, Sustainable Sites, and their affiliate state organizations like Florida Green Build Council.  In Florida, the University of Florida oversees the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program, while the St Johns River Water Management District and other districts’ green certification program, FloridaWater Star certifies new and renovated homes on best water-conserving principles.  Home buyers trust the builder to provide correct information on the best products for their lifestyle and the right certification program.  Builders, who don’t believe that green certification is beneficial to their clients, won’t be able to sell it to them. It will either result in greenwashing or a lost opportunity to provide a truly sustainable product.

Green building is not only about the construction process, inside and out, but includes the property; from the first site survey and shovel in the ground, to final grading and landscape and irrigation installation.  For the best results and less stress, certifying the home and the landscape should be decided upon during the budget negotiations and before the construction begins, so that the application process can be completed successfully easier and within budget. Using a green-certified landscape architect or landscape designer from the beginning is a wise decision for the builder and the homeowner. 

Confusion happens when builders and homeowners don’t understand the numerous benefits and selling points of a certified landscape and irrigation; and start cutting their expenses at the cost of high maintenance and expensive water bills.  Green certification means the best management practices and certified products have been used and there will be financial savings, lower maintenance, and a smart responsibility to the environment, in their client’s future. 

Gone are the days (or at least they should be) where the homeowner is not given a choice on an efficient irrigation system that will cost more upfront but will save the homeowner thousands of dollars but are offered a more expensive energy-saving appliance that will save them $120 a year over the lifetime of the product.  With monthly water and irrigation bills of $200 to $500 becoming commonplace nationwide, why wouldn’t a builder give their clients the option of purchasing a water-efficient landscape and irrigation package? Needlessly paying thousands of dollars over a five to ten year period in water bills? Now that is torture to me.

Builders should partner with certified landscape designers and landscape architects who will provide timely advice and information on best management practices and green landscaping. They will be able to explain how to use the eco-friendly principles to benefit the builder and the homeowners. With current statutes like Florida-friendly landscaping, green certification is only a prelude to future smart building practices in Florida. Certified landscaping and irrigation will allow for more sustainable growth, more satisfied clients, and  help the builder to be on the best sellers’ list for years to come.  

See the Vision House 2008's certified green landscape three years later.
Originally published in From The Ground Up, Building Inspirations Magazine, July 2013.

Teresa Watkins, horticulturist, landscape designer, and environmental consultant. Watkinsalso hosts of the award-winning gardening radio show “In Your Backyard” heard on www.My790am.com  every Tuesday at 1:00pm.  You can contact or send questions to Teresa at www.she-consulting.com.

[1] A superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organization.  www.WordReference.com

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Cast Irons Not In A Good Light

Driving in Winter Park, I noticed a sad situation.  These cast iron plants, Aspidistra elatior, were burning up with the heat.  They were not new plants and I wondered why they were scorched.  I stopped my car to try and solve the mystery. 

The garden bed was filled with mondo grass, cast irons, and bromeliads, all shade loving plants.  With the heat of the summer sun, the future does not bode well for these easy-care groundcovers for areas that don't get sunlight.
Turning to view the sidewalk and entire front yard, the answer was right there.  A live oak, obviously an older tree, rotting and in danger of falling onto cars or the sidewalk had been removed. 
Although the bromeliads are a variety that can with time adjust to sunlight, for the landscape's health, low water use, and continued easy maintenance, the mondo grass and cast irons should be removed from the area and replaced with either turf, sun-loving shrubs, or groundcovers. Mystery solved but will the plants survive?  I'll check on them in a few weeks to see what happens.