Updated: Jun 7, 2022
Saving water doesn't mean your garden has to be a wasteland. Great garden design ensures that water is being used in a thoughtful way but is also beautiful. Imagine if we as a nation could re-imagine 10 million acres of privately owned land and restored them to viable habitats. For reference, there is 2.3 billion acres in the US and of that 61% is privately owned. So 10 million is just a fraction of that amount. You as a homeowner may only have a very small fraction of that but add your property to the next property to the next property etc then big acreage starts becoming a reality. Change can and is happening one yard at a time.
For a moment, I want you to try to name 5 of our countries largest National Parks in the contiguous US.
Can you even name 5 National Parks?
Yellowstone (2,221,766 acres), Glacier (1,000,000 acres), Yosemite (747,956 acres), to name a few. If you combined the amount of acreage of all those National Parks you would have less land than is privately owned. A lot less! National Parks only make up a fraction of the amount of land in our country.
Thankfully we have these National Parks that protect beautiful landscapes and provide homes for majestic creatures but what about all the animals that fly or the insects that pollinate flowers. Are these protected lands the only place that these species can survive?
Have we created landscapes that don’t support our native wildlife? Are the plants we use not nutritious?
Trapping wildlife including plants in our protected land and then causing land near these parks to be lost to leads to habitat fragmentation.
Fragmentation gets worse when our population grows, we built vast parking lots, we built new home etc. These are somewhat inevitable practices but couldn't we or rather shouldn't we restore some of these habitats to make them more viable habitats.
It sounds scary and maybe feels unattainable. However, as I mentioned before so much of our land is privately owned meaning individuals get to make a choice. For those that have a front yard, backyard, acreage, a porch, a deck, a walkway…positive changes can be made to even the smallest of spaces. Every amount makes a difference not only in the amount but in the awareness changes to these spaces makes. When you make a change those around you learn about why and how you are making changes which grows more awareness to this important issue.
However, don't worry, we all have an opportunity to create habitat on our own properties. Adding native plants, thoughtfully planning out hardscape elements (patios etc.) and limiting our use of chemicals can help create an ecologically positive landscape right in your backyard.
The more homeowners that create habitat in their outdoor spaces, the more likely ecological corridors will be created. These corridors connect habitat to open spaces helping our native wildlife populations thrive.
Some of my favorite plants to include in gardens include Rhamnus californica (coffeeberry), ceanothus spp. (California Lilac), Arctostaphylus spp. (manzanita var.), Eriogonum spp. (buckwheat var.), Ribes spp. (current) and Asclepias spp. (milkweed).