Turning over a new leaf

A visitor to Santa Monica, Calif., might walk right past the house at 1724 Pearl St. without noticing it. Other than masses of silver-leafed sage, feathery tufts of muhly grasses and other plants that take the place of a clipped lawn, little distinguishes the single-story home from its neighbors. Until you learn that a study by the city's sustainability office revealed the native landscaping at 1724 Pearl serves as a lean, green, resource-saving machine.

With plants that are native to California or adapted to local conditions, gravel pathways that absorb rainwater and other simple features, the native garden scrimps on resources in ways that make a neighboring, traditional yard at 1718 Pearl St. seem extravagant. The City of Santa Monica found the native landscaping cost $4,844 to maintain over six years, versus more than $18,000 for the traditional yard.

This Santa Monica garden/garden project is among those the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and its national partners - the American Society of Landscape Architects and the United States Botanic Garden - have featured in an initiative that has created a buzz about developing eco-friendly landscapes. The projects are highlighted by the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) partners because of what they show about the ways landscapes can be developed to harness nature's capabilities.

Read the complete feature story at Turning over a new leaf: Wildflower Center ecologists help spur land use transformation through national green landscaping initiative.