by Brent Knoll | Oct 29, 2013 | B-Sustainability, Education
Certified Wildlife Habitat-One gardeners story
Brent was asked this week to demolish a garden, a certified wildlife habitat, which he has been keeping for the last 20 years. Over that course of time, it grew from the client’s little herb patch into a lush floral wildlife sanctuary. When you entered the canopy area, you were surrounded by the silent vibrations of various butterflies, the quiet hum of bees, and the soft scutter of countless varieties of lizards and insects. You could truly FEEL the living aura inside this gorgeous space. It was in this garden space where Brent learned the value of butterfly larval plants, attracting bees, and many other important botanical/natural discoveries. He trimmed, planted, and tended this beautiful space, each passing moment creating more and more life and energetic abundance. But some good things come to an end.
Landscape Designer Brent Knoll
This beautiful sanctuary was in a gated community with a board making decisions concerning the landscape. For several years now, the board has issued complaints about the garden being “too wild”. With the garden now prolifically producing papaya and bananas, they became concerned that snakes and other “unwanted” creatures might come in, and ordered the garden be heavily scaled back, and the banana to be removed…
What the board wants, the board gets, and we complied and removed 4 truckloads (packed high) of vegetation from the property. It was truly difficult to see years of growth demoed in a matter of minutes and hours, crammed into a truck bed to be hauled off. The butterflies and lizards hovered and scurried, bees buzzed around the cut blooms in the truck, every one as if to say “what’s going on?”. The garden is now a butchered shade of itself…just like that, this beautiful certified wildlife habitat was gone.
Zebra butterfly in flight
Over the last few days, we’ve talked about this incident, and the words of a friend surfaced. As we walked with him through our bamboo nursery weeks back, he mentioned something he called “loss of biophelia”. Biophelia is by definition ” an innate love for the natural world, supposed to be felt universally by humankind”. While this should be innate as the definition states, in our urban areas, we truly have developed extreme “loss of biophelia”. We’re afraid of weeds, bugs, dirt, rain, wind, sun, and so much more. Many urban people never set foot on natural ground in the course of their day. It seems so strange, and yet it is a truly pervasive part of our culture.
Brent Knoll and his soil
What’s the danger? As we see it, the danger is quite real. We believe that humanity is part of this beautiful natural world! We sprang up from it; it nourishes and gives us physical life, and in the end, we pass back to it. Through our industrialized material-focused near past, we have become a culture of people who have separated ourselves from nature and used nature to our benefit, and in the process learned to disregard what consequences which may await us. We have pushed forward in the name of progress, and though we have made many gains and VALUABLE gains at that, there truly is a price that has been paid. We have lost our connection to the very natural world that has yielded everything we have created and come to love.
Sparrow having fun in the sun
And this is somewhat natural, as we are collectively a yet adolescent species. Parents of adolescent children know that no matter how much money or supplies (both necessary and luxurious) they furnish their children with, they may not get so much as a thank you at the time. Many of us become much older adults, perhaps after marrying or having children of our own before we realize the great sacrifices our parents made in order to raise us well. Sometimes it’s even not until the passing of that parent that all the lights go on and true gratitude is achieved. While that may seem a tolerable process in human family life, we certainly can’t allow ourselves to come to that place with planet earth. It’s vital to the safety of our future generations that we turn the bus around in good time. And I think it’s this awareness that can help us make the switch into a more mature understanding of the true sacred value of our natural world.
Deb’s certified wildlife habitat
What can we do? We can reevaluate. We can learn to be truly grateful for what earth offers us, and begin to participate with focused awareness in all that surrounds us. If you have a mango or lemon tree that doesn’t seem to make fruit to feed you, it may be that pollinators are deficient in your neighborhood due to a lack of flowering plants. Plant some flowers. It may be that your soil is deficient. Bring in the insect and microbial life with some fresh compost, and top it off with organic natural mulch. And if you are on a board for your community, have this conversation with the other members. We love fruit. We love herbs, vegetables, flowers, honey, and all that nature has to offer! Therefore, let’s get connected to that process! Ask the board to provide a community veggie space! Ask your schools to plants veggie and fruit gardens and get the kids involved! Go outside and play in the dirt! Commune with nature and talk to it! Feel the vital connection between this good green earth and you!!!
Anole lizard on bean pole tipi in edible garden
At Knoll Landscape Design, we are excited about creating not only gorgeous aesthetically pleasing landscapes, but organic, flowering, aromatic, juicy, life-glorifying certified wildlife habitats! We want to help our neighbors in South Florida to see the intensely stunning natural tropical holy land that we’re blessed to call home!! If there’s any way that we can assist you in getting the garden you desire or help you to connect with your outdoor space, please let us know. Message us here or call Brent Knoll at 305-496-5155.
Fragrant almond bush
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” ~ Anne Frank
by Brent Knoll | Mar 21, 2013 | B-Sustainability, Education
Purple Cherokee Tomatoes
Brent Knoll, of Knoll Landscape Design, understands the superiority of heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been passed through the generations for hundreds of years. They have been lovingly tended and carefully preserved by the sons and daughters of the planters that came before and so they carry with them a legacy of respect and devotion. They bring us back to a time and a state of mind that placed natural virtue well above material vanity. It is a kind of culture when mothers and fathers pass down the essence of their joyful labors, and sons and daughters inherit natural abundance and sustainable prosperity. The saving and passing on of seeds is the last vestige of our natural heritage and a clear reflection of our working connection to nature.
Heirloom vegetables will always stand out and bring a special atmosphere to any garden. They have personalities of their own; bright colors, stunning patterns, rich flavors, stimulating textures, and a strong hearty constitution. The lineage of heirloom plants preserves the knowledge gained from their collective experiences. Plants have an exceptional capacity for adapting to the conditions of their environment. They can alter their processes and structure to become less vulnerable to particular pests, fungi, and chronic soil conditions that are becoming more common as the planet itself begins to change. These learned adjustments begin to develop over the generations as the plants begin to code these developmental changes into their new seeds. When the lines of these plants are preserved, their wisdom is passed down and continues to grow greater in each new seed.
Seeds that are sold by large companies are often hybrid seeds. This means that to create these seeds two varieties of plant from the same species were intentionally crossed to produce the best traits of both parent plants; e.g. preserving the large size of the father and the prolific yield of the mother. This method of production is used to breed plants that will embody exceptional traits, yet unlike the open pollination heirloom plants who develop these traits organically over generations, hybrid plants have these traits embedded immediately through human manipulation. Of course any man made manipulation of a natural process is most often a short sighted solution that will become a great detriment in the big picture. When the hybrid method is used to create plant seeds, the plant may grow well and yield prolifically but the genetic structure is too unstable to produce viable seeds. In other words seeds from hybrid plants cannot be saved for future sowing or passed down to the next generation.
Brent’s favorite heirloom cucumber, The “Japanese Long”
There should be a clear distinction made at this point between hybrid plants and genetically modified plants (GMO). Hybrid seeds are not the same as GMO. While they share essential traits and common disadvantages through their manipulation of nature, the GMO process uses a more intense approach that results in a much more dangerous ecological outcome. Hybrid seeds are created by intentionally breeding particular plants to create a desired plant trait in offspring. Genetic modification of plants is the direct manipulation of the genes themselves. Often times genes are used that do not even come from plants but rather fish genes or even genes of harmful bacteria.
Genetic modification is a highly dangerous and incredibly irresponsible endeavor that only exists out of a fluctuating combination of public ignorance, blind greed, and misguided desire to save humanity. The biggest problem with this industrial process is that there is no way to opt out of it. Seeds by design are made to spread across great distance and cannot be contained. Pollen drifts through the open air on and seeds float across the fields on the breeze. If someone is using GMO plants in their garden or farm, they are putting at risk an area larger than most would imagine.
While the difference in intensity is quite clear, in the context of seed saving, GMO and hybrid seeds arrive at the same essential downfall. When the seeds we sow cannot produce seeds of their own they become, quite literally, unsustainable. While this becomes quite conducive to the consumerist system of our culture by veiling the free providence of nature and making us dependent upon a marketplace or manufacturer, it allows us to fall out of alignment with the natural order to where we cannot harmonize with our inherent natural legacy. If we cannot preserve the natural history that is at the very root of our sustenance as ecological co-creators then we gradually erase our place and purpose in this world of being.
Brent understands these issues very well and furthermore he understands them on a very practical level. While others are ranting and raving about the politics of it all and engaging in laborious self perpetuating struggles of the mind Brent brings the simple practical solutions to the grassroots of us all. We all have the opportunity to practice our views about this issue in a joyful productive way. When we grow our food sustainably and responsibly in our own back yards then our voice grows and fruits in the sight of our universal neighbors. What we do and how we live becomes the loudest clearest and most influential argument for natural harmony and the case for sustainable natural freedom.
Heirloom plants provide superior flavor, texture, and heartiness than any other method of seed creation. They perpetuate the freedom of nature and alleviate great financial strain by continually providing the seeds of their own reproduction again and again. They afford us the ability to offer an inheritance to our children that will nourish and serve not only them but their children and their children’s children.
Heirloom melons illustrate the inherent superiority in flavor of heirloom plants
When Brent plants fruit and veggie gardens for his clients across Miami, he uses the methods that best suit us all. Brent works with heirloom seeds that his predecessors have been using for generations. He sows and waters those seeds with joyful memories of his youth and the love of those who planted before him. He preserves and cherishes the seeds to be replanted again and again in the gardens of the children who are enjoying the sweet fruits of those seeds today.
by Brent Knoll | Mar 6, 2013 | B-Sustainability, Education
The Wisdom of Native Plants, South Florida and Miami
In the great scheme of nature, all living species spend many generations co-evolving with their surrounding eco-systems to become perfectly suited for their role in their environment. They not only develop the defenses and resources needed to survive, but they also develop particular traits that contribute something unique to the life around them. As an ecosystem forms and evolves, all the interwoven qualities and contributions of every organism become essential to the survival and growth of all other organisms within that shared ecosystem.
Where plants are concerned, all the plants in a particular ecosystem share common ground, quite literally. The condition and constituency of the communal soil is determined by the life processes of all the plants who share that space. In this respect, it is easy to see how the effects that one plant has on the soil, directly affects every other plant.
Most of the time when we are planting ornamental or edible plants in our garden, we choose the plant according to our aesthetic or culinary preferences. Our planting choices are rarely based upon the geographical and cultural heritage of the plant species. However, Brent Knoll of Knoll Landscape Design in Miami, wants to tell you that it certainly should be.
An ecosystem can only thrive when the resident organisms are strong healthy and mutually compatible with the environmental conditions. When a plant is a native to a particular environment it has been conditioned from its inception to fit perfectly into the system in which it was brought up. Native plants have strong relationships with not only other plants but also with local insects, bacteria, and fungi. Through the long process of evolution the plants that have become a permanent resident in their ecological community have developed the means to peacefully and beneficially coexist with their neighbors.
When a plant is taken out of their native setting they become disoriented to their surroundings. They do not fully understand the customs or even the “language” of their new environment. When plants and other organisms evolve together they use biological communication to develop a mutually beneficial relationship. They ingeniously establish a means to feed each other while preserving their own life and vitality. They also develop a multi dimensional means of communication, and through a language of taste, color, aroma, and so forth, they will relate the details of this symbiotic dance to their neighbors. When a new plant enters this system without that vital means of communication it is vulnerable and its chances of survival are greatly reduced.
In a properly functioning ecosystem, the insects, bacteria, and fungi that feed on plant matter have created an agreement with their source of nourishment that will allow both parties to thrive. For example, when an insect feeds on the tissue of a plant, it would not be in that insects best interest if their feeding process interfered with the life processes and reproductive cycle of that plant. If that plant was not able to thrive and replicate, then that insect would lose a vitally important source of nourishment and/or shelter. For this reason, the insect has learned how much of the plants tissue can be consumed before affecting the vital processes of the plant. The plant communicates with those insects through its carefully designed and multi faceted language to let them know when enough is enough and, for their own sake, the insects respect the signals.
When a foreign plant is introduces to a new environment it lacks the understanding of the new ecological dynamics. It doesn’t know how to explain its boundaries and needs to the surrounding life and will in most cases be consumed by the surrounding environment. We see this all the time in our gardening practices. Why is it that we must habitually disperse pesticides and fungicides on our domestic plants for the sake of their survival, when in nature these plants thrive on their own amongst the presence of countless more potential “threats” than in our backyards?
By introducing foreign plants to the ecological domain that we inhabit, we are interfering with the harmonious evolution that has been taking place their long before we came on the scene. When our garden is subjected to pests and dis-ease we may view the situation as interference from nature, however the more accurate conclusion is that our botanical choices are creating resistance to a force that has long been in place and functioning perfectly. When we learn to adapt ourselves to these ecological conditions and relationships our lives and gardening chores become much simpler.
When we choose native plants for our gardens and landscapes then we are bringing strength and solidarity into our backyard environments. As we begin to choose more and more native plants our soil quality will improve and we will begin to host a balanced system of beneficial organisms to help pollinate and protect our plant life.
It is not necessarily a requirement to include only native plants in our gardens especially when our aim is to grow our own food all year. However, by always consciously choosing the native option when possible we can exponentially improve the quality and compatibility of our gardens. Brent loves to plant native butterfly plants in his South Florida organic gardens, edible landscapes and ornamental landscape designs. Corky stem passion vines, firespike, milkweed, and lantana are just a few of the gorgeous native flowers that become an attractant and/or larval plant for the many beautiful native butterfly species here in the Miami area.
Even where edible plants are concerned there are native options that will always contain that inherent wisdom which will bring them vitality and you, abundance. The everglades cherry tomato plant is native tomato of South Florida. The Everglades tomato has adapted to the hot summer sun and will produce fruit even in our sweltering summers when no other tomato can take the heat.
Native plants are wise beyond any of our botanical or horticultural sciences. They possess a wisdom that, if we learn to listen, can teach us a great deal not just about plants, but about all the mysteries of life. When we use native plants we are going beyond the preservation of our soil and into the preservation of natural heritage. Planting natives is just one more way to simplify our lives and find more sustainability by stepping into the flow of nature.
Would you like to establish a natural habitat in your back yard? Knoll Landscape Design specializes in Certified Wildlife Habitats. Give Landscape Designer Brent Knoll a call today 3054965155 for a consultation or landscape design.
by Brent Knoll | Feb 27, 2013 | B-Sustainability, Education
Composting in South Florida
Often times you may be driving around South Florida, and you will see landscape trucks filled to the brim with dead palm fronds, tree clippings, pulled weeds, and many other products of a day’s work in the yard. You may also see these piles sitting out by the curb waiting to be collected by waste management.
We see it all the time and it has become very normal for us. After all, what else are you going to do with all of that “waste”? When you have your yard mowed, your hedges clipped, weeds pulled, trees trimmed, and leaves raked you have to do something with all of that “stuff” don’t you? You can’t just leave it there, can you?
Natures composting process
Well lets think about what would happen out in nature. If we sent teams of landscapers into a pristine forest and collected all the fallen leaves, dead branches, decomposing fruits, and all other fallen “waste”, and we brought it out of the forest to the dump, then that forest would surely perish. It may look prettier and “neater” to our conditioned eyes for a time, yet that forest would starve to death before very long.
We know that , along with plenty of sunshine, plants feed on nutrients in the soil. They gather the nutrients with their roots and use them to create new growth. However, we need to ask ourselves how do those nutrients get into the soil. How does the soil replenish itself? The answer to that question lies in heaping piles at the Dade county dump. The decaying matter that falls from the plants at the end of a life cycle decomposes on the ground and the nutrients from that decomposition replenish the soil; making it very fertile.
Composting as fertilizer
Of course when we have a detached experience of the process of nature we might be conditioned to think that plant food comes in bags and bottles from the Gardening store. We assume that manufactured fertilizers are essential to a healthy landscape and that rich potting soil is something that must be purchased at the Ag shop. The truth is that when we understand, appreciate and facilitate the natural process of plants, we see that the plants have all the necessary resources to take care of themselves.
Manufactured plant foods and fertilizers are really just a poor quality replacement for the high quality, nutrient rich plant food that is literally falling into our yards everyday. When we gather and remove the clippings and deadfall from our backyards we are not only taking away the most nutritious and compatible food source from our plants, but as we throw these resources away we are also throwing away all the money we spend on fertilizers, plant foods, soil, etc.
Brent smelling fresh composted soil
Composting is clean
The good news is that we CAN have the best of both worlds if we learn to work with nature’s process. We can have a neat clean and tidy yard while still being able to utilize the free food that our plants provide for themselves. We do this when we create a composting system in our own yards. Simply by finding an inconspicuous area behind some hedges or in a hidden corner to pile our debris, we create an inexhaustible source of food for our many plants. When we gather and mix our yard clippings, chipped branches, dead leaves, and food scraps, we watch our soil and plant food being created before our eyes.
At Knoll Landscape Design, Brent Knoll encourages his clients to avoid taking anything organic off of their property. Brent knows the value of that organic matter and how much it means to his plant friends in his organic landscapes and gardens. He also realizes that one of the greatest advantages to the copious heat and sunshine of the South Florida climate is how rapidly organic yard waste can decompose to become fertile soil. This advantage makes the compost turnover rate surprisingly fast, and leaves little excuse not to have a compost area in every yard. Brent will actually find a suitable space for a compost area in his clients yards and can even create functional and aesthetically pleasing compost bins when desired. This is his way of being sure that no nutritious future plant food is tragically towed away to the dump.
Organic vegetables grown from compost
Composting is the way of the future
Although it should be known that, thanks to Brent, even when others unknowingly dispose of this nutritious organic plant food it doesn’t necessarily go to waste. A wise man knows that what many perceive as trash, others see as treasure. When Brent builds his magnificent garden spaces he is actually using your waste! Brent collects the organic matter that has been sent away by other homeowners and uses it to build massive stores of “homemade” organic soil. Using his own special composting process, Brent takes truckloads of chipped trees, yard waste, and manure and turns it into some of the most fertile soil in South Florida.
So now that you know how it works, “Keep it in your own yard”. Create a space for a compost pile and collect all that beautiful nutritious debris. This is a cornerstone of sustainability. Why throw away the resources nature provides only to use industrial means of manufacturing unnatural and inherently poor quality substitutes that cost you money? Embrace your ecological relationships and utilize the perpetual providence of nature. This natural partnership is essential to our philosophy at Knoll Landscape Design, and facilitating that process for our client’s is our mission.
Raised Bed Garden
Need help with your Organic Garden?
Need help getting started wtih your organic garden? Knoll Landscape Design is there for you. Call Brent Knoll at 3054965155 to schedule an in person consultation and get your organic garden going in the right direction. Brent has been designing organic gardens in Miami for over 20 years and is ready to help you. Call today!
Landscape Designer Brent Knoll
by Brent Knoll | Feb 26, 2013 | B-Sustainability, Education
Miami’s own Brent Knoll, of Knoll Landscape Design, makes sustainability and ecological responsibility his top priority. Fortunately for Brent’s clients, his application of sustainability brings style and flare. We know, of course, that growing our own food is one of the most sustainable and ecologically responsible things we can do. It revitalizes our soil, fortifies our health, saves countless barrels of fossil fuel, and builds a healthy natural relationship for the generations to come. But what about the other aspects of our lifestyle? What about the materials we use to build our houses, furniture, floors, etc.?
Did you know that it can take up to 30 trees to build the average single family home? Did you know that at least 7,000 sq. kilometers of rainforest are cleared annually for lumber use? As the population grows and we need to build more homes these numbers are only climbing, and at this rate we are rapidly losing our most pristine and important global forests.
What can be done? As we are collectively coming to admit that, for the sake of our planet, we must find an alternative source of energy to fossil fuel, we must also collectively search for a viable alternative to our conventional construction materials. Just like internal combustion, the industrial standard of pine lumber was a shortsighted and ecologically impractical idea from its inception. While seeming convenient and lucrative in the moment, the rate of growth and the required means of procurement make it a highly destructive and ecologically jeopardizing endeavor with zero chance of sustainability.
As this industrial nightmare closes in on our most vital ecological resources, our hero, bamboo, most certainly comes to the rescue. Bamboo shows us that we haven’t necessarily chosen the wrong trees for the job, but maybe we’ve chosen the wrong plant altogether. Most trees take quite a long time to reach a stage in which they could be harvested for viable lumber. Trees also are a home for so many species of animals; from birds and squirrels, to ants and bees. Bamboo on the other hand is actually a grass; and we all know how rapidly and abundantly grass propagates itself.
Bamboo has a growth rate that exponentially exceeds that of conventional lumber trees. Coniferous trees, such as southern pine or Douglas Fir, are not ready to be harvested for at least 30-35 years. That means that once the logging industry harvests part of a pine forest, that forest will not fully regenerate for at least two decades.
Bamboo on the other hand, is ready to be harvested in as little as four months. This means that if you harvest your lumber from bamboo plants to build your home, the lumber you harvested could regenerate before the construction of your home was even finished!
Now that we’ve seen how bamboo blows away the competition in rate of growth, let’s look at how it stacks up in the strength department. Surely our conventional lumber, that we have been using for so long to build our homes, must be much stronger than bamboo, right? Not even close.
Despite the hollow structure of the bamboo culms, they are extremely durable, and what’s even more important, extremely pliable. When a structure made with standard lumber boards faces heavy strain from wind or shifting earth, the boards can warp, split, and even snap. When bamboo faces the same strain it bends and flexes to keep the structure intact. In fact, there are many regions of the world that are prone to regular earthquakes where bamboo is used as the primary building material. In these regions bamboo is considered virtually earthquake proof.
One of the most troubling issues of our conventional lumber system is the havoc wreaked on our forests by the collateral damage of the logging process. Trucking in the large machines necessary for that job is a loud and dirty process which does not go unnoticed by the surrounding ecosystem. The trees harvested in this process have been housing entire biological systems and many species of living creatures for decades before the saw falls upon their bark. The practical reality of this process is heartbreaking and not something any of us would want to be a part of.
Bamboo can grow anywhere, and is harvested relatively simply. The rapid growth rate almost requires significant harvesting, and because of the quick turnover rate and lean structure, bamboo doesn’t generally shelter wildlife long term.
In Asia, bamboo is widely used in all types of construction from family homes to sky scrapers and large bridges. Even now in our country, this earth saving concept is catching on; but is it catching on quick enough?
From furniture to flooring, bamboo is now being used as a sustainable and efficient alternative. Yet, because the conventional lumber industry has become such a strong institution the masses are reluctant to let go and embrace the change. A mix of corporate greed and general ignorance, this reluctance could be a great detriment to the revitalization of our eco system. Until the awareness and demand for this magical plant steadily rises, the materials will need to be imported and the cost to the consumer will not reflect the ultimate efficiency of such a product.
What can we do? We can realize it from the grass roots. If we want to see this change in our culture and society, then we can be that change ourselves; right from our own backyards. Bamboo can grow almost anywhere, and as luck would have it, in our sunny South Florida climate we can play host to quite a wide range of beautiful and exotic bamboo species.
By using bamboo in your edible organic landscape, you will be able to enjoy the elegant beauty, whimsical sounds, and reliable utility of this magical plant. Whether you are using it as lumber for your household DIY projects, or simply using it to replace the pine timber privacy fence, bamboo will enhance your landscape and ecological outlook in so many ways
Brent prizes his bamboo for their stunning beauty and their reliable sustainability; the two are inseparable as far as he is concerned. He loves his job because he knows that bringing our natural connections onto our back yard means saving the world with style, beauty, and grace. Brent knows that his organic gardens and edible landscape designs provide many levels of enjoyment for South Florida families.
The diverse beauty and abundant nutrition that the right organic edible landscape can provide will open us up to the inspiring realization that our relationship with nature always perpetuates abundance and prosperity. When we cultivate that relationship right in our own backyard we manifest that abundant prosperity in a way that is fully evident in our health, state of mind, and even our wallets. We rest easier as we witness the process of what nature can provide for us freely, and most important of all, we know that the more intimately we engage in this relationship, the more we contribute to the healing and rejuvenation of the planet itself.