Day in and day out our landscapes work for us. Even though we usually think about the sweat equity we, as busy weed-pulling and lawn-mowing humans invest in them, our landscapes do labor for us. This holiday weekend as we get a break from our own labors – and perhaps spend more time outdoors – it’s a good time to think appreciatively of the outdoor areas that surround us. Whether we notice it or not, there is a lot going on in the plant world and most of that activity comes right back to help us in both subtle and significant ways. Peaceful ambiance When our world caves in with bad news or loss, our instinct is often to head outdoors to find peace within green spaces and fresh air. When we celebrate the big events of life or simply that it’s finally the weekend, we also head outside to the big tent, the outdoor bar or our own backyard patio. The ambiance of nature alternately softens life’s blows and bolsters our spirits. Cleaner air Trees absorb carbon dioxide – an average of about 26 lbs. of carbon dioxide per tree per year. Trees also produce oxygen and their shade helps mitigate high city temps and energy consumption by cooling asphalt and pavement. This is one reason Denver embarked on a campaign to plant 1 million trees by 2025. If you want to help trees help us, plant those trees work harder than others. Here are the top 8 picks for air-cleaning deciduous trees recommended by the National Center for Atmospheric Research:
Cleaner water When water is allowed to run through – rather than over – landscapes, it typically exits cleaner than when it entered, sends less run-off down the drain and keeps pollutants out of ground water. These are tremendous environmental benefits that help maintain our urban ecosystem. If you want to help your landscape do a better job of slowing run-off, consider installing a rain garden and reducing the amount of non-porous paved areas on your property. Hard-working lawns Did you know that a lawn absorbs rainfall 6 times more effectively than a wheat field? Lawns also act as a natural filter of pollutants by cleansing the water that passes through the root zone. On a hot day, lawns are 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil. Lawns labor for us, too! As Colorado continues on its path for more development, increased industry and a rising population, our outdoor areas that work so hard for us and the shared environment will, of course, diminish. As a result, our remaining landscaped spaces will become more deliberate along with the process of accessing the water to grow them. Increasingly, we will see well-planned landscapes that labor well as a strategic investment in our properties, lives and well-being.