Florida-Friendly Landscaping: Part I – What Is It?
Due to our warm winter, “lawn care season” is well underway. For most homeowners’ associations, this includes the increased duty of ensuring that homeowners are in compliance with community landscaping standards. The question which invariably arises this time of year among associations and homeowners alike, however, is whether associations can really enforce their landscaping standards in light of Florida’s statutory Florida-Friendly Landscaping provisions.
Before tackling the answer to that question, it is first necessary to understand what Florida-Friendly Landscaping means. While the term itself is not new in Florida, the statutes previously referred almost exclusively to “Xeriscape” landscaping which is a landscaping technique developed out West to implement low water use landscaping. Florida-Friendly Landscaping essentially broadens the scope of Xeriscape by tailoring landscaping techniques to Florida’s specific topography and by also encouraging certain landscaping practices designed to preserve and protect Florida’s natural resources.
Looking specifically at the statute which defines Florida-Friendly Landscaping, section 373.185(1)(b), Florida Statutes, provides that
Florida-friendly landscaping means quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant. The principles of such landscaping include planting the right plant in the right place, efficient watering, appropriate fertilization, mulching, attraction of wildlife, responsible management of yard pests, recycling yard waste, reduction of stormwater runoff, and waterfront protection. Additional components include practices such as landscape planning and design, soil analysis, the appropriate use of solid waste compost, minimizing the use of irrigation, and proper maintenance.
While the first sentence of this above-quoted section essentially summarizes the goals of Florida-Friendly Landscaping, it is the following nine, underlined principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping which constitute the main factors to be considered when determining whether a particular landscaping element would be construed as Florida-Friendly. For instance, the first principle which has been dubbed “Right Plant, Right Place,” emphasizes the need to choose plants which match a site’s soil, light, water and climate conditions and which will then require little, if any, supplemental water, fertilizer or pesticides. A list of plants which are well adapted to growing in Florida has been created and is available for viewing and download at http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/FYN_Plant_Selection_Guide_v090110.pdf. While this list is not necessarily exclusive and has not been incorporated into the law, it does at least provide guidance as to what vegetation is considered Florida-Friendly by expert horticulturists. Additionally, there is a significant amount of information which has been created largely by the University of Florida, in partnership with other agencies and organizations, explaining what is meant by each of the nine principles and how they may be implemented. Excellent websites on the subject are http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/homeowners/nine_principles.htm as well as http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/materials/FYN_Handbook_vSept09.pdf.
In Part II, we will discuss how Florida-Friendly Landscaping affects homeowners’ associations.