Come on a journey with me. I have a tale of butterflies, native plants community-based designed landscapes, and soil life. It is a story of beauty and abundance, design legibility and soils health. I will talk about how to shift the landscape maintenance paradigm to stewardship gardening, and how, on a location with a 30-plus year legacy of non-native plants and conventional maintenance practices, the changes I made in design and management brought this site more monarch butterflies than I could count.
Our everyday landscapes can be of life, of butterflies, of pollinators. It is not hard. It is not unnatural. It does require doing things differently, and freeing ourselves from conventional landscape contractor business metrix, and an expectation of artificiality that so many people seem to have. I will talk about how these life-supporting landscapes are not far away, not alien, because we are of Nature, and Nature has the answers for us.
I founded Re-Ecology LTD based on this shift to a different way of thinking and doing. At Re-Ecology LTD, we think in terms of growth and abundance, and balance and versatility. We “do” in ways that supports what nature would do without us, while we shepherd and guide to increase what we want.
We are fortunate. Our metropolitan area has wonderfully preserved open public lands, and a strong legacy of ecological restoration. But what about our everywhere landscapes? What about the spaces we walk by from the car park and the back door, the parking lot at work and the building entrance, the stormwater detention area? How do we bring healthy, abundant landscapes to our everyday spaces?
Bringing ecologically positive landscapes to our built places is not difficult. Creating designs based on native plant communties, and creating and maintaining the intended design vision over time, are two of the keys to success. Keeping the landscapes “stewardship gardened” in a way more akin to ecological stewardship allows these plants to thrive; keeping the landscape architect involved over time assures the intended design legibility is realized. Landscapes are living systems, and they are an investment, and they should provide increased ecological services over time.
When we shift our thinking to a life and abundance centered practice away from a subtractive conventional landscape paradigm, we allow not only the plants, but the life that they support, including ultimately our own lives, to thrive. We can have better environmental health, more thriving beauty, better performing green stormwater infrastructure, and butterflies for our children to admire with wonder.
I hope you can join me at West Cook WildOnes next week.
-Alexia Paul, RLA, LEED AP