The University Record, March 18, 1998
These four alternative designs for front yards with native plant gardens show that the proportion of turf can vary from 80 percent to 15 percent. As long as a clear view to the front of the house is retained, and the yard looks neat and cared-for, some biodiversity can be introduced into the home landscape. Designs and drawings by C.C. Burrell. From Bringing Garden Amenities into Your Neighborhood: Infrastructure for Ecological Quality.
By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services
When spring begins, neighbors with very different landscaping tastes start spending more time outside. As a result, their relationships may suffer: the difference between a newly established, environmentally correct, native landscape and a neglected, weedy neighborhood eye-sore is not universally apparent.
"Ecological quality tends to look messy," says Joan Iverson Nassauer, a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. "What is good for biodiversity and environmental health may not look good, and what looks good may not be healthy."
Instead of feuding with neighbors who like mown, chemically green and weed-free lawns, or privately dismissing them as unenlightened members of the great brownlash, Nassauer urges advocates of natural landscaping to adopt a different approach.
The editor of Placing Nature: Culture and Landscape Ecology, published earlier this year by Island Press, Nassauer has conducted studies with more than 300 Midwestern suburbanites to identify exactly what it is about a home landscape in established cities and suburbs, as well as new subdivisions, that makes people realize it is being naturalized, rather than neglected. Nassauer offers the following six strategies for gardeners who want to stop weeding and mowing and return to nature without enraging more horticulturally conventional, chemically-dependent neighbors:
According to Nassauer, all six strategies are based on common cultural preferences for neatness and order that facilitate the acceptance of more wild, native landscapes.
Using them in your yard this spring may keep you on speaking terms with your neighbors, and out of court for violating local weed ordinances.