U.S. Mission Plants Prairie Grass Meadow as a First Step in Sustainable Landscaping Project

Ambassador King Sows Indigenous Prairie Grass Seeds on the Mission GroundsRemarks by Ambassador Betty E. King
U.S. Permanent Representative to the
United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

at a Spring Garden Ceremony
to celebrate the
U.S. Mission’s membership in Geneva’s Garden Charter
and the Planting of a Meadow of Prairie Grasses Indigenous to Geneva.

Good afternoon and welcome to all of you on this gorgeous day.  I want to thank, in particular, Bertrand von Arx, the conservator of the Canton of Geneva, and Fabrice Lombard, from the Charte de Jardins, for joining us today.  We stand here this afternoon on what has, in the past, been known as our Mission “lawn” – a place where we’ve had wonderful outdoor events, a place where we’ve played sports and a place that we’ve enjoyed looking at from our windows in our building above.  A place that has been green on the outside but not necessarily as green as we would like on the inside.

However, from this point forward, this place will no longer be just a lawn.  With the sowing of seeds of what is known as the “mélange de Geneve” – which includes 46 different species of regional and local flowers and native wild grasses – the lawn we stand on today will be transformed into a meadow full of flowering prairie grasses indigenous to the Geneva region.  The short term effect of sowing these seeds will be a visible change in the look of this space – from shaven manicured lawn to flowing and flowering blades of grass and brilliantly colored flowers.  Undoubtedly, it will be beautiful!

But, it is the long term effect that is more significant from our perspective.  We expect that the expanse of prairie grasses, once fully established, will over time become home to a host of regional flora and fauna.  And, by virtue of our Mission grounds’ close proximity to other green spaces, we will be able to contribute our meadow to a chain of interlinked meadows – including those of our neighbors the World Health Organization, the Chateau de Penthes and the United Nations Office at Geneva – to create a green corridor of hospitable terrain for the likes of birds, hedgehogs, butterflies, and rodents.  The latter will be especially popular with the hawks that I watch circling the woods and wetlands next door.

Our commitment to the conservation and sustenance of local flora and fauna is profound.  But, equally profound is our commitment to sustaining and improving, to the extent possible, the health and social welfare of Geneva residents and the community writ large.  Our successful collaboration with the Canton of Geneva and the electrical utility SIG to implement our building’s photovoltaic system means that the solar energy we produce here is sent directly onto Geneva’s electrical grid.  We have been and continue to be determined to be good neighbors in our Geneva community.  For that reason, we are so pleased to have signed the Geneva Garden Charter – or Charte des Jardins – in conjunction with the prairie grass seed sowing and to now have a plaque which will stand on our grounds as a proud symbol of our ongoing support of the Geneva community and its residents – human, flora and fauna alike!

The timing of this prairie grass seed sowing is no coincidence.  In fact, this is the first spring planting season we’ve had since the designs were completed last year for our multi-year environmental and sustainable landscape redesign project.  The conversion from a lawn to a meadow is one of the first steps in the implementation of the landscape design plan that was conceived by a group of American and Swiss landscape students, in association with the American Society of Landscape Architects, after a two-week study of our grounds.  The prairie will serve as the springboard for further implementation of the landscape plan.

In the coming months, you will see a transformation of our plaza to a “town square” like environment; it will include native plant and tree species, outdoor seating areas, and entry-way overhangs that double as green roofs.  Our ambitious landscape plan also includes installation of a green roof over the security guard house at the entrance of the Mission, storm water holding and treatment areas, a rain garden, and outdoor seating areas.  A few years from now, you won’t recognize our grounds!  And, by that time, we will have surely thought of other ways to make our facility more ecologically-friendly and sustainable.

But, for now, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating this first step in a great transition for our grounds and that you’ll come visit the meadow from time to time and enjoy its natural beauty.  I would like to invite Mr. von Arx and Mr. Lombard to each say a few words.  But first, Mr. von Arx, you were so kind to spend time with our group of young landscape architecture students when they were here last summer and we are delighted to have you here today to help initiate their design.