A development project in my town recently made me ponder plant salvage. The project in question involves the removal of existing landscaping around a parking lot, some of which is native and certainly salvageable. There are also hardscape elements that can be reused - such as well aged boulders. I often come across this in my work where an existing garden is being renovated and many of the plants are going be replaced or at a minimum divided and thinned. I always think that there must be someone who would love to have these plants. The question is who and how do you find them? For homes scheduled for demolition, there are organizations you can call in to strip the home to reduce the material going into landfill. What is the landscaping equivalent?
Connecting developers with the folks that are willing to salvage and remove plants is the solution. For native plants, I was happy to find a wealth of organizations in Western Washington that salvage native plants for reuse simply by googling “plant salvage.” If you are building a new home or commercial development, the following organizations may be interested in salvaging plants from your property. For any green construction or development, native plant salvage should be on the agenda:
King County Native Plant Salvage: ww.kingcounty.gov/environment/stewardship/volunteer/plant-salvage-program.aspx
Snohomish County Native Plant Program: www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/Departments/Public_Works/Divisions/SWM/Work_Areas/Outreach/Native_Plants/event.htm
Native Plant Salvage Foundation (Thurston County): www.nativeplantsalvage.org/about.php
Mercer Island Native Plant Salvage: www.miparks.org/salvage.htm
Native Plant Salvage Alliance (Pierce County): http://www.ssstewardship.org/salvage_guide.htm
Also, Sound Native Plants has posted this handy information sheet with tips for salvaging natives in Western Washington:
For non-native salvage, there may not be as much infrastructure, however there are still some options:
1) craigslist: A friend shared with me his success story about revamping his garden. He placed mature rhodies, arborvitae and large boulders on craigslist for free and found happy recipients for all, some of whom gave a hand to the removal process. It’s a worth a try, though do be cautious about who you allow to come on your property to remove things from both a personal and property liability standpoint.
2) Master Gardeners: Master Gardeners often host plant sales, and the plant material sold is generally donated. If the timing is right for a sale, there may be interest in salvaging plants.
2) Local gardening clubs: Gardeners love new plants, and know to come prepared to pot.
3) Landscapers: Ditto above, except these folks have equipment for those larger specimens.
4) Your gardening friends: Have a open day with the motto “bring shovel, soil and pots” and you can provide the treats.
While returning plants to the earth (e.g. composting) may not have quite the same impact as construction materials in landfill, there are still resources expended with producing ornamentals for sale, and certainly mounds of merit in saving native plants from the chopping block. I know I am definitely going to think of all the ways to salvage plants when possible, and certainly will encourage the folks I know to do so as well.
Remember, this work is better done in the cooler seasons. Here in the Pacific Northwest, fall is an ideal time to transplant trees and shrubs. When transplanting, make sure to get as much of the root ball as possible, and remind those who are transplanting that the plants will need plenty of water at planting and continued watering until establishment. For extra large specimens, consider root pruning in advance to reduce shock.