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Award created for Florida-friendly landscapers

Award created for Florida-friendly landscapers

Florida-Friendly Landscaping has created a new award to honor homeowners who install and maintain yards that help protect Florida’s water and natural resources.

The Florida-Friendly Natural Landscaping Award is an alternative to the Silver and Gold levels of the landscape program’s current awards and focuses on plants and landscaping methods that can thrive with minimal intervention. The award’s goal is to reward individuals who go to great lengths to create environmentally friendly landscapes that will protect water resources and create an ecological haven for pollinators and wildlife.

Claire Lewis, director of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said the recognition is special because it aims to protect Florida’s unique resources.

“Yards like these are a blessing for Florida and good for future generations because they protect Florida’s water resources and provide space for pollinators to thrive,” she said.

The practices required for Florida Friendly Natural Landscape recognition can be found on their website and focus on minimal inputs to plants, such as water and fertilizer. For example, 75% of the plants used must be native to Florida, irrigation is used only if the plant shows signs of severe drought stress, and no fertilizer is applied to the landscape after establishment.

For those interested in earning this recognition, two sites serve as excellent examples of natural recognition, one of them being the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission office in Lake City.

Chris Wynn, FWC’s regional director, said the program takes a common-sense approach to landscaping: placing plants in areas where they feel most at home so they can thrive.

The second Florida-friendly nature site is a demonstration garden planted last month at Field & Fork Gardens on the University of Florida campus featuring about 100 native plants, including bush mint, blue-eyed grass, star grass and marsh sunflower.

Led by Wendy Wilber, state coordinator for the Master Gardener volunteer program, the project was created by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping team and installed by students in the UF/IFAS College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The goal is to show how native pollinator plants can look beautiful in a home’s landscape while protecting and conserving natural resources.