VIRTUAL. Join nature writer and Humane Gardener founder Nancy Lawson as she hosts a panel discussion among leading
VIRTUAL. Join nature writer and Humane Gardener founder Nancy Lawson as she hosts a panel discussion among leading experts who have been on the front lines of advocating in MD and VA for allowing low-impact, native habitat landscaping in common interest communities such as Homeowner Associations (HOAs). It happens too often that environmentally conscious homeowners convert their lawns to native plants only to be reprimanded by their homeowners’ association for growing “weeds,” leaving stalks up for birds, or refusing to use pesticides. But even in an HOA, wildlife-friendly landscaping doesn’t have to be DOA (dead on arrival). Hear about a recent landmark case in Maryland that led to a state law codifying wildlife-friendly gardens, sparking similar efforts in HOAs, towns and counties across the nation, including a push for new legislation to support this initiative in Virginia in early 2024.
Join in the discussion with local experts from MD and VA, including Janet Crouch, Melinda Soltys, Barbara Ryan, and Mani Kurian (read more about them below!). This conversation will include a Q&A with the audience as we share ideas for continuing the unstoppable momentum toward new ethics and practices in home landscaping.
Nancy Lawson is the author of The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife and the recently released Wildscape: Trilling Chipmunks, Beckoning Blooms, Salty Butterflies, and other Sensory Wonders of Nature. A nature writer, habitat consultant, popular speaker, and founder of The Humane Gardener, LLC, she pioneers creative, wildlife-friendly landscaping methods. Her presentations at diverse venues—from national wildlife refuges to local wildflower preserves—have inspired even seasoned horticulturists and wildlife experts to look at their landscapes in a new way. Certified as a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional and master naturalist, Nancy co-chairs Howard County Bee City in Maryland and helped launch a community science project, Monarch Rx, based on scientific discoveries made in her own garden. Nancy’s books, garden, advocacy, and scientific endeavors have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, O magazine, Entomology Today, Ecological Entomology, and numerous podcasts and radio shows.
Janet Crouch is conservation advocate living in Howard County, Maryland. Over 15 years ago, she and her husband converted their front lawn into beautiful pollinator gardens. However, their homeowners’ association ultimately sent them a letter from their lawyer demanding that the convert the gardens back to turfgrass. Janet and her husband ultimately filed a lawsuit against their HOA which was eventually settled and allowed them to retain virtually all of their garden. Janet also took her fight to save their garden all the way to the state legislature; her family’s story inspired introduction of a state law protecting homeowners with environmentally-friendly landscaping who live in HOA communities. In 2021, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 322, the low-landscaping legislation that specifically codifies residents’ rights to be wildlife-friendly, plant-friendly, and environmentally conscious.
Melinda Soltys, a Virginia resident, is a wildlife and native plant advocate and enthusiast, president of Wild Ones Nova Seedling chapter, and parent. In addition to creating wildlife habitat at her home in Northern Virginia, she is a site leader with the Fairfax County Invasive Management Area program and is restoring habitat at a local park through removing invasive species and repopulating with our native Virginia plants. Melinda works with her local school to plant native landscaping and runs the after-school garden club to educate and inspire children to learn about plants and nature. She has spoken out about her experiences with gardening for wildlife in her HOA and is working with Nature Forward and Wild Ones to create legislation in Virginia to help homeowners plant native.
Barbara Ryan is the founder and owner of Chain Bridge Native Landscapes LLC in McLean. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Landscape Design from The George Washington University and is a certified Virginia Horticulturist (VNLA), Level 2 Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP), and Fairfax Master Naturalist. She understands and has experience in the unique aspects of low-impact landscaping in HOAs and Condo Associations. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Native Plant Society and has been actively involved in advocating Virginia’s General Assembly to strengthen its support of native plants and restrictions on invasive plants.
Mani Kurian is a resident of Ellicott City (Maryland) where lives with his wife and two sons in a large, single-home HOA community. In 2007, a year after Mani and his family moved into the community, Mani began replacing his turf grass with flower beds, but was immediately met with HOA violation notices. He ultimately was voted on to his HOA Board with the goal of environmental education, but HOA troubles continued. The HOA brought a Howard County Circuit Court case against him in 2021. Armed with the power of the new state law that Janet Crouch had championed, Mani represented himself and won the case against him. Mani continues to advocate for sustainable, native gardens in his community and elsewhere. He is a Maryland Master Gardener and a Biology Professor at the Community College of Baltimore County where he manages the Community Garden at their Catonsville campus.
(Thursday) 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm