March 2013: The Changing Home Landscapes of Utah

The Changing Home Landscapes of Utah

In the 25 years that I have been involved with Utah landscapes, there has been a growing awareness that our home and city landscapes can be so much more than lawn and trees.  The factors that have led to this evolution are many but the bottom line is that Utahns are connecting themselves more and more with their climate, soils, and native plants.  They also have been drawn back to growing their own vegetables and fruits, and raising poultry and honeybees.  All of this is accomplished successfully on a fraction of the acreage than their parents or grandparents had in a more rural setting. 

It is exciting to see the many resources available including classes and workshops, demonstration gardens, native plant availability in the nurseries, and garden and landscape books for the intermountain west region by experts with lots of experience.  Twenty-five years ago there were none. 

In the late 1980s, the dialog about using native plants or habitat in a home landscape was still novel with few examples in Utah or anywhere else.  In 1990, the 34 page book “Creating Landscapes for Wildlife, a Guide for Back Yards in Utah” was published by the Utah Division of Wildlife under the supervision of Margie Halpin in the Urban Wildlife program.  It was written by Sue Nordstrum and illustrated by me during graduate studies at Utah State University Department of Landscape and Environmental Planning.  It was the first of its kind in Utah.  In fact during research we could only find similar state publications in Florida and Minnesota.    

Another first around that time in the public sector was the use of native drought tolerant plants on urban public rights-of-way along I-215 corridor.  The steep slopes and the amount of water required to water the extensive corridor of traditional lawn was not reasonable but native plants made sense.

The blending of native, urban, and rural in Utah’s communities creates rich neighborhood experiences. Each home landscape reflects the needs and personality of the occupants.  And, community gardens add to that colorful tapestry.  I am thrilled to be a part of this growing awareness and the personal creations it inspires.  Click here for my upcoming classes and click here for recommended resources