by R.P. Sokol
The 2013 winter trade shows have brought some pleasant surprises to us at Fourth Generation Nursery. The first is that many in the Landscape industry are beginning to “get it;” rainwater harvesting is finally starting to catch on. And second, an increasing number of professionals recognize that “Storm Water Management” means more than diverting runoff onto the neighbor’s property.
Capture, Store, Use that Rainwater
Many folks are taking a hard look at capturing, storing, and using rainwater, and thus the environmental portion of our displays are getting more attention. The general concept of modular (High Strength Reservoir Cubes) water storage is becoming even more flexible, allowing the cost per gallon stored to decline. The consumer is now looking at close to $2 per gallon capacity on a 2,000 gallon tank – “payback” questions rarely arise because “It’s the right thing to do.”
Our most eye-catching innovation is a new pump vault/collection inlet that can be located at some distance from the storage area. It also has an easy connection to divert overflow to a distinct infiltration area. The Clean Rain Pump Vault can handle flows from 2,000 to 7,500 gallons per hour even when installed up to 30 feet from the reservoir.
Although we now have 10 different high-pressure irrigation pumps to offer, the cost advantage still holds with low-pressure waterfall pumps. Pop-up type irrigation generally requires a minimum or 40-50 psi to function, but newer pressure compensating drip systems will work fine with 5-30 psi – well within the range of the more economical pumps. Our new drip kits (by Antelco) are very cost effective for shrub beds, vegetable gardens, and annual/perennial displays and easily integrate with the more ornamental water features.
While none of the products described above offer revolutionary advances, the combination now allows for almost waste-free irrigation of costly plantings with reclaimed water. Combine this further with an ornamental water feature, and you are now able to capture and maintain water in a healthy (oxygenated) condition while contributing an important element of wildlife habitat AND esthetically pleasing flowing water to the landscape. Whether a tranquil garden pond, a flowing steam, or a bubbling rock, the sight and sound of water has a salutary effect on our mental and physical health.
Start at the Surface
On the other hand, catastrophic sewage spills, caused by excessive storm water flow to municipal treatment plants, have a highly negative impact on our quality of life and an entire ecosystem. The growing awareness of storm water issues is propelling the increased interest in permeable surfaces and in subsurface retention, detention, and infiltration. Virtually no one at the shows recognized the EPIC (Environmental Passive Integrated Chamber/developed by Rehbein, Inc and marketed by Firestone SP) that we displayed – but they quickly grasped the portent of the EPIC system for both large-scale and small-scale storm water management. We’re also seeing EPIC employed in phyto-filtration applications and for subsurface irrigation, whether a football field or a 4’x8’ vegetable garden.
Porous paving factors into controlling storm water, and Porous Pave is perhaps our most successful “Environmental Product” in terms of product sold. The Porous Pave product that we have been offering in particular (mixed onsite with recycled rubber tires, stone, and a urethane resin) offers double LEED points for recycled content and for permeability. It’s a product that resonates with anyone remotely eco-conscious. I first encountered Porous Pave when I saw a two-foot waterfall cascading onto a patio. When I approached, I could see how easily the water disappeared into the surface and was captivated first by the product’s resilience and then by the fact that hidden under it was a water storage reservoir. My response – “I want it!” – is akin to that of many consumers today. They may not be ready to “ante up” for that specific environmental enhancement, but when it’s bundled with an exciting look and feel, they’ll quickly join the game.
At several trade shows we have displayed that two-foot waterfall that first caught my eye, along with the bubbling blue ceramic vase, the pink granite drum fountain, and the color shifting fiber optic lights. The full setup attracted a lot of attention, but for many, the option to be “green” while enjoying the esthetics helps to rationalize the purchase.
Evolving to Meet Needs
Consumer tastes are fickle. Thirty years ago we didn’t use the term “native plant” because people didn’t want the “plant that grows by the side of the road.” Now we highlight the fact that it’s a native plant! Similarly, our focus at Fourth Generation Nursery Inc. has evolved from Water Plants to Water Gardens, then to Water Features, and now to Water in the Landscape. Our company has serviced the ornamental water feature market for the past 25 years, but in our 2013 New Product Supplement we include a four-page “centerfold” with Environmental Solutions for Water Management. Don’t worry though – we still grow those native plants and that pond is still a wildlife habitat!
About the Author
P. “Rip” Sokol has worked in the horticulture industry for over 50 years, been growing plants since the age of five, and put in his first water garden at age 11. He has been a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist since 1986 and belongs to multiple nursery associations. He can be reached at Fourth Generation Nursery in Mendon, MA (phone 508-634-1914 / e-mail: email@example.com).