People ask me frequently how I developed the natural landscaping in my yard. I generally refer them to the Wild Ones Landscaping with Native Plants book, page 12. If I’m giving a presentation, I often include slides showing the steps I’ve taken.
Here’s what I tell folks. I started developing my yard by surveying my property and then as I planned to add to my natural landscaping, I updated my design. This gave me better control over what I was trying to achieve, instead of a “willy-nilly plunking in” of plants in our yard. We now have a very large prairie in our backyard (south) and an adjacent woodland in our east sideyard.
BENEFITS OF NATIVE LANDSCAPING
Where once we had 1-1/3 acres of lawn which took my husband all week to mow because of its soggy nature, due to Northland Creek’s tendency to overflow, now he has about an hour’s mowing, and the rest of our week’s time is spent enjoying the birds, the insects and the rest of the wildlife that frequent our beautiful yard. We are fortunate to have mature Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) on our site, so we built our prairie and woodland around them.
We also have many mature Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) in our yard, which we likely may soon lose to the Emerald Ash Borer. It’s always sad to lose a mature tree, but in this case losing the Green Ash may not be so bad. When we planted our prairie, they were small and cast little shade on our back yard. But over the past 30 years, they have grown to an immense stature with a very dense canopy and have changed the dynamics of our prairie. It has been an interesting experiment, as they and we have learned to adapt to this less-sunny landscape.
WHERE DID WE GET THE NATIVE PLANTS?
Many of the prairie and shade plants in our yard came from plant rescues arranged through my Wild Ones chapter, Fox Valley Area. Other plants came from my chapter’s spring plant sales. Seed for the original planting came from Prairie Nursery. Subsequent overseedings have come from chapter seed exchanges, Marshland Transplant Aquatic Nursery and Prairie Nursery. And, of course, I learned about what plants go where through my affiliation with the Wild Ones Fox Valley Area Chapter and through the books and nursery catalogs that have become increasingly more available.
As we grow older, our landscaping grows older with us. Soon we may not be able to care for it as well as we can now, but our hope is that it will care for itself when we get to that point. By then I am also hoping the invasive noxious weeds which I’ve written about previously will have ceased to be a problem….
For more information about planting your own naturally landscaped yard, you can also read the book Wild Ones Landscaping with Native Plants on the EPA website.
When I started to plan my prairie, I didn’t know what I was doing. In fact, I’m not even certain I understood what was a native plant. I learned about the benefit/necessity of surveying my property from Don Vorpahl. Don was one of the first native landscape designers in Wisconsin and an early member of Wild Ones. His generosity in sharing what he had learned about the fledgling native landscaping movement was immensely helpful, and I shall always be grateful for his ready counseling. See his article entitled “Planting A Woodland” in the Wild Ones book Landscaping with Native Plants.