On May 21st, 2021, OUTSIDE Collab hosted a tour at The Villages, located in Central Florida, showcasing Residential Native Plant Landscapes Inside a Managed Community. This self-guided tour allowed attendees to experience tangible examples of native plants and sustainable landscapes that could be replicated across the State, as well as the opportunity to ask questions from experts in the industry. The tour featured native flowering ground covers, shrubs, and grasses, in addition to beautiful trees, which together replicated a naturally grown Florida ecosystem. The landscape designs were inspired by the geographical area of the Villages and located in homeowner’s yards. Attendees had the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a sandhill pine forest, a wildflower prairie, and a bird watcher's paradise. Homeowners shared how pine straw reduced weeding, and how the environment attracted various bees, butterflies, and birds throughout the year. Over time, the homeowners learned and grew with the seasons by adapting their landscapes. For example, grasses and groundcovers are different depending on the amount of sun, soil, and other variable features. Because “going native” is a fairly new concept in residential landscapes, neighbors were often hesitant and some pushed back. However, by working with the community and various associations, the homeowners developed a compromise satisfying everyone.
The collaboration involved in this OUTSIDE Collab tour, combined with the work the homeowners, landscape designers and architects, universities, municipalities, and numerous other groups have accomplished, indicate a promising and sustainable future. Homeowners are able to reduce spending because of water and chemical reduction, while simultaneously increasing the number of pollinators and other wildlife in the area. This OUTSIDE tour highlighted our ability to bring native and Florida-friendly plants and sustainable landscapes to our homes and backyards.