PRFCT Perspectives

Tagged with "Professionals"

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Landscape designer and mom of two little girls, Grace Fuller Marroquin knows the power of connecting with a landscape. A childhood spent planting in the garden with her mom and playing in the dirt inspired her to bring this deep love to her work with clients. When she begins a project, the first questions she asks are: What does natural beauty mean to you? What makes you nostalgic about nature or gardening? “Being in a landscape evokes emotions,” she says. “I want to capture that in my designs.”

Grace looks to nature and its processes to manage her landscapes toxic-free. “Most people want to live in a healthy environment,” she says. “Nature-based gardening is cleaner and healthier, not only for us, but for the ecosystem. I don't know how we can exist much longer without practicing these methods, which are very straightforward and extremely simple to follow once you make the change.”

“Now that I’m a mom, I’m trying to provide the best experiences with nature that I can for my children," says Grace. "They crave it.” Her girls love collecting acorns and making fairy houses outside. “I keep finding snails and worms in my three-year-old’s pockets. They’re her buddies,” she says. “It’s absolutely necessary to get back to our roots, spend time connecting with nature—and to do it safely without toxic chemicals.”

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Radicle Thinking by Edwina von Gal

I’ve been thinking about what our landscapes say about us. Just the same as clothing, homes, or cars, landscapes tell the world a lot about their owners. They also tell the stories of the billions of lives—visible and invisible—that are living (or not) in our yards and how we are treating these plants, animals, and fungi that were there before we took over, and still need a home.

Garden owners and gardeners manipulate properties, creating gardens that showcase to the world just how smart, successful, tasteful, plant savvy, carefree, or eco-conscious they are, or want to look like they are. The more carefully clipped, sterilized, and controlled a property, the more resources (time and money) were obviously needed to get it there. Control sends a clear message of wealth and power. More control means fewer surprises; minimal changes from season to season and year to year—frozen in time, predictable, and rather lacking in life.

But nature wants it otherwise. It wants to grow and fill a place with life. It will never stop trying, and it is powerful. Keeping a place from aging naturally requires ever more control—more machines, more sprays, more mulch, more money. More impressive? The landscape industry hopes you think so. It has become a huge machine fueled by all the services a tightly controlled landscape needs to keep it looking just so. And yes, you know where I am going with this thought: the cost to the environment is harsh. Nary a branch out of line, never a nibbled leaf; no place for non-human lives to live—and not great for humans either, considering the constant onslaught of noise and poison.

There are alternatives and they are starting to send some new messages. How to read them? Even the “drive-by” eye can easily tell what priorities the property owner has in mind. Take a ride around and judge for yourself. Here are some of my thoughts:

Wall to Wall Carpet of Lawn = Power Play: lord and master of all. Nothing much but grass.

Trees and Shrubs Shaped with Military Precision = Control issues: everything bound up in shapewear.

Privet, Boxwood, Mophead Hydranges, Crepe Myrtles = Fashion Victim: two decades late to the party.

Yellow Warning Tags = Blind Optimism: “Huh, pesticides are bad for me?”

Huge Hedges = Insecurity: “I don’t want to engage with the community, but I want them to think I’m someone special.”

Monocultures—Huge Swaths of One Kind of Plant = Short on ideas: High Impact with minimal creativity.

Diverse, Unclipped Plantings = Setting the stage: challenging the norm-complexity is not the same as messy

Native Ground Covers = Spreading the love: finding new solutions like using large swaths of lawn alternatives.

UnMowing = Conscious Uncoupling: letting go of the norm, welcoming wildlife.

Major Meadow = Eco Chic: on trend, changing the garden aesthetic.

Gardens need a new look, a new kind of care that is caring and welcoming to all life…. Can you see it coming? Could it be time for a bit of self assessment? Landscape as therapy—the best kind.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

The Book of Wilding: A Practical Guide to Rewilding Big and Small , by Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell
“In this age of eco-anxiety, when we can so easily feel utterly powerless and overwhelmed by the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, experiencing rewilding seems to restore a sense of agency and ambition.” —Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell

Photo: The owners of this garden designed by Refugia outside of Philadelphia replaced their front lawn with a vibrant, native meadow. Photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo.

Pollinator Pathway

Earth Day Optimism

April 19, 2023

Another Earth Day is coming up. And, yes, it can be easy to question whether all the work we are doing is enough in the face of so much bad climate and biodiversity news. There is still so much land being harmed all around us with noise and poison. Of course, it’s no surprise that we might be eco-anxious. Nevertheless, I am feeling optimistic this Earth Day…it is the 10th birthday of the launch of Perfect Earth Project and there is so much to celebrate. 

For one thing, the media has really caught on to the urgency and importance of our message. Each week I see a plethora of stories about reducing lawns, leaving leaves, and planting natives for biodiversity. There are pollinator groups forming—and growing—in most communities. These groups are filled with passionate people who are learning about nature-based land care and sharing their knowledge with others. They are putting pressure on landscape professionals to learn about plants and provide nature-based services. Where garden centers fail to provide native plants, they hold native plant sales. They are posting beautiful photos of their wild front yards to help drive the aesthetic of what a good garden looks like. They are saying: We don’t have to wait for ordinances or laws to change. We can do this now, together. We can make a huge difference. And, for sure, they are making a difference.  
 
Every single one of us can make a difference. On our own or with a group, we can build habitat (food, shelter, water) in our gardens, learn the names of native plants (especially keystone species) and the birds and insects they attract, and then plant them, at our homes and in our communities. We can let plants grow to their natural shapes and leave deadwood for the bugs and birds. We can be highly attentive to soil, and water properly as we enter a future of shortages. We can practice doing no harm. 
 
I will remain optimistic. Because those of us who are doing this are doing something amazing. We are changing the way we relate to nature in how we relate to our land. We are CARING for the land. We are making landscapes that are full of life. We are, most of all, building resilient humans, who will face the future with nature on our side.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Book: In her latest book Love Nature Magic, Maria Rodale enters fearlessly into a world governed by natural forces. Her adventures are weird, insightful, humorous, and unforgettable. 

Quote: "We are stardust / Billion-year old carbon / We are golden / Caught in the devil's bargain / And we've got to get ourselves / back to the garden" —Joni Mitchell “Woodstock”

Image of students planting a pollinator-friendly habitat, courtesy of Pollinator Pathway 

Allan Pollack Morris

Eco Anxiety Antidote

January 18, 2023

If you use a landscaper for the maintenance of your property, the beginning of the year is contract renewal time. Of course you are probably starting this year anxious about your health and the environment and you aren’t sure whether signing up for a weekly dose of noise and poison in your yard is the best thing to do. It just doesn’t quite feel right, which adds to your eco-anxiety. But instead of worrying more, you could use this moment to do good. Guaranteed good for the environment, and super healthy for you and your family.

You just need to ask your landscaper to do things a bit differently by switching to nature-based practices. He/she may not know how, and chances are, you don’t know either. So who does know? Sadly, there are very few nature-based landscapers, and there probably isn’t anyone better for you to hire than the one you have got. So unless they flatly refuse to try, don’t fire them. Let’s engage and train the ones we’ve got, and send the message out that this is the future of land care. It is healthier for them too.

Everything you need to get started is in our PRFCT LeafLet Basics of Nature-Based in English and Spanish. For a typical annual maintenance schedule, which you can use as the basis of your new contract, go straight to page 21 – review it with your landscaper. It should not cost more, there are no products to purchase.

What is nature-based? Here’s the nutshell: Healing, not Harming. Let nature do the nurturing.

  • No toxic fertilizers or insecticides. Fertilizers overstimulate plants and make them susceptible to disease. The right plant for your soil, doesn’t need them. Insecticides are not target specific, they kill beneficial insects and soil organisms. You don’t depend on your landscape to eat, so why not share it with a host of wonderful life forms that could find refuge there?  
  • Retain, recycle and reimagine all biomass. Keep what your property produces (grass clippings, leaves, twigs, weeds, etc.) and feed it back to the soil. It is the food your place made for itself. Better than anything you can buy, and without the carbon footprint. (See PRFCT Lawn Basics for more).
  • Plant at least 2/3 native plants. Plants did fine without us humans for eons, so if you plant the ones that evolved in your conditions, they will still be fine with very little from you. Plus, they provide just the right food and shelter for local birds and pollinators. (See 2/3 for the Birds for more).
  • Avoid and remove invasive plants. Get to know which plants are invasive. (See the Invasive Plant Atlas for more). Don’t buy them. Remove and replace any you have already got. (See Beyond Pesticides for more).
  • Water properly. Very seldom. Very deep. Over-watering is one of the most common landscape malpractices. It leads to a wide range of plant and soil problems and promotes tick and mosquito populations.  
  • Minimize pruning. Every cut is a wound. Plant with plenty of space for trees and shrubs to grow to their natural shapes. Leave deadwood and standing dead trees, unless positioned dangerously, they provide unique food and nesting opportunities.
  • Relax and enjoy. Your landscape is not your living room; forcing it to be tidy, clipped, and fixed in time is “dead room.” Let it be alive; always changing and creating new surprising delights for you.

Keep in mind, your landscaper doesn’t necessarily know any more about this than you do. So make sure he/she understands that this is an adventure in earth friendly relationships and as long as they are willing to truly commit to the practices, you will be happy. It is a whole new way to relate to your land.

Hooray, eco-anxiety reduction in action! You are doing something unquestionably good for the earth. (Not to mention yourself, your family, and your pets). Once you get started, you will find there was nothing to fear. It is all fascinating, joyous, and beautiful. 

If you encounter some problem that makes you want to give up, contact me: edwina@perfectearthproject.org

Suggestion: Watch as your nature-based landscape supports more and more birds and pollinators. Start recognizing and recording them on iNaturalist and eBird, and become part of a global network of citizen scientists.

Next month: Help me prepare for Biomass Part 2. Send me your composting concerns. If you aren’t composting, why not? If you are, what worries you? Write me: edwina@perfectearthproject.org

Bonus: All you ever wanted to know about climate change.

Photo by Allan Pollok-Morris

April 9, 2020

The PRFCT Relationship

April 09, 2020

Why not take advantage of this at-home opportunity to get to know your property better -- to work on your relationship? Have you spent quality time with your place, looking and listening? Learning from it. Do you understand and embrace its needs? How do you decide what is best for it? All on your terms?   
 
Go outside and take a good look at every square foot of your place, without judgement. What is going on? What is doing just fine, and what needs you? Appreciate all that is beautiful that happened all on its own. 
 
You and your land have been living together;  is it time you took a vow to be true to it? No cheating.  A relationship based on mutual input, not domination.    
 
What does that mean? This year’s PRFCT Tips will be your guide. 
 
Step One: Review all the maintenance and fertilizer/pesticide treatments you or your professionals have been applying to your property. What are they? Why are they needed?  
Check out their health and environmental effects here:  https://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/pesticide-gateway
Or email us with questions: info@perfectearthproject.org 
 
Go back outside. Is your property bursting, buzzing and chirping with life? Treasure it. Make that vow: I will do this place no harm. Practice.  
 

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