Meaningful Partnerships to Promote Native Plants and Sustainable Landscaping

Let’s face it: having a great partner makes a world of difference!  That’s true for many facets of life.  But, in this year of upheaval, new normals, and reshaping our interactions, leaning on professional partners has been more crucial than ever to work together to get the job done.

Pandemic Pressures

With a lot of conversation around pandemic-related news, everyday life has been turned upside down: jobs are affected, education is largely virtual, we have concern for loved ones… meanwhile, environmental protection and the restoration and preservation of the Chesapeake Bay can sometimes feel like a back-burner issue.  Regardless of setbacks, the work continues, through adapted efforts to continue work while maintaining safety precautions and social distancing.



Restoration projects alone are not enough to drive forth the change we need in our world today.  Education and outreach are also vital in making long-lasting changes to improve our lands and waters.  With great partners at our side, our single voice may be amplified and carried much further to reach wider, more diverse audiences.

Making Partnerships Work

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Alliance) has been committed to working with partners of all types for almost 50 years.  But in these days of unknowns, one thing has been clear: our partners are amazing! One of our longtime partners, the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC) has continued to work alongside the Alliance in many efforts to promote conservation landscaping efforts.

In October, the Alliance was honored to present the 2020 Fran Flanigan Environmental Award to Beth Ginter, CCLC Executive Director at our annual Taste of the Chesapeake event.  The Alliance has partnered with CCLC, especially through participation in the Chesapeake Bay Professional Certification training program, which helps to train Alliance staffers and partners to design, install, and maintain sustainable landscapes, with an emphasis on using native plants to benefit the environment and protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.  Additionally, CCLC has partnered with the Alliance to build a comprehensive curriculum and certificate for training professionals on riparian buffers in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and the creation of a landscape contractor assessment for the RiverSmart Homes program in Washington, DC.

Latest Venture: Native Plant Narratives!

Most recently, Beth teamed up with the Alliance to film our latest release of Native Plant Narratives.  Native Plant Narratives is a series of short, educational videos highlighting the benefits of plants native to the Chesapeake Bay region and conservation gardening.  Many of the videos focus on specific native species, where and when to use them, as well as how to care for them, while some videos discuss general topics like maintenance, garden installation, and stormwater management.



In the episode, Plant ID with CCLC, Beth illustrates the use of CCLC’s native plant field cards to identify native plants in existing gardens at Lowell School in Washington, DC.  Zeroing in on a winterberry shrub (Ilex verticillata), Beth uses the cards to show images of winterberry as it looks in different seasons, how large it will get, the wildlife that love it, and more!

The field cards can also be used to identify plants that would be good choices to add to your current gardens or to create new native gardens!  These laminated cards include photos of grasses, perennials, shrubs, and trees, and information such as soil, light, and water conditions, size of the plants, and appropriate planting locations.  Information about the characteristics, habitat, appeal, native range, and suggested management of 46 of the most successfully used native plants is helpful for use in stormwater best management practices (BMPs) throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, or right in your own backyard!



The development of this resource resulted from a collaboration between CCLC, CBLP staff, instructors, and steering committee members, all of whom have significant native plant expertise, and who worked together to choose the best plants for stormwater best management practices (BMPs).  Partnering made it happen!

Benefits of Native Plants

Conservation landscaping using native plants supports clean air and water, wildlife, and a more beautiful and healthier human environment.  Benefits include:

  • Deeper and more extensive root systems to help stabilize soil to help prevent erosion and absorb more water
  • Trapping localized stormwater on-site to ensure slow infiltration (or percolation) and increased filtration of nutrients entering the groundwater
  • Once established (typically after the first year), requires minimal watering (in times of drought)
  • Using native plants that are adapted to local conditions require little to no fertilizer, which may harm local ecosystems
  • Require no pesticides
  • Minimizes mowing, saving time and money, and reducing air pollution
  • Provides diverse plant environment that supports wildlife, such as bird, bees, and butterflies, which rely on these resources and creates migratory corridors for birds and insects

Consider incorporating more natives into your existing landscapes.  Tell a friend.  Get them excited.  Gardening is a wonderful way to relieve stress, especially when it can feel like you have no control over many of the circumstances surrounding you.  But, planting a seed, nurturing it, and watching it flourish is a great way to get outdoors, let the sun and breeze soothe you, and help to lift a bit of burden from your shoulders.  And with natives, you have the added benefit of helping to make those pollinators and other wildlife happy too!!!  I love watching the butterflies swoop and flutter or the birds sneak some berries!


Photo courtesy of Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.


Significance of Good Partnerships

Just like the old adage, “two heads are better than one,” the same can be said for good partnerships.  Illustrated by the partnership between the Alliance and CCLC, together we have navigated a new approach to planning events and conferences virtually as our typical way of gathering people is currently not an option.  Planning, investigating options, and sharing feedback has been so helpful to both organizations.  It’s like doubling the staff!

For specific projects, Alliance and CCLC staff each bring their own set of strengths that together benefit project work.  CCLC’s professional certification program (CBLP) provides expertise in best management practice design, installation, and maintenance.  They can help subcontractors working on Alliance projects delve deeper into stormwater and erosion issues to increase understanding and implementation of new techniques that the Alliance does not have the capacity to cover.  The Alliance provides grant opportunities, collaboration, and project management, which promotes CCLC and helps make accessible the training, workshops, and resources they offer.

With partnerships, individuals with specific skill sets can be brought together to increase capacity and make for better project work.  Together, partners increase the reach of their efforts, appeal to new communities or organizations, and amplify their message.

Celebrate Victories of all Sizes!

Share those successes achieved with the help of partners!  In times of stress and uncertainty, let’s lift each other up!  There are so many small victories to celebrate.  And compiling them leads to great accomplishments.



With more than 18 million people living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it is critical to make and use partnerships to the fullest extent possible.  Different individuals and groups have their unique strengths.  Pull them together to achieve more than you can do alone.  Reach more families, property owners, professionals, officials…together, we can achieve more!

(This post originally appeared on the website of the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC) on Nov 11, 2020. CCLC and the Alliance partner on many projects and Jamie Alberti serves as the Vice Chair of the CCLC Board of Directors)