Environment Matters Podcast
Topic: 2009 Philadelphia Flower Show
Date: March 3, 2009
Hi. I'm Bonnie Smith of EPA's mid-Atlantic Region, and welcome to Environment Matters, our environmental series of podcasts.
As the weather gets warmer, our thoughts turn to spring and to gardening. And what better way to get some helpful gardening ideas than here at EPA's Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit.
Traditional landscaping practices can uintentionally harm the environment. While they may be beautiful to look at, large lawns and manicured arrangements of exotic ornamental plants place a heavy toll on the environment. There may be extensive use of mechanical equipment, heavy use of water, excessive application of fertilizers and pesticides, and very large quantities of yard waste.
We're speaking today with Todd Lutte, an EPA environmental scientist who works to enforce laws and regulations for the protection of wetlands. Todd is a key partner in creating EPA's exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show -- the largest flower show in the world, reaching a quarter of a million people in nine days. EPA's exhibit is entitled: Water is Life, Life is Water.
Todd, what are you telling people who stop by EPA's exhibit?
Todd Lutte: What I typically do is I walk up to the exhibit and I'll take the first question that I get. It usually has to do with a plant within the exhibit and I will focus on that plant and try to be a salesman. Why would this plant work for you...look at the bloom time...look at the coloring...look at the deer-resistance...it looks great in the shade...or maybe it has a multitude of things like Kalmia angustifolia or the sheeps-laurel that we have. It's an under-utilized plant.
Host: Jeff Lapp is another EPA scientist who leads EPA's team of volunteers who designed and built our exhibit, and who are now helping visitors learn about green gardening. Jeff, why does your team devote so much effort to this exhibit each year? Is it one of the best ways to reach gardeners with green tips?
Jeff Lapp: The Philadelphia Flower Show is a great format for the agency. We get probably a quarter of a million visitors to the show in a very short period of time. Secondly is -- Gardening is a multi-billion dollar business and there are a lot of things that can be done by the homeowner to make our environment better. Things such as -- can you modify how you apply fertilizer or pesticides so that you minimize how much of it spreads off your property, and still get the same results in your garden...Can you do things like plant native species, so that you can in some ways make up for the loss of habitat that we've been experiencing in these urbanizing/suburbanizing areas certainly within Philadelphia and other portions of Region 3 as well.
So you can sort of plan your garden depending on what your likes or dislikes are.
I think the other thing that we need to keep in mind is that, a lot of the species that we in the U.S. kind of think as native, wild type plants, other parts of the world love them, take them and use them in their gardens all the time.
Our native azaleas are the basic genetic stock for all of these azaleas [when you go into] Lowes and Home Depot and those types of areas and want to use. Why take something that's been manipulated, genetically altered, has little viability in the environment? Why not use what was already here in the first place.
Host: So it sounds like what you're saying is by using native plants, you can still have a beautiful lawn and garden, save money and help the environment.
Jeff Lapp: People have this fear when you say the words native plant. I think my best advice is pick a few out and try it. I think its worthwhile to try some of our natives because there really are gems that are out there and certainly under-used in the landscape currently.
Host: Jeff, thanks so much for telling us about the importance of green gardening and the use of native plants. For more information, please go to EPA's website -- epa.gov/region3 -- and click on "Flower Show" in the Quickfinder at the top. And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters.