As long we’ve been talking about planning for our natural plantings this spring, I thought I’d share one of my favorite presentations from the past. Be BRASH About Planning for Nature is about the five principles used in designing your natural landscape. But it’s also about being neighborly.
BORDER – Humans prefer a sense of order and purpose. A wild yard conflicts with that sense and can cause grumbling from neighbors. So put a border around it. The border can be lawn or a hedge or bushes. It can be a series of lower native plants or a path. It really doesn’t matter. The point is by placing a border between your yard and where it meets another space, like the sidewalk or the neighbors property, you have shown your yard is a product of intent and effort, not neglect. And you also circumvent the problem of large native plants lopping over into neighbors’ yards or obstructing the line-of-sight for cars and pedestrians.
RECOGNIZE THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS — You have a right to your milkweed, coneflowers and prairie grasses, but your neighbor also has the right to turf grass, kiss-me-Kates and pink flamingos. Don’t be an arrogant natural landscaper.
ADVERTISE — You know you have a good reason to naturally landscape your yard. Let others know before you start. Inform your neighbors before you begin your natural landscaping project. Conversing about what your doing and why will increase their understanding and reduce their apprehension. Once planted, put up a sign. Signs tell neighbors, municipal officials and passerbys your yard is a special place, deserving of recognition and admiration, and that’s why you planned it this way.
START SMALL — Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th Century B.C.) said: “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” This is also true when starting a natural landscape. Starting small will keep the expense minimal and allow your neighbors time to adjust to your new planting. It will allow you to grow your knowledge while your plants grow. Learning about designing, preparing the site, planting and maintaining your natural landscape is part of the joy of having it. And, it helps you prepare for any positive or negative reactions from neighbors, municipal officials or passerbys.
HUMANIZE — Most of us landscape with a view towards wildlife and nature because we know we are part of nature. So humanize your landscape by creating a wood chip or stone path through it. Place a bench to create a sitting area. Add bird feeders, bird houses or a bird bath. These human elements add a sense of welcome and offer you the opportunity to engage with nature and your neighbors.
So you see, being BRASH about planning for nature actually means being neighborly.
The original presentation is by past national Wild Ones President Bret Rappaport and is now entitled “Grow It! Don’t Mow It.”