Cover Story: Back to nature

Updated Feb 2, 2018

Some people call it a trend. Some call it a movement. Others say it’s more than that – a fundamental shift in the way humankind views its relationship with nature. No matter how you label it, the push for native landscaping has been steadily gaining momentum for decades.

“Landscape companies today have a choice,” says Bret Rappaport, a board member of Wild Ones, a nonprofit group that advocates landscaping with native plants, and a lawyer who has represented natural landscapers. “That choice is either evolve or die. Because there’s no question, this is the wave of the future.”

Not everyone is convinced. Larry Rohlfes, assistant executive director for the California Landscape Contractors Association, says native landscaping is a small niche. “There’s a big segment of the market that wants exotic plants,” he says. “They want Hawaii in the back yard. They want to escape to a tropical landscape.” A water district consortium’s expensive campaign to promote native landscaping in order to conserve water did little to change this, he says.

But there are indications the market is moving toward natural landscaping. Some governments require native landscaping in parks and around public buildings, and many state departments of transportation insist on native plants for roadsides. Homeowners’ associations in new, usually high-end, subdivisions are increasingly calling for only native plants in landscaping. And water conservation laws in the Western United States narrow the plant palette, leaving only natives and exotics from similar climates.

Federal, state and local governments encourage private landowners to plant species indigenous to their areas. The U.S. EPA, for example, sponsors a native landscaping awards program. In five to 15 years, Rappaport predicts, governments will be mandating use of native plants through laws that ban exotics or require indigenous vegetation.

The ecological argument
Thousands of years of evolution make native plants ideal for their locations, says Jack Pizzo, owner of Pizzo and Associates, an ecological restoration and natural landscaping firm in Leland, Illinois. Native plants are drought resistant and don’t require watering, fertilizers, aeration or insecticides.

Rappaport says employing native landscapes in place of high-resource-using, non-native lawns and plants can lessen habitat loss, erosion, non-point-source water pollution, water waste and – by increasing carbon-dioxide-absorbing biomass and reducing the need for gas-powered equipment – global warming.

As the foundation of any ecosystem, native flora is vital to the system’s health. Certain plants require certain insects for pollination, birds feed on those insects and a host of other wildlife species have adapted to a diet of native plants, says Ken Voorhis, executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which offers educational programs and recently launched a native landscaping certification program. “It’s all connected,” he says.

As an example of this interrelation, Voorhis points out black bears in the Southeast are smaller than those in some other parts of North America because one of their main protein sources – chestnuts – was wiped out in a blight caused by a fungus introduced through imported Chinese or Japanese chestnut trees.

Exotic plants pose the second-greatest threat to native vegetation, after land clearing for development and farming. About 200 native plant species have become extinct since the 1800s and 5,000 species are considered at risk, according to the Plant Conservation Alliance. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates 42 percent of the country’s endangered and threatened species have declined as a result of encroaching exotic plants and animals.

From the beginning, many exotic plants were introduced to North America through landscaping. Settlers transferred their favorite plants from the Old World in an effort to create familiar environments. Intentional and accidental introductions are even more likely today, Voorhis says, thanks to the ease of international travel and trade. “Our global economy has accelerated the growth of exotics,” he says. “It used to be wildlife that moved plant species,” at a slow rate that allowed the natural environment to adapt. “Now it’s jumbo jets.”

While some exotic plants are not considered harmful, invasive exotics spread rapidly, destroying habitat for native plants and eventually entire ecosystems. Purple loosestrife, for instance, is taking over wetlands in the Northeast and north-central regions of the United States and is headed west. English ivy is forming a thick ground cover in the forests of the Southeast, Middle Atlantic and Pacific Northwest, preventing the growth of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Kudzu – part of a birthday gift from Japan in 1876 – has suffocated 7 million acres of native vegetation in the Deep South.

Invasive exotics gain a quick foothold because their natural pests, predators and diseases usually don’t exist in foreign regions, Voorhis says. They harm native ecosystems not only by taking over their habitat, but also by harboring pathogens to which native plants have no immunity – as in the chestnut blight – and by sending out toxins that can be lethal to native plants and insects. Garlic mustard, for instance, contains compounds fatal to a native butterfly species.

The factors that make exotic plants dangerous to native environments also make them hardy and easy to grow – traits Voorhis says make them popular for landscaping. Most invasive exotics escape the confines of homeowners’ yards, he says.

Danielle Green, environmental protection specialist for the Environmental Protection Agency, encourages people to find out what plant species are invasive in their states and avoid them. “In my talks, I tell people, ‘At the least, do no harm,'” says Green, who promotes the use of native plants.

An Internet search with the terms “exotic plants” and your state’s name will likely provide a list of invasive exotics. Most states also have invasive plant councils with information on the Web.

The staunchest supporters of native landscaping discourage planting even non-invasive exotics. Every exotic plant limits space for natives, the Plant Conservation Alliance states on its Web site.

An ethical obligation?
The scientific evidence begs the question: Could the plant growers, contractors and architects who see themselves as environmentally friendly to the point they call their collective group the “green industry” actually be harming the environment? Rappaport says the answer, to some extent, is yes. “If you’re pushing, planting and cultivating exotics, you’re not ‘green’ except to the extent that your goal is to make money,” he says. “The only environmentally friendly landscape is the one that nature intended to be ‘of the place.’ Sure, a lawn with ginkgoes may be better than a parking lot, but not much.”

Rohlfes with the California Landscape Contractors Association says contractors have little control over what they plant. “We give the public what the public wants,” he says. “It’s not a matter of what we like.”

But Rappaport says landscape professionals have a great deal of influence with their clients. “What they suggest, a customer will likely do,” he says.

Although she has a well-publicized interest in native plants, Carol Lindsay, owner of design firm Urban Renaissance in Portland, Oregon, says it’s not her place to use that influence. “It is not my job to convince or tell people what they should have in their landscape as some sort of religious mission,” she says. “It is my job to learn about what they are interested in, not form their views.”

That said, Lindsay acknowledges native landscaping is what a large percentage of people in the Northwest want. They usually don’t know much about the plants – or even which ones are native – but they come to her with the concept, she says. Others want a low-maintenance, low-water-using landscape that attracts wildlife, and that can be achieved with native plants.

Bill Oliphant, a semi-retired landscape architect and an adviser for Tremont’s native landscaping certification program, understands both sides of the argument. Oliphant has been an advocate of native plants his entire 40-year career, but says fulfilling clients’ expectations comes first. In a recent residential project, for instance, the homeowner wanted instant ground cover around a paved entertainment area. No native material would do the job, so Oliphant resorted to a non-invasive exotic.

Native plant promoters – including those within the landscaping industry – say most landscape contractors could and should be doing more to protect natural environments.

“It’s the duty of people in that field to lead the charge in dealing with this problem,” Voorhis says.

Most landscape contractors don’t have a strong educational background in native plants, says Mike Stanley, owner of Michael Stanley Landscapes in Deerfield, Illinois. Stanley specializes in native plantings, but also designs, installs and maintains traditional landscapes. “A lot of us forget why we got into this business to begin with,” he says. “It’s to preserve things and protect things.”

Pizzo also says many landscape contractors are uninformed about native plants but says few are willfully so. Design and business issues crowd their schedules, leaving little time for education. And even if they do find time, educational opportunities are scarce. While information about a new petunia variety abounds, there’s little about how native plants react in a landscape, Pizzo says. To fill the void, he’s writing a plain-language book to help the public and members of the landscape industry understand the benefits of native plants and the complex ecological concepts surrounding them.

J.J. Sweeney, owner of Salamander Designs in Portland, Oregon, says overall environmental awareness is starting to have an impact on landscape contractors in her area, and some are coming into the industry with a desire to use native plants. “Some of the older, well-established contractors are starting to see the light as well, partly because of consumer demand and because those of us designers specializing in sustainable landscaping have made a concerted effort to educate others,” she says.

The business case for natural landscaping
Stanley says specializing in native plants sets his business apart.

After seeing the same materials used in landscape after landscape, potential clients are intrigued by colorful native grasses and plants that provide habitat for birds, he says.

“People like to be a little different here,” Stanley says. “No one wants to be mainstream.”

Stanley says interest in native landscaping is growing as people realize they don’t see wildlife as much as they used to and their children have never seen a grasshopper or a field of native blue stem.

“It’s starting to get into people’s minds,” Pizzo says. They’re making simple correlations, like “I don’t see butterflies anymore,” he says. Or they read a National Geographic article about threatened ecosystems and note how long it’s been since they’ve seen a frog.

Pizzo says the market for native landscaping is small even in the Midwest, which is 10 to 15 years ahead of most of the country in terms of ecological consciousness, but it’s growing. “It’s going to rise and it’s going to rise fast,” he says. “It’s going to reach critical mass.”

In the Northwest, another hot spot for native landscaping, Lindsay says it makes good business sense for landscape designers and contractors to learn to work with indigenous plants. “The under-40 crowd here in the Northwest is very interested in the concept of green,” she says. “It would be foolish to not pursue knowledge of the native landscape and how to provide this for your clients.”

Pizzo has several corporate clients and says native landscaping is especially attractive to businesses. They save money on maintenance and can point to their campus as evidence of an environmental ethic. “They really are walking the walk,” he says. McDonald’s, Sears, Roebuck & Company and Promega, a biotech company in Madison, Wisconsin, are just a few corporations that have used native landscaping at their headquarters.

Regional character
Pizzo thinks the Midwest leads the native landscaping movement because, ironically, Illinois and Iowa rank 49th and 50th in quantity of natural areas. In the ’60s and ’70s, people started saying “My God, we’re the prairie state and we don’t have any prairies left,” Pizzo says.

This longing for regional character is driving the natural landscaping movement in other states as well. People live in certain areas because they like the natural surroundings, Pizzo says. They move to Arizona for the giant saguaro cactus, to eastern Tennessee for the mountains and deciduous forests. And they’re beginning to question why landscapes look the same all over the county. Those who live in the desert and are depleting water sources with bluegrass lawns are beginning to ask themselves why they’re doing so, Pizzo says.

Rappaport with Wild Ones says there are two primary reasons: an antiquated desire to replicate the rolling lawns of England and industry’s push to sell things needed to maintain exotic landscapes. “It’s what we know,” he says. “It’s what we’ve always had.”

Rapapport is confident people will eventually conclude native landscapes are cheaper and better. “It’s going to happen,” he says. “There’s no reason for it not to.”

Pizzo says that doesn’t have to be a bad thing for the landscaping industry. Native landscapes require less maintenance than traditional ones, but even natural areas require stewardship, he says. “If you’re a good ecologist, your clients will pay you to manage their site,” he says.

Landscape contractors are realizing they can maintain their profit levels with native landscaping and have peace of mind knowing they’re protecting wildlife and plants, Pizzo says. “This is the greening of the green industry,” he says. TLC

Aldo Leopold and the land ethic
Considered the spiritual father of conservation, Aldo Leopold penned his land ethic – the basis for the native landscaping movement – in a collection of essays published in 1949 as “The Sand County Almanac.”

Leopold compared man’s relationship with land in the 20th century to the treatment of slaves in Greece 3,000 years ago. The ethical structure of the day extended to some people, but not all. “There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it,” Leopold wrote. “The land relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but no obligations. The extension of ethics to this element in human environment is, if I read the evidence correctly, an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Leopold began practicing his land ethic in the form of natural landscaping in the 1930s at his farm in central Wisconsin.

Today the Aldo Leopold Foundation owns 700 acres, including the Leopold family farm, and offers educational and research programs. Two of these programs – the Blufflands Project and Farming and Conservation Together – offer advice and technical assistance to landowners who want to eradicate invasive plants and restore prairies, wetlands or woodlands on their property.

The foundation is also taking on a native landscaping project at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, an educational building slated to open in April. Foundation staff will landscape the grounds using seeds they collected from local prairies and plant plugs grown from such seeds. The foundation will invite the public to get a firsthand look at how native landscaping is done.

The dos and don’ts of going native
If you’re interested in starting a native landscaping division at your company, Jack Pizzo, owner of Pizzo and Associates in Leland, Illinois, says it’s important you know what you’re doing before you take on your first job.

Several prominent failures in the Midwest have left homeowners moaning, neighbors laughing and the native landscaping movement suffering, Pizzo says. If you fail on a client’s property, you’ll enforce the belief that native means “weedy” or undesirable, he says. But if you succeed, the property will do your marketing for you. “Those areas are absolutely beautiful,” Pizzo says.

Pizzo says landscape contractors who haven’t focused on native plants in the past should study or learn through practice by working with someone experienced in the field.

Understanding that what works in one part of the country but might not in another is also key. Most failures occur because the landscaper followed instructions meant for a dissimilar region, Pizzo says.

Native plants differ from traditional landscaping plants in that they reproduce. This can cause a problem in a landscape if you don’t pick the right plants for the location. “Native plants often get a bad rap because many are ‘colonizers,’ which is not necessarily desirable in a home or commercial landscape,” says Amy Whitworth, owner of Plan-It Earth Design in Portland, Oregon.

In the Midwest, a small clump of New England aster or little blue stem, for instance, can spread all over a garden – a situation you might not want in an urban area, Pizzo says. Some native Midwestern grasses, on the other hand, provide fall color and reproduce slowly.

Opportunities to learn about native landscaping vary by region, says Danielle Green, environmental protection specialist with the EPA, but are available if you seek them. Here are some organizations, institutions and events that offer native landscaping classes or information:

  • Community colleges and universities
  • Conservation districts
  • Botanical gardens
  • Nursery associations
  • Landscape designer and contractor associations
  • Horticultural conferences
  • Landscaping trade shows
  • EPA’s green landscaping Web site at

One developer’s quest to preserve a national treasure

The term “sustainable landscaping” is rarely heard in the Southeast, and consumer demand for native plants is almost non-existent. But Robin Turner hopes to change that.

Turner isn’t involved in the landscape industry and isn’t a professional land developer. He started his career at Disney and now owns a fair/attraction management company and WonderWorks science education complexes in Orlando, Florida, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. When he decided to create a residential development on a large swath of land bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, he planned to live there himself and felt a responsibility to protect the area’s natural heritage.

Some partners in the development, called the Estates at Norton Creek, are also board members at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which is battling invasive exotic plants in the national park. To preserve one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, those at the institute knew they would need the help of real estate developers rapidly building homes and commercial establishments around the park. They also knew they needed a successful test case to persuade developers.

The institute set up the Native Landscaping Certification Program last year, and Turner was happy to sign on as the first participant. The program requires eradication of invasive exotic plants and the use of native species in landscaping.

Turner says developers in the area would be interested in native landscaping if they understood it as an option. “This is going to be so much bigger than just us,” he says.

The challenges
Finding a source of native plants to use in landscaping is one of the biggest hurdles. Landscape contractors and designers in the Pacific Northwest and parts of the upper Midwest say native plant nurseries are plentiful thanks to demand. But in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area, Turner says there’s only one native garden, and it’s too small to fulfill Norton Creek’s needs.

There’s also the question of whether using nursery-grown plants is the best solution. A public cabin near the entrance to the subdivision is landscaped with rhododendron and cedar trees, but Turner isn’t satisfied with the look. The nursery plants are easy to pick out among the wild ones, even though they’re the same types. The cedars are almost perfectly shaped cones and the rhododendron lack the rambling appearance of those grown in the forest.

If nursery plants aren’t grown from seeds gathered near the site where they’ll be planted, they might not be the same species as those growing naturally and won’t be adapted to the area, says Ken Voorhis, executive director of the Institute at Tremont.

Turner also wants to find a way to salvage the native plants displaced by roads winding through the development and home building. Lot owners are allowed to disturb only an 80-foot by 100-foot area for a house pad, but if plants there could be saved, they could be used to landscape around the finished home, Turner says.

He’s considering starting a native plant greenhouse in Norton Creek, which is still at an infant stage with one house nearing completion and construction of nine others slated to begin this spring. The greenhouse would preserve plants that would be lost to building and supply them for landscaping purposes. Turner says it could even become a separate business furnishing native plants to other developments.

But putting this plan into action isn’t “as easy as sending a guy out with a spade to collect 10 azaleas,” Turner says. Mountain laurel and rhododendron cling to the steep Appalachian hillsides, their roots entangled in rock. Turner is trying to find equipment that can traverse this terrain and extract plants and trees without harming them.

Finding knowledgeable local landscape contractors and nursery owners has been difficult as well. Most local landscapers, when asked if a plant is native, will reply, “Yeah, it’s native – it grows here,” he says. Once a nursery owner claimed to have a native maple tree, but it turned out to be Japanese.

Turner says he hopes Tremont will certify landscapers eventually. Then developers involved in the native landscaping program would have easy access to qualified experts. Developer participation in the program also would drive demand for native plants, resulting in more supply sources, Turner says.

Trial and error on a 725-acre test site
At this point, the dominant task at hand in Norton Creek is following the first step of the institute’s guidelines: eradicating exotics. A few trees tagged with orange ribbons can be seen from the main road through the first phase of the development. While most of the vegetation on the 725-acre site is native, two pockets of invasive plants are encroaching. One is literally holding a mountainside together, Turner says, and clearing it would cause an erosion problem. Experts at Tremont recommended removing it in stages.

Japanese switchgrass – used as a packing material in shipments from China – is growing in some cleared areas. Switchgrass seeds are viable for seven years. Native flora prevents it from growing, but it often shoots up after land clearing, Voorhis says. Other exotic invasives in the area include privet, tree of heaven, mimosa, honeysuckle and wild rose.

Being a test case for the certification program involves a lot of trial and error. The Tremont Institute sets its ideal rules, and Turner lets the board know what’s unrealistic as the development moves along.

One problem has been stabilizing steep road banks. Native ground cover won’t grow fast enough to prevent erosion, so the development has been forced to break the NLCP rules by planting grass, which isn’t native.

A big unknown is whether the homeowners of Norton Creek will be able to abandon exotic plants and traditional landscaping methods. “This is a challenge because people have certain species they’re used to seeing,” Voorhis says. Many plants people think are native, aren’t. And some plants considered undesirable are indigenous.

Looking over the long NLCP native plant list, Bill Oliphant, a landscape architect and adviser for the program, notes most of the plants, though beautiful, are not commercially available. Oliphant says sumacs, for instance, have gorgeous fall color, but are commonly considered weeds. Four hickory tree species are on the list. “I’ve never had a client in my whole 40-some-odd years of work want a hickory,” he says. “It’ll be a different look.”

Homeowners might be limited not only by the list, but by their particular location. Voorhis points out the native vegetation on northern slopes is completely different from that on south-facing ones. Sunlight washes south-facing slopes most of the day, creating a dry environment where blueberry bushes, mountain laurel and galax flourish. Around the corner, on a north-facing slope, higher moisture levels in the soil support rhododendron, hemlocks and woodland wildflowers.

Teaching homeowners to resist the urge to prune and shear their plants will be a top priority, Oliphant says. “That’s the question,” he says. “Will people be willing to accept the gangly, unkempt look of them?”

But Turner is optimistic. Most people buying lots at Norton Creek live in busy cities and want to build a retreat in an authentic natural environment, he says. They don’t want to bring Atlanta to the mountains, he says. As to enforcement of the NLCP’s requirements, Turner says the development can’t be a police state. “It’s got to be fun,” he says. “We’ve got to educate them and make them part of the process.”

Even at this early stage, Norton Creek appears to be a success – especially from a developer’s perspective. Spectacular views of the mountain ranges in the nation’s most visited national park aren’t cheap. Still, 40 of the 75 lots in the first phase of the luxury development have sold, most for about $500,000 each. And the native landscaping program is a selling point. It assures buyers the natural beauty that drew them to the area won’t change.

Turner would like to see local governments as well as other developers adopt the program. “In the global picture, if my neighbor’s not doing it, I’ve still got this problem,” he says.

Turner and Voorhis envision a future in which the public will see invasive exotic plants the way it now regards roadside litter. In 25 years, people will have the knowledge and inclination to remove invasive exotics from their properties on their own, Turner says. Nurseries and home improvement stores will quit carrying the plants because no one will buy them, he predicts. “These invasives will be like a 10 most wanted list,” he says. TLC

Landscaping goals at Norton Creek
The Tremont Institute offers three certification levels – silver, gold and platinum – in its native landscaping program. The Estates at Norton Creek is striving for the highest level, says developer Robin Turner, and has committed to:

  • Eradicating invasive, non-native plants on the institute’s removal list
  • Landscaping all public areas with native plants
  • Using native plants that are particularly beneficial to wildlife
  • Educating homeowners regarding the importance of using native plants
  • Ensuring homeowners’ landscapes are native

Under the law, native and non-native plants have played the bad-guy role.

Plant laws in the United States have taken some interesting turns. They began with bans on exotic plants to protect agriculture, then discouraged native plants in urban and suburban areas and are now moving toward promoting natives and making invasive exotics illegal.

Before World War I, state departments of agriculture developed lists of “noxious weeds” – exotic plants that threatened crops – and the states regulated them. Later local governments enacted weed laws to protect the public from neglected, littered yards that could attract mosquitoes and rats or pose a fire hazard. When the native landscaping movement began catching on in the 1970s, these laws were used to prosecute homeowners who practiced natural landscaping. Native landscapes violated the laws mainly because plants were taller than the limits set for lawns.

Several prominent court cases in which biologists, botanists and fire experts testified natural landscapes do not jeopardize public safety or health began turning the tide against such laws in the 1980s and early ’90s.

“People are still fighting for the right to natively landscape, but the challenges are fewer and fewer,” says Bret Rappaport, a Chicago attorney who represents natural landscapers. “Villages, by and large, know the benefits of native landscapes and even encourage them. The problem is more often with homeowner associations.”

Old bylaws, written when native gardening wasn’t a consideration, often control those groups, and getting them to change is difficult, Rappaport says.

Mike Stanley, owner of Michael Stanley Landscapes in Deerfield, Illinois, says 10 percent to 15 percent of his business is in native landscaping, typically on large lots. In tightly knit subdivisions people usually stick with traditional landscapes because of ordinances or neighborhood association rules, he says.

But in some newer residential developments, like Norton Creek in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Prairie Crossing near Chicago, the opposite is true. Prairie Crossing even employs an ecologist. “More and more private communities are requiring native plants,” Rappaport says.

The federal government is taking steps to prevent the spread of invasive exotic plants, and its goal isn’t just to protect agriculture, Rappaport says. President Clinton created the National Invasive Species Council, which works with federal agencies to deal with invasive exotics, by executive order in 1999. Congress and Clinton approved the Plant Protection Act in 2000. It authorizes the U.S. secretary of agriculture and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to create a list of illegal invasive species. You can find the list at

Most states have a list of banned invasive plants, and the lists have started to include species commonly used in landscaping. English ivy, for instance, is illegal in Oregon. The sale or transport of buckthorn is illegal in Minnesota. Buckthorn, purple loosestrife, Japanese honeysuckle and multiflora rose are outlawed in Illinois.

Native plants are required along river and stream banks and in environmental zones in Oregon, says Amy Whitworth, owner of Plan-It Earth Design in Portland. In northeast Illinois, there’s a push to create native prairies and woodlands around schools, Stanley says, and many municipalities require citizens to replace native trees they remove to build home additions. Long Grove, Illinois, requires developers to create scenic easements planted with native vegetation between homes and major streets in subdivisions.

The Federal Highway Administration acknowledges invasive exotic plants travel along roadsides, and encourages state departments of transportation to use native species both to combat this problem and because native plants require less maintenance. Seventeen years ago, Congress mandated 25 percent of highway landscaping project funds be spent planting native wildflowers along easements and rights of way. While transportation departments are doing this – Minnesota’s DOT, for example, has a notable wildflower program – state-level legislation requiring it has met opposition.

In California a bill that would have required the state DOT and other transit districts receiving state funds to use only “regionally appropriate indigenous plants” died in committee last year. The California Landscape Contractors Association lobbied against the legislation. “It didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” says Larry Rohlfes, assistant executive director for the association. “It was extreme in that native plants should be encouraged – but required in all instances? I think not.”

Stanley says a similar law in Illinois is facing resistance.

People involved in the native landscaping industry say they expect more laws promoting indigenous plants in the future, but don’t think exotics will be completed banned.

Whitworth doesn’t think they should be. “Our climate is changing and there may be a time not too far from now when our native plants may no longer flourish where they once thrived,” she says. “We should welcome exotics from similar climates around the globe and incorporate them with native plants.”

J.J. Sweeney, owner of Salamander Designs in Portland, Oregon, says more legislation is in order to protect habitat and agricultural industry from invasive exotics, but fashioning those controls is difficult because what’s invasive in one area may not be in another.

Carol Lindsay, owner of design firm Urban Renaissance in Portland, thinks the public would balk at strict enforcement of native landscapes. “It doesn’t seem like people will go along with losing their freedom to grow what they want at their own homes,” she says.

Sweeney says that “independent spirit” is sometimes quelled when people see the damage invasives can do. “When they have to spend money eradicating invasives that are threatening lucrative crops, or their favorite river, lake or estuary becomes infested, they become more sensitive to the issue,” she says.

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