Feature Article - November 2004
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It's Only Natural

Inviting ideas for your landscaping

By Kelli Anderson

Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago, can be considered many things, but who knew being "green" was one of them?

"I worked for Mayor Daley," says Edith Makra, community trees advocate of The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill. "He's really green and understands the positive impact of nature on people, intuitively. He watches commuters look up at the trees as they walk by on the streets and he knows they feel better. When asked by reporters why he was making trees a priority for the city, he said that, based on his observations, it was important to the quality of life."

While it probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that adding more attractive landscape elements to a commercial setting or a public space is a good thing—studies have shown conclusively that current landscaping trends (using natural, indigenous materials and sustainable design strategies) benefits our health and the environment and even saves money and can generate revenue.


Because water has become an increasingly expensive and dwindling resource, native plant materials like perennials and grasses are enjoying increased attention, use and appreciation.

"No matter where you go in the U.S., xeriscaping—or going native—is in," says Michael Kirschman, manger of natural areas and interpretation at award-winning Peck Farm Park in Geneva, Ill. "Water is an issue out west where, like in New Mexico, 50 percent of yard space must be natural instead of lawn. You get a tax break in Colorado if you don't have a turf lawn."

Further making the case for native plants, Kirschman points out the many monetary benefits: Reduced need for water and maintenance time adds up to a significant savings, while increased revenue from attracted patrons to a natural setting is also nothing to sneeze at. People like the sense of getting back to their roots. Native plant areas are one way people enjoy a connection to their region and their local history.

Native plants also connect with the local wildlife by creating a natural habitat for birds, butterflies and small mammals, a notable departure from more sterile landscape designs of the past.