Wayne Today (June 28, 2012) — Joni Mitchell’s lyric, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” is far from the truth over at Wayne Orthopedic Physical Therapy, where owner Dr. Ben Burton has done quite the opposite by creating a nature habitat out of the wooded area surrounding his building.

When buying the property three years ago, which sits on almost three acres, Burton was advised to clear away the leftover half an acre of trees and brush and offer additional parking but Burton had other plans. His passion for balanced physical health took hold and the result is a more balanced and healthy local environment and ecosystem.

Burton was inspired by both his own observations and the book, “Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas W. Tallamy, which gave him a high level of awareness. And the sanctuary is his way of giving back to the community and protecting the world around us, he said.

“I’ve been focusing on the topic of nature for years and the book helped to clarify everything a lot more,” said Burton, who owns 11 area businesses, five of which are physical therapy and six are non-related.

Wayne Orthopedic Physical Therapy, located on Hamburg Turnpike, is the only physical therapy operation Burton owns in Wayne. When he first bought the property, it was a mess, he said. But with a little ingenuity and some elbow grease, it is now a haven for 15 to 20 kinds of bird species and 30 different types of flora that are native to New Jersey, a key element, he says, many landscapers fail to recognize.

Native plants do not require water or pesticides to keep them going simply because they are “native” to the area. Most of what people choose to plant winds up growing out of control, sometimes choking existing trees to the point of creating deep wounds and becoming a menace to animals too, Burton explains.

“If people just took the time to investigate, they’d be doing a great thing. Tons of money is spent and for no reason,” he said.

The project began about a year ago with help from R&S Landscaping, out of Midland Park. Phase one consisted of ridding the 3,000 square foot wooded area of all invasive species, many of whose vines had grown so large, they were harming the native trees. And unfortunately a significant wound was discovered on a once healthy native oak tree.

According to Robert Schucker, president of R&S Landscaping, this situation could have been easily prevented by early removal of the invasive species that was growing wild.

“Most residents are unaware of the harmful damage that can be caused by invasive plant species. It’s not uncommon for invasives to threaten native trees and plants or push them out of a whole area entirely. And the effects can be debilitating for some insect and animal species. If those species serve as a food source for the local wildlife, it will eventually affect the top of the food chain as well,” Schucker said.

Helping Hand 
Protecting the local animal species is always a positive choice to make.

Different from customary landscaping procedure, the R&S team did not clear away the naturally occurring deadwood, or parts of dead trees, instead it was left alone and added to it were small sections of cut up brush that would become a habitat of sorts for birds and other small animals including chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels.

Bird and owl houses were also added to attract even more of the county’s wildlife. And R&S will use an all-natural weed control made of concentrated vinegar and without harmful chemicals so not to harm the animals creating their homes in the habitat.

Invasive Plants 
Invasive plants are choking the entire state of New Jersey.

As Schucker explains, if you drive down any major roadway throughout the state of New Jersey, you’ll see three very popular “ornamental” plants – Japanese Knotweed, which is a large, herbaceous perennial plant that is native to eastern Asia in Japan, China and Korea, the Oriental Bitter, a woody vine native to East Asia, and the Multiflora Rose, which is a species of white or pink rose native to eastern Asia, in China, Japan and Korea.

“You have the choice, either to buy imported foreign plants or buy something that will benefit the environment,” he said.

And that choice is right at one’s fingertips, literally, and it’s far cheaper than non-native items sold at local nurseries.

The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection has a catalog at under the tab Division of Parks and Forestry that sells various types of non-invasive seeds.