Cynthia Knauf Takes Landscaping Seriously09/15/2022 11:19AM ● By MERYL SIEGMAN
While for most, the word “landscaping” conjures up images of beautiful plants, manicured lawns and perfectly trimmed hedges, it’s also about addressing the impact of climate change and the loss of habitat on the environment.
A landscape architect with over three decades of experience, Cynthia Knauf has stayed current on the subject of habitat loss. “The global issues of climate change and habitat loss for pollinators have become a major focus in my landscape designs and in the profession of landscape architecture as a whole,” she tells us.
Cynthia was happy to share with us her concerns about the environment and what we can all do to help.
WHAT IS POLLINATION?
Cynthia explains, “Pollination occurs when
pollen is moved within flowers or carried from
flower to flower by pollinating animals such
as birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, and even some mammals, or by the wind. This process leads to fertilization, and ensures that a plant will produce full-bodied fruit and a full set of viable seeds.”
The use of pesticides and habitat loss due to fragmentation, as well as climate change, are disrupting the process of pollination all over the world. Cynthia goes on to say, “More and more, landscape designers and architects are looking beyond just making a place look beautiful. It’s our responsibility to respond to the decline in the local pollinator population.” She believes this is an issue we can no longer ignore and sees educating clients as part of her job, explaining that humans are dependent on flowering plants for many reasons. “It’s not just about food supplies,” she continues. “We need plants for building materials, pharmaceuticals, even for the air we breathe, so it’s an issue we need to address.”
Appropriate habitat is needed for pollinators to feed, nest and overwinter, but unfortunately more and more of those sites are being fragmented by development. Pollinators require a diversity of flowering plants that are either native or naturalized, as well as nesting sites. Protecting that habitat is the best way to conserve native pollinators.
THE SOLUTION TO LOSS OF HABITAT
Cynthia takes an upbeat approach, believing that with knowledge and action, we can combat this growing problem. “It’s important for my clients, whether they’re homeowners, municipalities or corporations, to understand how they can take action to address this issue,” she reasons. “If we all take some responsibility, we can nip it in the bud.”
For example, Cynthia believes it isn’t necessary to have a perfectly manicured one-acre lawn. Instead, property can feature a meadow with native grasses and plants. “Even a garden can be a paradise for pollinators,” she says. “You also don’t have to mow the lawn every week, or you can mow select parts of it.” Small species such as clover, if left un mowed, can provide a banquet for bees.
Another solution is using native species of plants, shrubs and flowers because they are a much better source for pollinators than imports. Most nurseries can supply local plants, but it requires proper planning. “The sooner you plan, the greater chance you will find the plants you need,” Cynthia advises.
EVERYONE CHIPS IN
Fortunately, the majority of Cynthia’s clients are conscientious. If they are unfamiliar with the problem, she takes time to educate them, often getting them excited about being part of the solution. “Even if it’s a very minimalist landscape, I try to steer them towards using native plants,” she continues. “Any style, formal, naturalist, modern, can be achieved with natives.” And there’s no need to sacrifice beauty to go this route: “Many of them have wonderful aesthetic value from spring to fall. Some plants produce late summer berries that stay into and even through winter, and provide food for birds while creating gorgeous fall colors. There is great beauty in many of our native plants.”
Maintenance is also important. Cynthia advises keeping flower heads on until winter, and not overdoing it with the mulch, since too much can harm wintering habitat.
“If we start now and each of us is conscientious, we can all help keep our environment from becoming fragmented and provide the pollinator habitats that are needed,” Cynthia concludes.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CYNTHIA KNAUF