John Gidding spent years as host of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal,” where he created eye-popping improvements to the homes of the lucky people featured on the wildly popular television show. Most of his designs used rolls of sod and many other non-native plants for those transformations. Since then, Gidding has done a great deal of research which led him to a major revelation: Grass is not good for our environment.

On July 25, the Garden Club of Jacksonville hosted landscape architect Gidding for a presentation about his new book “At Home with Nature: A Guide to Sustainable, Natural Landscaping.”

Gidding’s presentation on native landscaping was a hit with the more than 300 attendees as he described his “mea culpa” in turning away from sod and pesticides and towards embracing native plants in his designs. He described the history of how modern American landscaping trends came to be, touching on landscape architects such as Frederick Law Olmstead, who with his brother, designed Memorial Park. Aware that American homeowners still love grass, he offered some native alternatives. Finally, he engaged and answered audience questions about their own experiences in native landscaping.

San Marco Books and More sold copies of Gidding’s book which he signed before and after the program. Several local organizations staffed tables with information and items for sale before and after the program, while guests sampled delicious items from Farmery Bakery & Bodega. Guests also had the opportunity to buy native plants to take home from Lark Native Plants and Native and Uncommon Plants.

The event was sponsored by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund through a grant to create signature events like these that establish the Garden Club of Jacksonville as the place in the community to encourage environmental responsibility, forge our connection to the earth, and celebrate green spaces. The Riverdale Inn provided lodging for John Gidding and his team.


The Garden Club of Jacksonville had eleven wonderful partners who offered guests information about their native plant-focused programs. Lark Native Plants and Native and Uncommon Plants sold native plants. Famery Bakery and Bodega had a delicious selection of ready-to-eat salads and sandwiches, grab-and-go meals, pastries, flavored lemonade, as well as produce, handmade jams, pickles, and seasonal blends.

Members Meet & Greet

Guests enjoyed one-on-one conversations with Gidding as he signed their books. Famery Barkery & Bodega provided small bites fresh from Green Legacy Farm.

Going Natural with John Gidding

Gidding shared how history shapes our modern landscape architecture and how we can build a resilient future with native landscaping. He illustrated how he progressed from sod grass to native plants, learned from his clients, and happily took questions after the program. He was available to sign books and offered advice to guests on their native landscaping ideas.

American Landscape’s History

Three important historical figures shaped American landscape architecture: Andrew Jackson Downing, Frank J. Scott, and Frederick Law Olmstead. These three men would be instrumental in influencing suburban landscapes, and their use of grass. Olmstead in particular had a large influence on American parks, even at Memorial Park in Jacksonville, Florida.

Alternative Ground Covers

Did you know that sod grass is the United States’ most-irrigated crop? Here are some beautiful grass alternatives.


  • Register for more events here.
  • Read about Memorial Park here.
  • Read about John Gidding here.
  • Purchase At Home with Nature: A Guide to Sustainable, Natural Landscaping from San Marco Books and More here.