Doug Delano from Level Green Landscaping gave the Turning a New Leaf audience a reality check. “I am in a competitive industry,” he said. Clients are used to neatly trimmed shrubs and mown grass, he said. Clients are used to mowing, mulching, pesticides and non-natives, he said. That’s what they’ll pay for. Level Green does use recycling mowers that double cut turf and drop it back on to boost organic matter. They’re also exploring electric leaf blowers and trimmers. Much of the mulch they lay down is made from recycled wood pallets that have been double shredded and oftentimes dyed. Double shredded mulch doesn’t move around after rainfall. “Twenty to 30 years from now, I think our industry will be entirely different.” Changing to more sustainable landscapes must come from multiple directions, including landscape architects, property owners and government regulation, too. “I don’t think it will happen on its own because it costs more money.”
To increase landscape sustainability, Joseph Mudd from Prince Georges County Parks & Recreation Deptartment is working to reduce the number of annuals he’s using in county flowerbeds and the landscape to save time and resources in the installation, removal and follow-up maintenance and watering, he said. The focus has shifted toward perennials and “diverse beds to avoid disease problems.” He’s also stepping up the planting density to reduce weeding and herbicide applications. Plant selection is primarily native species with some non-natives. Joseph’s biggest challenge is educating staff on the need to reduce weeding and spraying. “You say native landscape and people think it’s going to look like a ditch on the side of the road.” Naturally they want to manage it.
Cheryl Corson, Cheryl Corson Design, the session moderator, added that landscape architects and landscape designers should begin including design specifications that include maintenance outlines for one to two years of required maintenance. Many people may think that “just because these are natives they don’t require maintenance, water or weeding and they are better adapted to the landscape. That’s silly,” she said. Mandated maintenance plans would help. In some cases, a maintenance plan is required. Some states are mandating reduced fertilizer applications. If a contractor/developer submits LID features, they have to have a management/maintenance plan, she said. Unfortunately, many developers don’t hire landscape designers; they “hire someone who puts in turf and plants” without regard for what’s going to happen once their crew leaves the property.