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.
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
Why you should install an Edible Landscape in your Miami yard
The simple essence of edible landscaping is to create the same bright botanical display that any gardener desires, while using plants that are as delicious and nourishing as they are stunningly beautiful!
In the conventional methods of landscape design, the goal is to provide an aesthetically pleasing backdrop to your home. Landscapers use trees, bushes, flowers, sod and vines to decorate the surroundings of your house and yard. It is more than rational to want to make our outdoor spaces attractive and pleasing to onlookers. A visually pleasing setting brings about a very positive energy to a residential environment, and cultivating plant life in the area of our homes can keep us aware of our connection to nature.
A good landscape design also incorporates the use of plants for utility. Decorative vines and shrubs may be installed to hide visually unpleasant elements of the home such as oil tanks or swimming pool pumps. Tree rows are planted to create visible boundaries and to provide a wind break. Hedges can even be installed in place of a fence for privacy. There are so many useful and innovative ways to create a landscape in our yards, yet in the convention of landscaping today so many of us are missing a golden opportunity.
In a time when food costs are steadily rising and there is very little comfort in the quality and source of fruits and vegetables, we should really begin to explore the possibilities of growing our own food. Sure, you can grow a vegetable or herb garden, and many of us do. However, there are a large number of homeowners who don’t think they have the time or space to have a garden. Yet, since most of them do make certain that their property is landscaped, the solution seems quite logical; use edible plants in your landscape design!
Who wouldn’t want a strong wooden pergola overflowing with gorgeous blossoming flowers creating an archway into their backyard. This majestic scene would be a breathtaking addition to anyone’s space. Now, imagine that these flowers belonged to the passion fruit vine, and in addition to the splendor of their captivating display this wonderful plant would also provide delectable morsels of free organic fruit! Now imagine a border of ornately shaped deep green ground cover mixed with bright luscious hibiscus flowers. Well, guess what, those ornate green groundcover plants are actually tender salad greens, and even better yet, those hibiscus flowers are just as edible, and go great in those salads!
Sometimes the use of edible plants, in itself, requires the application of even more beauty. If you utilize raised bed vegetable or herb gardens in your yard you will need them to be pollinated right? So there is no better way to do so than planting a copious display of breathtaking butterfly plants. In addition to the outstanding display of bright colorful butterfly attractors such as fire spike, milkweed, and lantana, your landscape will be infinitely enhanced by the butterflies themselves; an organic living display of graceful beauty and the unifying symbiosis of nature, right in your backyard!
You see where I am going with this? For every ornamental plant we use to beautify our outdoor living space, we could easily substitute a delicious edible food that would be just as beautiful as any other typical landscape plant. If we collectively begin to think with this mentality we will be creating a great deal of positive opportunity.
Using edible plants in the design of our landscape is a very economical solution and, in the end, will provide a great deal of financial relief. We will, of course, save so much money that we would have spent on the overpriced low quality store bought fruits and vegetables, but also think about how much healthier we will be when these highly nutritional treats are growing all around us. Any time we make a healthy change in our life we can recognize the money we inevitably save on the high costs of healthcare.
We should also consider the amount of open space we are losing every moment from residential development. That, plus the growing overreach of industrial plant and animal farming, is making organic growing space quite a limited commodity all over the world. In that awareness it would be most responsible and wise to utilize every square inch of soil we do have, to produce what we all need to survive; food!
So when you are considering an installation or upgrade in the landscape of your outdoor living space, remember how important it is to explore the possibilities of edible aesthetics. Instead of pouring your resources into the beautification of your yard, make an investment in your health and prosperity. While saving money, enhancing your wellness, and achieving the serenity of visual splendor, you will simultaneously be contributing to an incredibly positive environmental impact worldwide. Be smart, be sustainable, be beautiful, grow your own food!
Need guidance on how to proceed with your edible landscape? Knoll Landscape Design is teaming up with Easy Edible Landscapes of Miami to bring you the most complete organic gardening service available. Need a consultation or landscape design. Landscape Designer Brent Knoll has been creating gardens for over 20 years and is ready to help you. Give him a call at 3054965155 and get started with your edible landscape today!!!