A more natural yard makes dollars and sense

Guest column by Christine Tomovich
Posted 8/14/20

Editor’s Note: This piece is an excerpt from the May 2019 Colorado Gardener magazine I am a Denver Realtor. The other day I was checking out a gorgeous house that was staged beautifully. However, …

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A more natural yard makes dollars and sense


Editor’s Note: This piece is an excerpt from the May 2019 Colorado Gardener magazine

I am a Denver Realtor. The other day I was checking out a gorgeous house that was staged beautifully. However, as I walked in I noticed the rounded balls of juniper on long stems that graced (or disgraced?) the front entryway. I wondered, why did they update the inside but not the outside? They could have made it more contemporary and low maintenance. How often did they, or their gardener, have to shape those silly round balls. It got me thinking that our landscapes need to reflect more enlightened concepts.

I read an article over a decade ago about homeowners with a “Certified Wildlife Habitat.” Following National Wildlife Federation guidelines, they created a haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other small wildlife. This had also added monetary value, both increasing the selling price and keeping maintenance costs down while the sellers lived in it. I decided to get my backyard certified as well. It wasn’t difficult. There were a few requirements: providing clean water, food, cover (for wildlife to find protection), and places to raise young, plus implementing some sustainable practices. Choices included: xeriscape, drip irrigation, integrated pest management, using native plants, eliminating chemical pesticides and/or fertilizers, using compost, using mulch, etc. (It’s all on their website at nwf.org.)

When I finished I felt like my backyard helped me feel connected to the bigger purpose of helping our environment. There are now 247,000 National Certified Backyards that form an ever expanding connected patchwork across the country.

I read about sustainability everywhere now – and the necessity for doing something. Colony collapse of bees, the decline of Monarchs and other butterflies, concern for our overall carbon footprint, the loss of prairie and other wild area habitat have made this not just a concern, but a crisis.

Entire cities are seeking to get certified.The Denver Botanic Gardens CEO Brian Vogt says that this “regeneration” of our ecosystem will allow changes to happen quickly. For example, The Gardens is involved in a project to restore a creek altered years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers to control water flow. It modified the ecosystem in a way that has not been beneficial. Over a few years, native plants were put in. Vogt notes, “The impacts have already evidenced themselves. Plants have roared to life, native birds and insects are returning – even the sounds have changed.” What an inspiring thought — restoration of simple sounds and joys that many of us experienced everyday as children! As a youngster I was outside most of every day when not in school, hanging out with my fellow denizens in the yard: birds, bugs, butterflies, worms, caterpillars, flowers and prickly seed pods, magical fireflies, and creepy daddy long legs. I felt whole and peaceful. This isn’t the case anymore for most children, who spend hours a day staring at a screen and only minutes of outside time. Many adults also spend the vast majority of their time inside. At the same time society in general has become less happy and more anxious.

Jamie Weiss, works with the Audubon Society’s Habitat Heroes program. She says that habitat and water loss are the two main challenges for nature preservation today. Given that lawns cover more than 20 million acres in the U.S., “if all those lawns were transformed into small habitat patches ... it would be comparable to increasing the area of the entire national wildlife refuge system by 20%.”

Even Taylor Morrison, one of the biggest residential development companies in the nation, has started partnering with the NWF to include wildlife refuge land into its developments.

Being out in nature is soothing. My California middle grandson was skipping stones on a river next to the Durango hotel where the family was vacationing. When he finished he turned to me with a contented smile and said, “That was refreshing.” We all need these moments more than we realize. Certifying our backyards is one way to restore the serenity that comes through our connectedness to nature. We can share our values with our children and grandchildren. Creating a haven for wildlife in our back yards helps our pocketbook and, as is increasingly recognized, our mental health. So join the club. It’s easy.

For more information, go to www.nwf.org, or rockies.audubon.org.

Christine Tomovich, is an occasional writer, and a Broker/Stager with Your Castle Real Estate, has been voted “5 Star Real Estate Agent” in 5280 Magazine since 2011. She can be reached at ctomovich@comcast.net.

natural yards, wildlife habitat, Christine Tomovich


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