Sustainability and the Landscape Industry, Where We Need to Head

Steve Turnipseed's Sustainable Native Landscape in The Villages

Cherrylake president Tim Sallin’s talk at the Native Plant Show will pack in a lot: sustainability as it touches on market demand, nursery production, landscape maintenance and design, the urban forest, and much more. Cherrylake is a diversified agricultural business in Groveland, Florida, with operations in landscape installation, landscape maintenance, irrigation contracting, ecosystem restoration, and citrus. It also has a large wholesale plant nursery. Sallin’s talk, Landscape Industry Trends and the Path to Sustainability, is a CEU for landscape architects, certified arborists and FNGLA certified horticulture or landscape professionals and takes place from 2:45pm – 3:45 pm on Thursday, October 18, 2018, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

Landscape Industry Trends will begin with a recap of how the Florida landscape industry got to the present moment: how the industry looked before the Great Recession, how it has changed since then because of the Great Recession, and who some of the big players are today. Consolidation is one notable trend that Sallin will discuss and evaluate. “Then I’ll speak about the opportunity to shift toward more sustainable landscaping practices: irrigation, species selection, and nutrient management,” Sallin says. “I’m going to make the case that a sustainable landscaping approach requires coordination across all stages of the landscaping process.”

Sallin uses a food safety analogy to illustrate why coordination is so important to sustainability. Just as a grapefruit is grown, packaged, shipped, and placed on a grocery-store shelf, a landscape is designed, installed, and maintained. In the grapefruit’s case, each separate step is a chance for contamination. In the landscape’s case, each separate step is a chance to iimprove environmental impact. “A lot of the assurances that the end user will need in order to know that the landscape was managed in a sustainable fashion cut across traditional industry lines,” Sallin says. “If the maintenance company comes in and uses [heavy] pesticides and fertilizer, or if the irrigation system uses too much water, [a sustainably-designed landscape] is not enough.”  

Do consumers demand sustainable landscapes like they demand uncontaminated grapefruits? Sallin points to population growth forecasts in Florida and the impact that water quality has on the broader economy to argue that yes, they do — or will. “Pressure will drive change,” Sallin says. He also points out that the one of the key issues in the gubernatorial race has been algae blooms.

“I would encourage the native plant industry to engage in the dialogue about how sustainable landscaping practices can become more mainstream in Florida,” Sallin says. Engaging in the dialogue can be as simple as speaking to the city councils and county commissioners. “That will grow the market for native plants. It will make native growers more relevant in a popular discussion on population growth . . . There’s a lot of pessimism in that we thought this [turn towards sustainability in general and native plants in particular] was going to happen in the 60s and 70s, and it never happened. But you have to be optimistic.”

For branding, Sallin recommends using a simple message to reach beyond the industry. Cherrylake itself uses the slogan “An Integrated Landscape Company with Purpose.” Most industries sell their products with something that their products can’t provide: sexy nonchalance for cigarettes, wholesomeness for elastic hair ties. In exact opposition, the sustainable landscaping industry can sell itself on exactly what it provides: vibrant, healthy ecosystems. “We need to show that part of the solution [to Florida’s environmental problems] can be our industry,” Sallin says.

To learn how the native plant industry solves Florida’s environmental problems, come to the Native Plant Show.