What will the neighbors think?
A professor of landscape architecture at University of Michigan, Joan Nassauer, suggests that designing by the question, what will the neighbors think? is a great starting point for tackling native plant landscapes. In suburban communities where keeping up with the Joneses is the normative way, introducing radically different home landscape designs can be frightening. If your design goes above and beyond what your neighbors expect of you, good or bad, you either become the Joneses and the object of envy and jealousy; or, you are ridiculed into changing your design because it brings the whole neighborhood down. Perhaps if you plant one too many native species, you will cross the threshold of admiration of a beautiful landscape to talk of the community as maintaining an unruly and unkempt yard. If the negative direction is taken, your neighbors may push their plantings opposite towards conventional approaches that do not add beneficial wildlife habitats to the region, introduce invasive species or require unnecessary resources to maintain. With these factors in mind, it can be beneficial to design with the neighbors’ thoughts at the forefront. Such as landscape urbanism suggests we should make the most out of what we are given in brownfield and redevelopment sites, a design less than 100% native still introduces helpful qualities into suburban neighborhoods. Conventional approaches to landscape architecture are not favorable in many regards and as ecologically minded designers we can present suburbanites with alternatives that take baby steps towards creating natural habitats that look good and that will keep up with the Joneses.