Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods, points out that the baby boomers are the last generation of Americans to share an intimate, familial attachment to the land and water/ The importance of nature to our well-being has been demonstrated by numerous studies correlating improved learning, an increased sense of well-being, and reduced crime in neighborhoods with trees and parks. In addition, folks don’t save something they don’t love, so we want to help them do so.
The Native Plant Society of Texas created the Native Landscape Certification Program in order to contribute to a migration of Texans back to nature that will reap priceless benefits for our families, environment, and economy.
The program is a series of classes that teach best practices for native plant landscape and habitat preservation and introduction. The format is a combination of classroom instruction with PowerPoint and outside fieldwork. Targeted audiences are homeowners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape architects, architects, landscape designers and nurserymen, Master Naturalists, teachers, citizens, Master Gardeners, engineers, and more.
Classes are currently offered only in a few cities. Future plans are to offer it in all the major cities of Texas.
Level 1 is a one-day introductory discussion of the value of native plants in landscapes as well as the need for the protection and use of natives in construction and established landscapes. This is a great entry-level introduction for even the most casual of learners and can be the basis for ongoing public education. It describes the ecoregions of the area. It talks about the cultural needs of plants, water and light needs, and design qualities. The class is taught adjacent to a natural area so we can provide instruction in native plant identification, including trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses, their use in the landscape, as well as common exotics found in the landscape. At each level students are introduced to fifty plants, the most recognizable being featured in Level 1, known to be native to and historically found in the area.
Level 2 separates the dilettantes from the potentially informed citizen, volunteer enthusiast and leader—and thus has fewer enrollees. It shows what is possible during development instead of “moon-scaping.” It addresses the best practices associated with development, including decisions on what plants to keep, how to protect them during construction, what to choose to plant in new beds, and how to manage them afterwards. It describes local ordinances and the political process for creating and revising them, such as the tree ordinance. It covers irrigation and maintenance, landscape design, the cultural and environmental value native plants can bring to common landscaping practices, the negative impact of invasive species introduced into the landscape, and the substitution of particular natives for particular exotics. After this class, no one will be able to confuse our students into believing the developers have no choice but to denature their property.
Each level has been defined by an original vision that is modified as we proceed. Future topics may include: deeper details on the geology, soils, climate, and ecological processes of our region; land use issues; drought, flood, and desertification; plant community characteristics; choosing the right plant for the right landscape or ecological use; maintaining landscapes; succession in the landscape; irrigation; rainwater use; basic environmental restoration principles and practices; riparian plants; supporting state and local conservation plans and programs; urban development using environmental principles such as Low Impact Development and Sustainable Sites Initiative; potential advocacy approaches; working with the public; field surveys, or preserving habitats.
We look forward to increased use and cultural acceptance of native plants in urban landscapes and rejection of invasives, improved marketability of native plants, a greater sense of place for residents and visitors, appreciation by landowners of their land’s natural assets, increased community rejection of destruction of natural resources, increased production of native plants by the horticulture industry, increased presence of “desirable” wildlife species in urban landscapes and reduced undesirable wildlife, such as grackles, and increased advocacy by licensed professionals for native plants.
The project was conceived by former Native Plant Society of Texas President Melissa Miller and former San Antonio city arborist Debbie Reid, who helped found the Texas Master Naturalist program. Melissa continues to be involved in San Antonio area classes.