Go up to the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation’s headquarters and Kathleen Williams, the executive director, will point out plants such as columbine wildflowers, sea oats, coralberry and Jacob’s ladder in the front yard.
What the foundation has brought together isn’t just any collection of plants. Why? Because the landscape consists entirely of native species.
Williams and the staff at the foundation, as part of a project called Go Native, have brought in various plants from around Tennessee to fill the landscape surrounding their headquarters.
The emphasis on native plants is intentional. Williams said that exotic, invasive plants are one of the great threats to the natural world.
“Kudzu is an invasive plant used for erosion control, but then it takes over and kills everything in its path, and nothing lives on it,” Williams said. “Autumn olive, privet and burning bush are all horrible for the environment, and I think they should be illegal.”
By putting the native plants in, the foundation has made their landscape a “no mow” yard.
“Grass is just about as bad as laying down a bunch of concrete because it doesn’t support anything in the environment,” Williams said. “Not only is planting native low-maintenance, but running lawn mowers is bad for the environment.”
The foundation has not only planted around the property, but with the help of the Tennessee Concrete Association, they have installed a pervious concrete parking lot and retaining walls. Also, on the left side of the house (above) is a new 1,000-gallon cistern that collects rain through gutters on the roof and is used to water the plants in their yard.
“There are 43 million acres of lawns in North America, and if you can put native plants in your yard it is real important in supporting insects, birds, butterflies and life in the world,” Williams said. “That is why we are encouraging and showing people what they can do in their own yards to improve the environment and life on the planet.”