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We have compiled a group of the most interesting letters from a few of our articles over the last two months.

Re: Sustainable Landscaping

I have been practicing for over 50 years and am from the vintage of when we understood and spoke English. The new language uses, again and again, new buzzwords and phrases; such as, “green,“ “sense of place” and, especially, “sustainable” and “sustainability,” and the one that kills me—sustainable, as in sustainable landscape.

I hate the word “sustainable.” In present-day parlance, it has taken on the meaning of being self-sustaining. I take “sustainable” to be more than a present-day buzzword (count the number if times that is used in the LASN articles)! I take it very seriously and not as most of those that use it nowadays. To me there is no such thing as “sustainable landscaping,” unless it is to return an area to its natural condition, whether wetland, field or forest, and especially one that does not include irrigation systems, lighting, bridges and paved surfaces.

Landscaping that involves plantings that demand more water than found naturally on the site (as lawn grass, exotic plants or native plants out-of-place), lighting, paved parking and changes in the contours inherently demand a continual infusion of funds. A golf course or sports complex or park that demands millions of gallons of water, electricity for pumps and drainage systems and lighting, is not sustainable—without a continual infusion of cash.

In a sustainability-feasibility checklist for landscape projects one should consider the costs of electricity (for lighting, controllers, pumps); water (including meters and monthly charges); maintenance (fertilizers, sprays, labor, equipment and replacements, etc.); and taxes (direct or loss). Most projects involving landscaping would fail miserably in a cost-benefit-ratio analysis.

I hate the word sustainable!

Ted Green, ASLA,
APA Kaaawa, Hawaii

Re: “NJ Contractor License Program Moves Forward” (
Steve Stiansen wrote in with a General Comment on 02/03/09:

The largest oversight with this new legislation seems to be overlooked by many. That oversight is that a large portion of the work performed by landscape contractors in the state of NJ has nothing to do with ‘gardening’ or ‘landscaping’ in the traditional sense that the creators of this bill have in mind.

As a landscape contractor in the state of NJ, I will say that a large portion of my work, close to 75%, is landscape construction, and does not involve planting, seeding, mowing, pruning, or any other horticultural practice. I would assume that with current market trends, a majority of landscape contractor’s workload is of the hardscape variety, and I am not alone.

Not one aspect of this bill takes into consideration the fact that a majority of landscape contractors are not ‘gardeners’. It is clear right from the start and its makers. The people crafting this bill are ‘gardeners’. Is not the ‘Gardener News’ a large supporter of this bill? Do the people backing this legislature understand what landscape professionals do in the state of NJ?

They obviously do not, because why would they have the Department of Agriculture oversee the testing, licensing and continuing education of business’s that do not primarily do Agricultural related work? Is it the Department of Agriculture’s responsibility to dictate to landscape contractors the proper installation of brick paver stones? According to this legislation, it will be.

Re: The removal of the National Mall provision from the stimulus bill (“ASLA Response to Nat’l Mall Provision Drop”) (

“…embarrassment for our country”

Ed Klaas wrote in with a General Comment on 02/03/09:

The deterioration of the National Mall in recent years has become a source of embarrassment for our country. Next to Arlington National Cemetery and other such cemeteries for our hallowed dead there is no more significant piece of real estate in the U.S. Try as they might, the National Park Service and a few dedicated volunteers and nonprofits such as Trust for the National Mall and National Coalition to Save Our Mall cannot adequately maintain “America’s Front Yard” without significant support of Congress. Congress employs 2,000 maintenance workers to tend 300 acres where 535 lawmakers and their staffs come to work. The park service employs 300 workers to care for 700 acres where 25 million visitors come to play. Does anybody else see anything wrong with this imbalance?

Also Re: “National Mall Out”
Rene Torres wrote in with a General Comment on 02/04/09:

Your comments that it is a shame that efforts to rehabilitate the National Mall have now removed it from the Stimulus bill due political wrangling make me think that we have some serious issues in our profession by way of political clout or the distinction of our profession. If we cannot make the case for the restoration of the National Mall in spite of its near derelict conditions then we need to seriously consider the clout we have as a profession and what anyone understands us to be. We need to challenge the thinking of who we are and what we do. Many think of us as “landscapers” something that serves Architects and Engineers very well. Our numbers are few in comparison to these other professions and we certainly do not command the respect we deserve for our efforts in making outdoor places for people. We applaud ourselves for our green thinking and being environmentally conscious and sound yet we are at the tail end of implementing and effecting change with these technologies because they have now become elements of buildings or engineering strategies. I challenge our professional leadership to develop strategies that will increase our numbers and visibility otherwise we risk eventually becoming insignificant or a division of another professional discipline.

Re: “The Return of Native Grasses to Hawaii” (
Boyd Ready wrote in with a General Comment on 02/25/09:

Chris Dacus is to be congratulated for pioneering efforts to bring the civil engineering dominated Hawaii DOT into the 21st century of biotechnology and sustainability. He has also taken the lead in the statewide industry effort to be proactive with invasive species control.

Tropical conditions make rights of way maintenance labor intensive, and invasive grasses and woody shrubs, with no winter to slow them down, quickly make inroads into any plantings deliberately introduced. Much will depend on the research into good weed control methods if these native grasses and sedges are to be successful.

Hawaii’s environment, compared to the rest of the United States, is one of the most vulnerable to invasive plants, and one of the richest in unique species. Our lowland areas, where most urban and rural built-up environments exist, are nearly devoid of native species. Chris and the DOT are making experimental steps to begin to re-establish low land natives. Dryland ecosystems in Kona on the big island are also being carefully studied by NGO and resort-sponsored groups, with an eye to protecting and expanding them.

The superficial beauty of the exotic tropical species everyone wants to see has long eclipsed the subtle beauty and sustainable forms of Hawaii’s native flora. The landscape industry in Hawaii is actively working to restore knowledge, appreciation, and use of native plants in the built environment. Chris Dacus is one of our leaders.

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November 18, 2019, 11:47 am PDT

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