By Tom Lawson
Professional Member, APLD

A year and a half ago, I wrote about "The New Normal" with reference to COVID-19 and how it was affecting our lives and businesses. It didn't really occur to me that it was just the beginning of the larger discussion of "The New Normal", i.e., Climate Change Events.

COVID-19 descended on the PNW and then the entire country. We were faced with problems and blessings we never even considered before then. During that time, homeowners discovered their own backyard, out of necessity. As a result, our industry has been through a boom time that many have not seen in while. Projects have poured in; labor was in high demand with little supply. Supply of materials stalled and prices, such as for lumber, tripled, and thus overall costs for projects continue to rise steadily. We solved the problems one at a time. We adapted. We are designers; that is what we do.

Picture of wood framing of a pergola
Lavish lumber before price spike, design & installation by Avalon Northwest Landscape, photo by Susan Picquelle.
plants in pots ready to be installed
Supply of plant material was tight from cascading event of labor shortage at nurseries, photo by Leanne Goulding.

We should all give ourselves and our employees a huge pat on the back. We made it work and we are thriving. The APLD community has survived the test and we are stronger in our businesses and in our personal lives because we worked together, shared our solutions and supported one another.

APLDWA members at Sutter Home & Hearth showroom
APLDWA back to "in person" programs at Sutter Home and Hearth.
APLDWA members sitting on a deck at a member designed garden
Members at our recent garden tour enjoying being outside and getting together again.

APLDWA members in a zoom meeting presentation
Programs moved to a Zoom meeting format APLDWA program on Client Communications.

But there is more work to be done.

COVID-19 was just the wake-up call. Climate change will be the driving factor in our businesses, our lives and our designs for the foreseeable future. Climate change is no longer just a politically charged phrase. It is here. The "black swan" events that I talked of a year ago are now happening on a more regular basis. Of course, they're not really black swan events because climatologists and other earth scientists have been predicting these for decades. The extreme heat wave we had in June, the forest fires all over the West, flooding and storm events that were 100-year events are now every 5-10 year events. We are now seeing pests and diseases that we have never dealt with before. Extreme events are not coming out of nowhere. This constantly shifting dynamic is The New Normal. There are problems to be solved. Like I said before, solving problems is what we do.

plant showing signs of leaf burn from extreme heat
Many plants suffered burn from the extreme heat wave in June, photo by Leanne Goulding.

So, what can we do?

We will have to begin to design for a changing world, one that works with nature, not imposing a destructive cycle that damages the planet. There are many resources and methodologies at our fingertips. Permaculture, biomimicry, biodiversity, habitat friendly, fire wise, xeriscaping, resiliency, dry gardening, diversity, environmental justice, and sustainability are all terms we have heard and there are methodologies attached to each of these. Using native plants used to be a reliable way to create a sustainable and wildlife-friendly garden but climate change is now challenging our native flora and fauna, forcing us to look to historically hotter and drier environments for better adapted plants. All these concepts are working toward design that works with nature, people and the planet, rather than against them.

butterfly on a flower
Pollinator friendly gardens have become all the rage, photo by Tom Lawson.
pollinator friendly planting
Pollinator and habitat friendly plantings, photo by Heidi Walther.

There are many avenues to educate and train us for implementing these methodologies. In addition to classes at local universities and colleges, there is training in the ecoPRO Program. Our own chapter President Elect, soon to be President in January, Sue Goetz, will be teaching a course "Principles of Sustainable Landscaping" for an ecoPRO training event this month . Our upcoming APLD National conference, as well as our APLDWA POD's and programs, are designed to keep us up to date on evolving practices and cultural/aesthetic trends. Going digital has enabled us to hear from designers from around the world as well as here in the USA. We have many ways to keep ourselves informed of new practices and techniques as well as keeping up with what is happening worldwide.

APLD conference Graphic logo of the planet with One World One community, September 23-26, 2020, Virtual Edition
APLD 2020 International Design Conference went digital and was truly international, Graphic credit APLD

Our Industry also needs to change, and we need to rise to that challenge. APLD's "Healthy Pots Healthy Planet" is an initiative that is long overdue. Xeriscaping, meadow gardens, biomimicry, & "no chemical" and "no mow" lawns are now becoming popular in our culture. Once something begins to sell, businesses will follow, and this is the first step in making systemic change.

Something that is less sexy but with great benefit that we can do now with no new training is to simply put more trees into our designs. Trees are a powerful tool to combat climate change as they sequester carbon, pump out oxygen, shade and thus cool our gardens and houses, and reduce local "heat island" effects.

APLDWA members on shaded patio talking with each other.
Enjoying the shade from trees. Design by Susan Harrison, photo Susan Picquelle.
flowers planted in area between street and sidewalk
Hell strips are now becoming Pollinator friendly & Biodiverse, photo by Heidi Walther.

We can have a tremendous effect on the aesthetics of these new methodologies. We can design landscapes that not only work for the environment, but also have the aesthetic appeal to make it sell. When something goes "viral", it can create a paradigm shift and the digital crowds will fall all over themselves to be part of the new trend. So, take those pics, hash tag it, post it on your apps and share it to APLDWA, on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook. Let's take advantage of the power of the internet to become influencers and create change in our industry and our culture.

So, the New Normal is a constantly shifting reality of the effects of climate change and the waves of COVID-19 variants that challenge us to make changes to our business models, our design methodologies and ultimately to our industry. There is a much larger conversation here that needs to happen, but more than can be covered in this newsletter. The "how do we make this happen?" is the big question. We are designers, problem solvers and we have the tools we need to make those changes. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.