In light of the climate change crisis and its looming effects on our future lives, landscaping and gardening in both urban and suburban environments is changing and evolving. Those changes involve everything from the equipment and fertilizers we use to the type of plantings we put in the ground. This trend is amplified by the proliferation of ‘green’ practices, as well as regulations that encourage their adoption in many cities. Environmentally-friendly products, practices and technologies are increasingly implemented by local governments not only to improve the quality of life in their communities, but also to hopefully slow the acceleration of climate change and its effects.
What’s Up in Urban—and Suburban—Landscaping?
“There’s a two-fold approach unfolding today,” says Rani Dorman, Director and Design Specialists for Blooming Urban Design Scapes, an urban landscaping firm in New York City. With more than 17 years in the field, Dorman has wide and varied experience with all types of residential properties in urban settings, including multifamily communities. “There are advances in technology,” she says, “software programs that provide design options, including seasonal design. These apps are very sophisticated. You can show a client renderings, textures, and color palettes, immediately, in real time on an iPad or smartphone. You can take a picture and do a rendering right there. At the same time there is also a return to a more old-fashioned, natural approach to gardening. People are beginning to understand the nature of gardening and plants again.”
Josh Eibeschitz, Vice President of Sales for Southeast Landscape Management in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, confirms the change in perspective around landscaping practices in the past few years. “The biggest change is that we as an industry have become much more environmentally conscious,” he says. “Whether it’s the chemicals we use or how we apply them, we are more aware, all the way down to our equipment. The machines we use now have lower emissions. A lot is driven by government rules, but we’re using fuel-injected lawn mowers and chainsaws. Overall, there’s more technology. You can’t be just some guy with a pick-up truck to cut grass anymore.”
According to Gil Santos, owner and proprietor of Gil Santos Landscaping in Park Ridge, New Jersey: “The big thing today is organics, going green. Condo owners are getting away from chemicals, especially where pets are involved. The big change has been relative to trees. We no longer treat trees with chemicals. We also treat soil organically, using non-chemical products.”
A more thorough understanding of the science of botany is changing landscape and gardening services as well. “Plants are social beings,” says Dorman. “They are social with each other. Look at a forest. There are short plants, tall plants, plants that protect each other in different ways – with their root systems, for instance. You don’t plant a cactus next to a willow tree. In a forest, plants thrive without mulch, fertilizer, etc. Plants can be self-sufficient in a natural environment.”