Monica Higgins, landscape designer, a winner!

Monica Higgins, landscape designer, Habitat of Course

Monica Higgins, landscape designer, Habitat of Course

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Monica Higgins loves to show her clients what native plants can do for even the most sophisticated landscape. “Any chance I get, I try to put in an area of native plants and show people that it can look good,” she responded after learning that her entry was a winner in the Florida Association of Native Nurseries’ Real Florida Landscapes™ Design Competition.

Higgins’ residential design will be installed as one of three demonstration landscapes at the Native Plant Show, April 4 and 5 at the Osceola Heritage Park Exhibition Building, 1901 Chief Osceola Trail, Kissimmee. The wholesale tradeshow is the first in Florida to feature nothing but native plants for sustainable landscapes. There will be a formal presentation of Higgins’ award at 11:30am Friday, April 5.

A statewide jury of leading landscape architects evaluated sixteen submittals and selected Higgins’ entry as the best South Florida design. Higgins has designed and maintained sustainable landscapes in the golf course and resort industry for the last 17 years, but has only lived in Florida for five years. But those five years have been busy both professionally and personally. A Certified Grounds Manager and horticulturist with the Naples Lakes Country Club, Higgins also owns her own consulting and design firm, Habitat of Course, focused on enhancing wildlife habitat and the sustainability of golf courses. She has been recognized twice with Professional Grounds Management Society Green Star Awards for her beautiful and functional golf course plantings. In addition, she’s been an Audubon International Steward, part of a program that helps golf courses achieve sustainable management of their properties. Higgins is also an active volunteer with the Naples Botanical Garden, newsletter editor for the Naples Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and a birding tour leader for the Collier County Audubon Society.

This former farm girl from Kansas credits her mother for her interest in gardening and native plants: “Mom always wanted to go on native plant and wildflower tours in Kansas. She was a gardener and growing up on a farm, I had a lot of interaction with nature.” As a professional, Higgins has continued that education ethic. Everywhere she works, she not only uses native plants but makes sure there are educational flyers available to clients, such as golfers coming to the country club, so that everyone can learn about the plants and their benefits. Higgins says there are other professionals like herself, “gungho about using native plants,” and that the more well done high visibility projects there are, the more quickly the public will catch on.

Higgins tracking wildlife on the golf course

Higgins tracking wildlife on the golf course

More than 200 fellow professionals in the horticulture and landscape industry will view Higgin’s design work at the Native Plant Show. Attendees will learn how native plants can be creatively used to meet “right plant, right place” goals of Florida-friendly landscaping™ as well as achieve high aesthetic standards and enhance biodiversity. The demonstration landscape area in the center of the show is expected to spark a lot of discussion about the quality, availability and performance of Florida native plants in the landscape. Nearly 40 native plant growers from around the state will be exhibiting and hope that by demonstrating the best in native landscape design, other landscape architects and designers will be inspired to use more native plants in their projects – and thus begin the transformation of Florida’s urban landscape to one that is more authentic and preserves biodiversity and water quality.

Jurors for the design competition included:
Jeff Caster, State Transportation Landscape Architect at the Florida Department of Transportation and past president of the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA);
George Fogg, IBIS Landscape Architect and ASLA Fellow;
Raymond Jungles, landscape architect honored by ASLA with seventeen design awards;
Stephen Pategas, President of Hortus Oasis and published garden/landscape writer; and
Scott Redmon, Redmon Design, landscape architect for the New American Home 2012 in Winter Park, a sustainability showcase project of the North American Home Builders International Builder’s Show.