Eco yards in the news

Yes, more and more, the eco-yard trend is making the mainstream news, even making it into glossy mags and the fancy weekend magazine sections of newspapers. Here’s a nice article in Washingtonian magazine. People Are Forgoing Classic Grass Lawns for Eco-friendly Native-Plant-Filled Gardens.

“Rhodes is part of a growing movement of US homeowners questioning the supremacy of the all-grass yard, aided by an increasing number of pollinator-¬≠friendly state and local laws. Lawns still dominate — the Lower 48 contains 40 million acres of lawn, making turf grass, by area, the biggest irrigated crop in the country. But gardens have been gaining momentum: In 2020, the National Wildlife Federation reported a 50-percent increase in registered Certified Wildlife Habitat gardens and saw a fivefold jump in the number of people searching wildlife gardening tips online.”

Even the Wall Street Journal has an article.

“‘Rewilding is returning land to a more natural state,’ says Allison Messner, co-founder and CEO of Yardzen, a landscape design company with clients nationwide. Rewilding a yard typically involves introducing regionally appropriate plants, also called native plants, and fostering habitats for local wildlife. People come to the practice for myriad reasons. Some people want to support pollinators; some want to avoid water-guzzlers; others want to signal they are climate conscious. But the overarching purpose is universal: to encourage the flourishing of natural ecosystems and to mitigate the effects of habitat loss and climate change.”

(The WSJ article is titled “Meet the Homeowners Spending Tens of Thousands to Let Their Lawns Go Wild” — But Homegrown National Park, which shared the article on its public Facebook page, emphasizes that one need not spend nearly as much. It is in fact possible to get plants for free in many cases just by talking to one’s likeminded neighbors. I will say, in my experience, as one who did one year spend probably a couple thousand dollars on plants to get my yard jumpstarted, that the investment upfront more than pays for itself as none of the typical gas-powered, chemical-laden maintenance is needed.)

And on this subject of natural yards, we need to stop treating HOA’s like they are the laws of physics or the laws of the land.

We also need to set about the possibly scary business of entering into dialogue with our local code enforcement officials. I have started doing it, and surprise surprise, they are actually human beings who are more willing to listen than I expected. I actually had a code enforcement officer advise me — advise citizens in general — to not just go with what code enforcement says but to actually enter into a conversation and explain what we are trying to do.

Same with our neighbors’ manicured yard preferences. We need to stop being so cowed by what our neighbors think, stop being so apologetic about our yards.

We don’t have to be unpleasant, but we can acknowledge to ourselves that we hate their chemical manicured yards too! Aesthetics is a two-way street. And after all, our aesthetic preferences actually have an ecological and scientific basis.

Grass-kissers talk a lot about “curb appeal is important” — as if a natural yard has no curb appeal. To which we could respond: Curb appeal is important to me! I despise the look of manicured chemical landscaping, it has zero curb appeal. Realtors and developers take note too please!

Here are some very recent photos of my coastal dunescape yard.

Those were the more dune side; this is the more forest-y side.