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Getting "rewild" with landscape architects

I’ve been a member of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) for quite a few years now, and let me tell you that my life is so much more interesting, fuller and richer from all that I have learned from the club and its dynamic and knowledgeable members! The speakers that our local chapter invites to our monthly meetings are diverse but all are focused on conservation of the native plants and habitats of our region. This month the speakers were Diane and Kevin Sloan, who spoke about “ReWilding: how to return our local environment to a more balanced ecosystem to support not only the human conditions but also the natural world.” That topic piqued my interest and I was sure not to miss that Zoom meeting.

Kevin W. Sloan is a landscape architect, urban planner, writer and professor at The University of Texas at Arlington. Kevin and his wife, Diane, own the Kevin Sloan Studio which develops High Performance Landscapes™. They believe that "every project, even a modest backyard landscape, can rewild a portion that may be peripheral to human needs, but the rich and diverse array of rewilded plants would be greatly appreciated by the other species we often neglect: butterflies, hummingbirds, honeybees that pollinate our food sources, and other species that enable the recovery and success of the planetary environment." Who wouldn’t want to learn from these two innovators?

I sat at my desk for over an hour as this couple explained some of the projects they had worked on over the years and how they had helped to integrate design into the existing environment. One of their local projects is the Airfield Falls Conservation Park in Fort Worth, Texas which is part of the former Carswell Air Force Base. I was so excited to go see this spectacular project that I was in the car heading an hour west in less than a week.

What I experienced was landscape design that was thoughtfully and seamlessly blended into the environment.

If I didn’t know a thing or two about native plants and design, I would probably have just thought the plants naturally grew that way. As I strolled over the stream and down the path, I saw two different landscapes. On one side I saw so many healthy examples of native plants such as Texas Lantana (Lantana urticoides), Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), Coralberry (Symphoricarpos arbiculatus), American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus), Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata),.and a variety of wildflowers. On the other side next to the stream there were all the usual invasive species that have encroached into many of the parks in our area such as Bamboo, Privet, and Ligustrum. You could clearly tell which side had been rewilded, and it was definitely the one making me happy! So I remained focused on the native plants and kept walking down the path until I came upon the waterfalls, which is not something you find often in Texas. I was surprised and thrilled by how large they were and never knew we had that treasure in the Texas Prairie.

I don’t know what the Air Force Base looked like before Kevin Sloan and his team started working their magic, but I will tell you it was exhilarating to see such transformative and thoughtful landscaping. There were many families and couples enjoying the sound of the river and waterfalls and basking in their native surroundings. Once again, I had a wonderful learning experience thanks to the Native Plant Society.


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