Increase the value of a home with environmentally-friendly natural landscaping
By Kitty Connolly
This past April, the American Society of Landscape Architects released its 2018 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, a members’ annual rating of the expected popularity of design elements. For the sixth year in a row, native plants were top of the list (either #1 or #2).
Southern California real estate listings often call out yards as “water-saving” or “native landscape,” whether or not the description is accurate. In stark contrast, the National Association of Realtors 2018 Remodeling Impact Report on outdoor features advised that the most effective way to increase a home’s value is by hiring a standard lawn care service.
This indicates that native plant landscapes are, indeed, selling points for residential homes but haven’t yet become the standard.
When preparing a house for sale, it may seem logical to limit investment to design of the home’s interior, but green builders need to know that green buyers are looking for the whole package, yard included. That means moving beyond low-water use to a landscape that helps regenerate local nature: a native plant landscape. These gardens complement the values package of green buildings and add a distinctive element that sets them apart from the competition.
Marketing the Entire Green Package
While featuring native plants is not a fantastic leap for green builders, there are some challenges to marketing them. Some of the same appeals of green buildings apply to native plant gardens.
Native plants use 50 percent to 80 percent less water, reducing a home’s overall water use. They also reduce maintenance costs, requiring 80 percent fewer hours spent on yard work. Lastly, using native plants creates 60 percent less green waste, with no weekly mowing.
In addition to their cost effectiveness, native plants create beautiful and distinctively “green” curb appeal; a healthier environment for people and pets, with no fertilizers and fewer pesticides; and a livelier garden that supports birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
Up Close with Natives
A major barrier to the widespread adoption of native plant gardens is lack of exposure. Developers have certainly heard of native plants, but they and their customers may not be sure what those gardens really look like. Garden tours are a wonderful (and fun!) way to learn about native plants. California Native Plant Society chapters around the state offer tours each spring, but the Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour is the grand dame of them all. Our tour has been an annual event since 2003. Each year we feature a range of landscapes from professionally designed and maintained estates to owner-managed suburban front yards. Spanning Los Angeles County, 30-45 gardens show coastal to inland inspiring examples. Between tours, an online archive includes hundreds of images of exemplary gardens. Find it at TheodorePayne.org.
Wholesalers and Green Home Builders
A third challenge facing green builders is ready access to landscape-size plants, but wholesalers are gradually increasing their stock. As green builders continue requesting that California natives and municipalities require native plants as part of their landscaping codes for residential construction, wholesalers will respond with larger and more varied inventories. This transformation has taken place in Northern California, and it can take place in Southern California too.
Native plant landscapes are the cutting edge of residential green design. With their cost savings, many amenities, and great beauty, they are sure to attract green homebuyers.
Kitty Connolly is the Executive Director of Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants. She may be reached at theodorepayne.org