Designer encourages sustainable landscaping

By Ryan Cornell

How many monarch butterflies have you seen this summer?

Probably not too many, and for good reason. As herbicides and land development continues to wipe out milkweed, their main source of nutrition, less and less of the orange and black butterflies have found ways to survive.

Because of the dwindling number of these pollinators, it’s become more important — and trendier — than ever to embrace sustainability when it comes to landscape design.

Katie Sokol, president of the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers, said she’s seen a high demand among homeowners for sustainable yards.

“You’re trying to design your projects so five years down the road you’re not going to be either replacing the hardscape or moving all your plants, because you planted too many and they got too gigantic or they don’t have the proper soil,” she said.

Homeowners can use native plants such as the perennial Joe-Pye weed to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators that will maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Sokol said reducing the amount of lawn space can also help improve sustainability.

“Lawns require a lot of maintenance,” she said. “The mowing that goes into them, a lot of people treat them with chemicals and all that stuff can be detrimental to the surrounding environment.”

Homeowners should try to recycle materials whenever possible, she added.

“Let’s say you have an old ratty fence and you tore it down,” she said. “There are other uses for that wood you can reuse in the landscape…Maybe you don’t have to tear out all your pavers and can reuse them somewhere else in the yard.”

Sokol is a certified landscape designer with Down River Landscape Design in Rileyville.

The Virginia Society of Landscape Designers comprises about 100 certified members throughout the commonwealth.

For more information, visit their website at

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