Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The grounds surrounding the Swiss embassy in Washington, D.C. have been rewilded


"I felt a tremendous amount of guilt and shame when I took over the residence," [the Swiss ambassador] says. "Golf courses are nice to look at, but they're ecological disasters."

Normal diplomatic life was soon upended by the pandemic, and since then he’s been on a mission to rewild the expansive grounds, aiming to create a biodiversity reserve marked by the native plants of the region. He forbid the use of pesticides and allowed the lawn to grow out in spotty patches. Using resources such as Audubon’s native plants database and guide to birds, he worked closely with a local landscape designer, Aldertree Garden, that specializes in native plants. They uprooted all the non-native bushes and trees, such as ornamental burning bush and non-productive grass, and replaced them with meadows, bushes, and native trees, including white oak, scarlet oak, black oak, and others.

Wildlife was also a part of his rewilding vision. Local beekeepers now manage the embassy’s colony of 50 hives, and he built a home for the Eastern Screech-Owl, which he hopes will someday take up residence on the ground. (The nest box did lure an owl briefly, but the bird only spent two nights—Pitteloud is optimistic it may return.)