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Natural Landscaping

by James P. Engel, © 2009

click here for a full-length version of this essay

Homeowners demand a lot from their landscapes and Natural Landscaping delivers. Homeowners ask for a landscape that is pleasing to the eye, is low maintenance, creates a feeling of peace and harmony and is also beneficial to wildlife and the environment. Nature provides the inspiration and you experience the benefits.

Natural landscape designs follow sound ecological principals. Natural landscapes are stunning and attractive while providing for the needs of wildlife. Natural landscaping transforms the residential landscape by replacing large expanses of lawn with landscaped borders, strips, islands and beds of native vegetation. These landscaped beds create self sustaining plant communities that provide critical wildlife habitat. They also provide numerous environmental benefits. Natural landscaping harmonizes with other nearby landscapes whether managed or natural, residential or commercial.

In the last 50 years the American landscape has turned into a green, biological desert. This sterile landscape of mowed lawn decorated with one or two shade trees is replicating itself across the landscape at the expense of wildlife, bio-diversity and the general health of the environment. Few wildlife species can survive in this type of landscape. With a shift in thinking and by following a few guiding principals the residential landscape can be transformed. One’s yard can become a sanctuary for wildlife while also contributing to emotional and environmental health. Natural landscaping is fully compatible with the needs of homeowner, native wildlife and our environment.

Natural landscaping uses four guiding principals to transform the residential landscape: the use of a diverse assemblage of native species, high density spacing, the use of vegetative layering to create three dimensional vertical habitat, and planting according to the needs of wildlife and their habitat requirements. The shrub layer is the most important group of plants in the woodland setting and is the corner stone of natural landscape design. Use native shrubs to provide critical habitat, wildlife food and ground level cover for birds and small mammals in the landscape. Trees and shrubs should be grouped and closely spaced just as they grow in natural settings. Following these guiding principals can make the difference between creating wildlife habitat or simply planting a collection of plants.

The woodland palette is large and diverse. The variety of species makes natural landscaping interesting and attractive as the woodland gallery changes through the seasons. Like fine wine the landscape improves with age and maturity. Natural landscaping is a living work of art that evolves over the years. Homeowners who lack vision and patience may never get to experience the many benefits of natural landscaping.

this page updated March 14, 2009