Although the article was written from one landscape designer to other landscape designers, I have directed Larry’s comments to you as a homeowner.
Larry Weaner starts his article by stating that the successful natural design using native plants ‘requires a basic understanding of how native plants operate in nature. Too often, random informality passes for “natural,” when in reality nature is highly ordered and anything but random.’
Three Basic Considerations
He then breaks down natural design into three basic considerations homeowners try to achieve:
Aesthetic — the design must “visually interact with the surrounding landscape, natural and constructed.”
Managerial — reduced maintenance, however, natural doesn’t mean “left to natural processes with no human guidance.”
Environmental — offsetting the negative effects of pesticides, fertilizers and mowing, natural design creates a living ecosystem in a healthy habitat.
Ten Elements of Natural Design
Larry then lists ten elements of natural design and gives examples of how to apply them as you develop your landscape to achieve the three basic categories.
- Learn to appreciate the beauty of nature — the contrasting patterns and colors
- Minimize disturbance of existing native growth — restoring nature is a lot harder than leaving it be
- Decide how closely you want to emulate the natural landscape — the “surrounding landscape, client dictates, architectural style, site characteristics and the scale of the site” will be a factor
- Allocate open space, transitional areas and landscape type — include edges with the natural landscape patterns
- Include native plant communities which match the conditions of the site — plants out of place will not thrive
- Consider future changes to the landscape because of natural processes — ecosystems are not static
- Occupy all the spaces — reduce the opportunity for unwanted species to invade
- Preserve rainwater on site — include rain gardens, ponds, wet basins and porous paving surfaces
- Reduce high-maintenance lawns — use low maintenance native grasses such as sedges and fescues, mosses and low-lying flowering perennials like violets and wild strawberry.
- Exclude invasive, exotic plants — maintain the diversity associated with native plants
If you keep all these elements in mind when designing your native landscape, you should have a satisfactory and successful result.
I had the privilege of hearing Larry Weaner speak on the subject of “Sustainable Residential Landscapes: Design, Planting and Maintenance Techniques” at the SALT Seminar for Homeowners held in conjunction with the Wild Ones Annual Meeting in November 2010. This annual conference was sponsored by the Connecticut College Arboretum and co-sponsored by the Wild Ones Mountain Laurel Chapter. Fond memories for me!