For anyone who has seen native Florida plants and flowers in yards and wondered how the homeowners did it, the fourth annual Native Plant Landscape Tour has the answers. The two-day event, sponsored by the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, will take place Saturday in south Pinellas County and Sunday in north county.
People can see up close the colorful plant- and flower-filled native habitats showcased in six yards throughout Belleair, Largo, Seminole and Dunedin and seven in St. Petersburg. Volunteers will be on hand to answer questions.
One of the homes on the tour belongs to Kris Logan and her husband, Robert Walker. Six years ago, Wilcox Nursery of Largo landscaped the back yard of their Belleair home with native plants.
"My favorites are the silvery-blue-gray buttonwoods and seaside goldenrods," Logan said. "We made our decision on an ecological basis because of watering restrictions.
"Some people think it's maintenance-free because it's wild-looking, but that's not true. We do save water year-round and have lots of butterflies and bumblebees."
In part, the tour's goal is to inspire Floridians to ditch lawn mowers. It is also about conserving water and giving Florida wildlife back its natural habitat. Most converted yards use little or no extra water, pesticides or fertilizers.
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While some people transformed their yards all at once, changes can unfold gradually.
Mary Jackson of St. Petersburg has worked five years-plus to go native. Her favorite result has been the life brought into her yard.
"I have beetles and bees, and right now a hummingbird buffet," Jackson said. "From August through October, I have hummingbirds in the yard. I have lots of pollinators."
Jackson doesn't use sprays and says her yard is 98 percent native.
"I planted Florida native plants because we've wrecked so much of Florida with development, people don't know what used to be here," said Jackson. "Nonnative plants don't attract the bugs we need, the pollinators. Native plants also bring back migrating birds. I'm excited about people seeing the yard and being able to ask questions."
Logan says her husband, Walker, was ecologically minded in 1983 when he planted an oak in the side yard. The oak grew from an acorn Walker brought home from the huge oak at the Pinellas County Courthouse on Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater, where he worked.
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Bud and Pat Rose of Largo say they have been environmentalists all of their lives. The Roses have lived on Allen's Creek for five years and moved from a passive solar, superinsulated green home they built 25 years ago in northern Illinois. They have a great respect for nature and show it with their organic lawn and gardens.
"Slowly over the course of five years, we have evolved our yard into an almost totally Florida native plant setting," Bud Rose said. "The result requires little maintenance, attracts wildlife and butterflies, and only positively affects the environment.
"Living on Allen's Creek gives us added responsibility to protect the manatees, dolphins, fish and water birds with which we share this setting. Unfortunately, concern for the environment is not a priority for most Americans."
Besides helping the environment, Logan says her Florida landscaping is beautiful. While she has grass in her front yard, there are also pines and sweetgum trees.
"The native plants in our back yard hold up throughout the seasons," Logan said. "I enjoy working in the back yard and have someone come in every few months (to maintain it).
"The back yard looks absolutely beautiful and our lawn people never walk back there. It's all Florida native, so they don't have to."