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Naturescaping Design Principles

Written by Michaela Molter
    Thursday, 14 September 2017
Naturescaping Design Principles

People around the country are joining in on the growing native plant gardening movement. In addition to providing a multitude of vital habitat components for wildlife, native grasses, sedges, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and ferns also conserve water, are less maintenance than majority of ornamental cultivars, and save money in multiple ways.

Yet, even with all these benefits it can be challenging to work through the many stigmas that have come to over shadow Naturescaping.

I have 5 tricks of the design trade to share that will help you formulate an aesthetically-appealing native plant garden space or tame the wildest of looking yards.

Plant a Mix of Herbaceous & Woody Plants: Incorporating woody and herbaceous plant species will give your plantings year-round interest. Woody shrubs and trees act like the skeleton of any garden space. Their limbs and branches can create accent points, provide shade or privacy as well as visual framework. Herbaceous plants offer continuous color and texture from spring through autumn. Focus on leaf texture as much as flower color to elicit a sense of elegance.

Plant in Drifts & Masses: Planting in drifts creates a sense of rhythm and line. When planting in drifts, the slight gradation changes, be they in color, texture, form or land topography, provide visual stimulation. Anytime plantings are massed into identified groups, a fundamental sense of order is created. Plant different species together in groups of 3+ individual plants. Be sure to repeat these same plant species groupings throughout your garden space or yard.

Space Your Plants Wisely: For restoration projects, the recommended spacing between individual plants is 1-foot-on-center. In a home landscape or house foundation planting, it is important to space plants based on their mature height and spread. Allowing a plant to grow to its full size, naturally promotes fullness, ultimate flower production, and overall heath/vigor.

Keep Your Plants to Scale: The smaller the size of the planting the more specific the placement and understanding of species arrangement is required. Choose plants that do not get taller than the width of your planting beds. For example, if you have a planting bed that is 5-feet wide, the tallest plant should not grow higher than 5-feet.

Mow Your Edges: Defining edges give a naturalized planting a deliberate look and provides evidence of active management. Mowing strips around the perimeter of plantings creates “cues of care” similar to sidewalks or driveways.

Article written by Michaela Molter: Land Steward - Urban Ecology Center Washington Park 

Discover how to design and add native plants to your landscape in this 7-week series! Register

Native Landscape Series - 1: Why Plant Natives? (10/4)

Native Landscape Series - 2: Measuring and Drawing Your Existing Yard. (10/11)

Native Landscape Series - 3: From Functional Concepts to Composition. (10/18)

Native Landscape Series - 4: Design Principles. (10/25)

Native Landscape Series - 5: Creating Preliminary Blueprint for your Yard. (11/1)

Native Landscape Series - 6: Work Week. (11/8)

Native Landscape Series - 7: Plant Selection and Long Term Maintenance. (11/15)

Photo Credit: Photo: Kim Forbeck
Michaela Molter

Michaela Molter

Michaela began her days at the UEC as a volunteer, assisting the Land Stewardship team with buckthorn removal, tree and shrub planting as well as seed collecting and cleaning.  In 2013, she joined the Stewardship team as the UEC Washington Park Branch Land Steward.  Aside from her passion for land management, Michaela enjoys cooking, vegetable gardening and traveling around the United States as well as internationally.  She takes any and all opportunities to explore the outdoors.  When possible, she volunteers with local triathlon clubs with event/race set up, aid station dispenser or simply as the ultimate cheerleader.

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