By Anne Raver – July 20, 2011 – New York Times
MARGIE RUDDICK, a designer known for her elegant ecological landscapes, got a summons from the City of Philadelphia last year, citing her East Mount Airy yard as being in violation of the property maintenance code.
“For weeds over 10 inches,” said Ms. Ruddick, 54, standing beside her favorite pokeweed a few weeks ago. By August, it will be laden with purple berries, poisonous to humans but a favorite of the birds.
About a year after she stopped mowing the lawn here in 2005, black cherry seedlings showed up in the tall grasses and wild asters. In the next few years, oaks, mulberry and rose of sharon moved in.
“You have to allow a certain amount of mess to create a habitat,” she said. But “it also pushes a boundary that’s very uncomfortable: the sloppiness and the ugliness, the awkward moments when things are cut” before “it starts to get its own shape.”
Ms. Ruddick decided to embrace the philosophy embodied in a line she remembered from an old New Yorker: “Don’t just do something. Stand there!”
Not only is she not using city water to irrigate a lawn, she is keeping water from flooding the sewers.
Noah Garrison, a project lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s national water program, puts it this way: “For every 11 or 12 houses that allow the same area to convert from lawn to woodland, annual storm-water runoff could be decreased by roughly the volume of an Olympic swimming pool: 660,000 gallons.”