Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Going Green to Save Green: Let Mother Nature do the work.

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This article was printed in the Cedar Valley Business Monthly February edition — enjoy!

 

Reducing energy costs is on all our minds.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills with a good chunk of that being on wasted energy.  However, as a nation we are beginning to catch on to the long-term benefits, especially to our wallets, of improving energy efficiency.  We see advertisements throughout the media for home do-it-yourself projects and for upgrading to more energy efficient appliances. 

But don’t forget about going green to save a bit of green – let Mother Nature help reduce your energy costs.

We cannot control the temperature drops in the winter or spikes in the summer, but we can help control the environment surrounding our home with landscaping. 

In its simplest form, landscaping is living insulation for our home.  In the winter, landscaping can help reduce the loss of heat from our home.  Likewise, in the summer months, it can reduce heat absorption into homes by blocking the sun’s penetration.  We can accomplish this by using woody and herbaceous plant material in our landscape in the form of shade, windbreaks and foundation plantings.

The benefit of using deciduous trees as shade trees is that their large canopies shade the roof of your home in the summer but then also drop leaves in the fall so that the sun can heat your home throughout the winter months.  To take best advantage of the shade, plant trees on a location of your property that will provide shade relief during the warmest time of the afternoon.

Beautiful examples of shade trees you can see first-hand at The Arboretum include maple, oak, buckeye, honeylocust and hickory.  With so many excellent varieties available, it is important to consider the space available.  In large expanses, a majestic oak would be just right while in a small backyard, such a large tree would look disproportionate. 

Also, planting quick growing trees is often not in your best interests.  Quick growing often equals weaker wood that is liable to break in wind or ice storms and is often more susceptible to disease and insects.  Examples of weak wooded trees in Iowa include silver maple and many varieties of birch.

Other benefits of planting shade trees in your property include reducing heat from surrounding paved areas, preventing soil erosion and improving air quality.  It truly is a win-win situation!

Instead of a fabricated fence, why not try a living windbreak instead?  Many large shrubs lend themselves quite nicely to windbreaks that provide privacy and a more natural backdrop to your property.  At The Arboretum we have used a large collection of arborvitaes to help protect our rose garden from the harsh elements.  You can also find a lilac hedge along our main road that is lush throughout the season and delivers an enticing sweet smell in early summer.

Foundation plantings are the shrubs, small ornamental trees and herbaceous plant material found directly around your home.  Fortunately, there is a greater variety of plant materials and design ideas available today than our overgrown, unruly evergreen foundation plantings of the past!  If you would like to see shrubs with a variety of texture, color, proportion and seasonal interest, I encourage you to visit the arrival gardens found just east of The Arboretum’s parking lot.

Want to try something a bit out of the ordinary and still provide some insulation for your home’s exterior?  Consider growing vines such as clematis, climbing rose or trumpet vine on a trellis.  Or consider growing espaliered fruit trees along your house.  Espalier (i-spal-yer) is the French pruning technique of training the trunk and branches of the fruit tree to grow in one plane.  To see espaliered fruit trees, visit the entrance of The Arboretum’s rose garden, where a variety of fruit trees have been trained to grow flat along the cedar fence.

Along with reduced energy bills, there are many other benefits of a planning your home landscaping with energy efficiency in mind.  Plantings can decrease noise pollution by muffling the sound.  They can also increase your property values.  Trees, shrubs and herbaceous material provide a wonderful natural habitat for wildlife and don’t forget the many health and well-being benefits you can receive by working outdoors.

For more gardening tips and hands-on ideas, please visit The Arboretum.  The Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is dedicated to providing a beautiful green space and instilling a plant connection in our community that will fuel all of our futures. 

See you in the gardens.

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Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

February 15, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Wow very beautiful pictures. glad to have found your this blog . Waiting for the next postings.

    ornamentalplant

    February 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm


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