Avenbury Lakes is a Conservation Community
Residents sometimes wonder why they must consult the Landscape Committee concerning any new plantings around their homes, and some have been disappointed when the Committee denied their request to add a favorite flower or shrub. A few residents have complained about weeds growing among the tall grasses or questioned the “mowing” schedule. The answer to all of these inquiries is that Avenbury Lakes is a conservation community created in prairie design. When Joe Scaletta first began to consider options for this new planned unit development (PUD), he took his lead from the original farmhouse on the property. The Forthofer family home on Detroit Road dates from America’s prairie design period (1895-1930) and set the stage for both the housing and landscape designs. Joe worked with landscape architect Doug Baldi to develop a plan that would provide a soft, natural appearance and mature into an ecological, low-cost, low-maintenance environment.
Those of us who strove for years to make our bluegrass lawn look like a golf course may require time to fully appreciate a less structured landscape style. Perhaps we need to take a step back in order to gain a new and different perspective. Prairie design bears absolutely no resemblance to a fine-trimmed lawn and is much, much more than just tall grasses and a pond or two. It is a conservation plan, designed in accordance with EPA guidelines to encourage and maintain a natural balance of plant and animal life. Various types of native prairie grasses are a major component of the design for many reasons: they provide an interesting mix of size and color, serve as natural privacy barriers, prevent soil erosion, hold moisture, and thrive without chemical applications that can run off and pollute ponds and other ground water. The common areas of Avenbury Lakes will never look like bowling greens because the Declaration for this development, registered with the Lorain County Recorder’s Office, actually specifies prairie landscape.
The Landscape Committee, as a subcommittee of the Board, is charged with the responsibility of establishing standards that will maintain a consistent prairie design throughout the entire community. The Committee makes recommendation as to which plant materials should appear on the approved list and what the standards for mowing and other landscape maintenance should be. As you probably know from reading the Homeowners Association Bylaws, our Board has ultimate authority for managing the landscape and all other aspects of this community. While there may have been some non-prairie plantings installed before the management of Avenbury Lakes was turned over to our Board, those plantings will not be considered as precedents. In all its considerations, the Landscape Committee will strive to uphold an overall prairie appearance – not necessarily the individual preferences of homeowners. A consistent look will help maintain high property values and control future maintenance expenses.
For those of us not already familiar with a prairie ecosystem, here are some of the conservation characteristics of the native plants:
* They are perennials that come back year after year unlike most ornamentals that must be replanted every year.
* They are nearly free of disease and harmful insects and practically never require applications of fungicides, pesticides, or fertilizer; not only is this good for the environment, it saves considerable time and money!
* Once established, prairie plants develop extensive root systems that eliminate frequent watering and protect them from drought.
* Native prairie plants are generally resistant to very cold winter temperatures.
* The plants attract butterflies and other interesting insects, and provide valuable habitat for birds and other animals that live in grasslands.
* Unlike non-native ornamentals that tend to fade when the fall season arrives, prairie grasses become spectacular as they develop feathery seed plumes and turn varying shades of russet, yellow, bronze, and orange.
* Additionally, many prairie plants have distinctive features like red stems or peeling bark that make them attractive throughout the winter.
* Because of the considerable variation in their size, leaves, flower color, and bloom times, prairie plants may be used to fulfill a multitude of gardening objectives such as privacy, erosion control, moisture retention, noise and pollution reduction, and flood prevention.
As a bonus to the time, effort, and expense they save us, prairie plants also offer us a glimpse of our country’s past. Their use as food and medicine by Native Americans and pioneers gave rise to many interesting stories. For example, Rattlesnake Master has been used as a powerful antidote for the bite of the prairie rattlesnake; Compass Plant holds its leaves vertically in a north-to-south plane and helped steer travelers across the treeless prairies; Gaultheria tea is an effective pain reliever, Nepeta reduces fevers, and Monarda can be used to treat burns and boils.
The choice of prairie plant materials originally selected for Avenbury Lakes was not, however, based upon folklore. The plants were selected for their suitability to this climate and clay soil and their compatibility to thrive with and enhance each other. The complementary root systems of the chosen wildflowers and grasses work together so that, as they mature, they squeeze out weeds. The chosen plants co-exist tightly knitted and develop into low-maintenance garden designs that require few chemicals and little work. Since nearly half of Avenbury’s 146 acres is green space, it’s both wise and cost effective to capitalize upon the natural behavior of the plants to do as much maintenance as possible for us. As an example, the 12” grass between lawn and meadow areas (“no-mow” grass) is a fine fescue that prevents chemicals used on the lawn from adversely affecting wildflowers in the meadow; it also provides good ground cover and will ultimately eliminate weeds in areas where the wildflowers may not establish easily. As the wildflower areas mature, they only require one mow in the spring to allow sunlight to reach emerging plants.
There are additional plants on the Approved Plant list shown below, from which homeowners who wish to augment their landscaping may select. All the perennials, grasses, trees, and shrubs on the list are indigenous to the American prairie – hardy but not invasive. They will complement the original landscape design without upsetting the ecosystem or creating additional maintenance requirements. Please remember to submit plans for any additions to the Landscape Committee BEFORE making a purchase or starting to plant. The Committee will review each plan for compliance with our community’s prairie design and submit a recommendation to the Board for final authorization. The review may take as long as 60 days to complete. This process is every resident’s guarantee that all landscaping at Avenbury Lakes will be maintained in accordance with the original prairie design and at consistently high standards.