Back in the early 1980s, Robert Davie & Associates, Inc., a landscaping company based out of Sarasota, advertised with a simple message: Think Green. Today, their slogan still stands.
For Robert Davie, the company’s president and owner, thinking green means more than adding leaves, stems and vines to a garden, park, walkway, yard, patio or other outside area. Thinking green means to conserve natural resources while beautifying landscapes for residential or commercial spaces.
While plants perform many helpful tasks, such as converting carbon dioxide and water into oxygen, keeping soil healthy by working to establish life at the microbial level — a benefit to all life forms that surround it — and beautifying one’s environment to improve moods, and mental and physical health, when planned and planted right, plants can also increase property value.
However, adding native plants, and other green elements, offers even more benefits to an outdoor space.
“The benefits of ‘thinking green’ are numerous,” said Davie.
Native plants, or those that occur naturally, or have developed, or have existed for many years in an area, help conserve natural resources, such as water and fertilizer. They also have fewer pathogens and pests, and so less chemicals, if any, are needed to treat sickly plants.
Davie suggested that to find native plants that fit one’s needs, consult with a reputable garden center, a landscape company, or a local UF Extension office. UF offers a website that has a Florida-Friendly Plant Database: http://www.floridayards.org/
However, thinking ahead is what Davie considers first and foremost before planting or incorporating any landscaping elements. Thinking ahead means taking a look at an outdoor area in order to project what the space will look like over time, as plants change in size and appearance. They get taller and wider and so the added space needs to be considered for maximum efficiency.
“I always visualize what a landscape will grow into,” said Davie, who explained that a landscape should appreciate over time, not outgrow itself to where is has to be removed or replaced. “That is not very green,” added Davie.
In addition to choosing the right native plants, one needs to consider what type of soil lies beneath, such as sandy, clay or silt, and what type of environment the plants will be exposed to. “For example, plants that can take salt spray should be used if one resides on the coast, and those that can handle water should be used if a property floods,” said Davie.
When designing a green landscape, it’s important to also look closely at major specimens. “For example, if you have a large oak tree, build off this major specimen,” said Davie. Once the major specimens are established, other key specimens can be planted in places that will play off the architecture and provide shade. Another design tip Davie mentioned was to tie like trees together in a common planting area and use a common understory, plants growing under the canopy, to accentuate the group.
“Also, when plants that are very different in their shape and form are placed next to each other, the individual plants tend to stand out,” said Davie.
Davie has a few favorites, such as ribbon palms. “Ribbon palms work well in Southwest Florida. They give a balanced look to a landscape, and are a pleasant foil for oak trees and other hardwoods,” said Davie. Another palm Davie suggested is the Copernicia palm, due to its minimal water requirements and ability to handle the cold.
In addition to planting native plants in the right places, Davie considers elements such as energy efficient LED lighting. LED technology has make significant progress in the last few years.
“The power consumption is roughly 20-25 percent more for a comparable non-LED fixture,” explained Davie, who said that LED also offers options such as allowing a light color to closely mimic nature, such as the silver-blue glow of the moon.
Davie recently completed a major renovation project located in the Serenoa community of Sarasota. The old pool was removed and Davie designed a new pool and spa, an outdoor living space and an outdoor kitchen. He also incorporated new native plants and other elements. “All of the existing landscape was removed and new trees, palms, shrubs, turf and lighting were installed,” said Davie.
Thanks to thinking green, no doubt the new landscaping won’t outgrow itself for many years to come.