Landscapes of the Future: Sustainable Landscaping

By Cindy Pantea

Native grasses and plants for sustainable landscaping at homeHow about adding a field of native grasses and flowers to your landscaping to eliminate mowing? Or really planning to preserve what’s already on your property – tree for shade and natural streams – and then adding plants that will serve to feed yourself, the soil and insects?

That was the subject of last night’s presentation at the Greater Akron Innovation Network for Sustainability (GAINS). GAINS is a group of business professionals who promote sustainability efforts in Akron.

The presentation, Paint Your Lawn Green – Sustainable Landscaping Techniques, was given by married couple and business partners, Samuel L. Salsbury, FAPLD, and Sabrena Schweyer, FAPLD, of Salsbury-Schweyer, Inc.

Sabrena, the plants expert, shared her knowledge about edible and natural landscaping. Samuel , the water expert, spoke about bettering combined sewer overflow systems (CSOs) and rainwater harvesting.

We learned from Samuel that having a combined sewer overflow system (rainwater and sewer), like ours here in Akron, means that in heavy storms, the combination rainwater and sewer flows into our rivers – contaminating them. Until such time as infrastructures can be built to store overflow water until it can be treated, it helps to be able to keep rainwater on your property, through rain gardens, wetlands, green roofs and rainwater harvesting (rain barrels), which can provide bioswales and help reduce overflow problems.

From Sabrena, we learned that certain plants and grasses can help with the absorption of rainwater. We also learned that we should copy the beauty of a natural landscape. After all, nature doesn’t plant in solid masses, so diversify. Plant in layers for direct benefit to humans, plant in areas of direct benefit to soil and wildlife, and choose plants that serve multiple purposes.

It’s called permaculture. It’s all about rethinking design, say these experts, and living more gently and in harmony with the earth. Do this instead of only inventing gadgets that, yes, aim to help but put only a band-aid on the larger environmental problems at hand – namely global warming.

But what will the neighbors or homeowner’s association say about my tall native grass field?

Nothing if they’re serious about the environment and conservation, and Samuel and Sabrena have had these conversations before – they won.

Meanwhile, this type of landscaping it is exactly what the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency advocates when it comes to the Conservation Reserve Program. In fact, the photo for this blog was taken from the USDA FSA Conservation Programs site, and it included this caption: Small CRP field enhanced with native grasses and flowers makes a lovely addition to the neighborhood.

It’s time for creative thinking in landscape design. I invite you to check out the site, and especially the portfolio page of Salsbury-Schweyer, Inc. You will absolutely fall in love with the natural beauty.

Thank you to GAINS for allowing me to talk about the Summit of Sustainability.

Find out more about GAINS. They’re on LinkedIn and Facebook!