Can We Adapt to New Realities?

One of the suburban standards that may be obsolete when energy and water get much more costly is the large, well-watered lawn that required mowing many times every month.

In our area, forests are being leveled to build more houses. Wild critters, large (deer) and small (lizards), are having to migrate to new areas. There are ways to create an attractive landscape that provides a place for wildlife and is much more energy and water efficient.

Below are some excerpts from a newspaper article about Gail Stephens, naturalist and horticulturist, who runs a landscaping business, Nature Plus Designs, in Richmond, VA.

Link: inRich – Chesterfield County – The beauty’s in the land.

Stephens relies more on berms than fencing for privacy. She uses clover in her small grass yard to feed her rabbits.


She shuns chemical fertilizers, preferring organic solutions, and chooses fruit- and seed-bearing plants that are beneficial to wildlife. Huge lawns are ecological and environmental disasters, she said. "They don’t provide food or cover for wildlife, and we drench them with chemicals. . . . We’re wiping out reptiles and amphibians."

She bristles at the practice of builders who bulldoze the natural vegetation, flatten the earth, plant a couple of boxwoods and throw down grass seeds. Builders should allocate more money for landscaping and drainage, she said.

wild yard

Stephens is moving to a smaller house in Chesterfield County in a neighborhood without strict covenants. "It looks like you’re in the mountains," she said. She will add solar power, radiant heat and a tankless water heater. She will use water from a stream for irrigation.

The property has a swampy area. "I love it. So many native plants love those conditions."