EPA Region 3
Topic: Philadelphia Flower Show 2011
Date: March 3, 2011
Bonnie Lomax: Hello, I'm Bonnie Lomax of EPA's Mid Atlantic Region and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts. During these last weeks of winter, our thoughts are turning to warmer weather, to spring, and for many of us, to gardening. While they may be beautiful to look at, large manicured lawns and exotic ornamental plants can unintentionally place a heavy toll on the environment--resulting in heavy water use, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, and very large quantities of yard waste. Today we are speaking with Todd Lutte, an EPA environmental scientist who works to enforce laws and regulations for the protection of wetlands. In addition, Todd is a key partner in creating EPA's exhibit at the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show.
Hello, Todd, and welcome. Can you tell me a little bit about the EPA exhibit?
Todd Lutte: Hi, Bonnie, sure. This year's exhibit is titled "Botanique Naturale," roughly translated from French into "Natural Garden." This year's exhibit focuses on the importance of native plants, while exhibiting the rich diversity of the flora of our native wetlands and woodlands, and how these areas can be incorporated into a sustainable home garden.
Bonnie: Well, let's start with wetlands. What are wetlands and why are they important?
Todd: Well, wetlands are those transitional areas between water and land, sometimes referred to as the earth's lungs or sponges and these areas are quite valuable to people, including some of their functions are habitat for wildlife, habitat for plants, flood damage and reduction, water storage and movement, nutrient cycling, water quality protection and recreational opportunities such as hiking and bird watching.
Bonnie: Thank you, Todd. Can you tell me a little bit about a watershed--what it is and how one functions?
Todd: A watershed is the area of land that drains to a single body of water such as a stream, a lake or even a wetland. In the continental U.S., there are about 2,110 watersheds in total. One that everybody I believe is familiar with is the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which encompasses parts of all of the mid-Atlantic states such as Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, and even New York.
Bonnie: And finally, I want to ask you about native plants. What makes a plant native and what are the benefits of native plants?
Todd: Native plants are those plants which historically have adapted to a particular region. In the mid-Atlantic region, our Flower Show exhibit focuses on those types of plants. Some of the functions of native plants are that they are more resistant to certain pathogens and insect diseases, and they are more tolerant of climatic shifts and droughts, or harsh winters like we've had this year, and they are more successful in adapting to those conditions because they have evolved in this region. And they can also be ornamentally attractive as well, as well as providing habitat for certain local species of birds and mammals and providing food for those individual species.
Bonnie: So native plants are very beneficial for the environment, and by using them I can still have a beautiful lawn and garden, save money and help the environment. So how can I get native plants for my own garden?
Todd: Well now with the Internet, I think it's very easy to get online and find a list of local nurseries, the ones that carry native plants. Most all nurseries do have native plants. If you want the more desirable varieties of them, they may be less easy to obtain. You may have to go online . You can mail order. If you have a certain species in mind for a certain place, then you can look up that species online and find a supplier and even have it mailed to you--bare root stock, sometimes in containers. Or you may not have to travel very far to your local nursery and pick it up there.
Bonnie: Okay, wonderful. Well, Todd, I want to thank you so much for telling us about the importance of wetland, of watersheds and using native plants. I look forward to visiting the Philadelphia International Flower Show and seeing Botanique Naturale.
To learn more about these topics and environmentally beneficial gardening, visit the EPA website greenscapes page. Go to epa.gov, and search for greenscapes. And thank you for joining us on Environmental Matters, EPA's series of environmental podcasts.