From Maine to Florida to California lawns are the most ubiquitous garden feature in the landscape. Turf grasses, however, are rarely a natural occurrence and are extremely high maintenance. Between fertilizer, weekly mowing and other tasks such as aerating, lawns are among the most labor intensive and chemically drenched types of landscapes. While some lawn space can be managed with little trouble, the vast, weed-free lawn can be rethought. Think about reducing the size of your lawn and replacing it with a more low maintenance, environmentally friendly alternative. The possibilities are endless and often result in a more attractive garden.
Natural gardens utilize native species of plants which are often quite easy to grow. Plants which are native to a specific area have adapted themselves to certain site conditions and are generally self sustaining. They'll need little, if any, fertilizer and no more water than is provided by rain. Natural gardens consist of a rich and varied mix of plants. They introduce diversity to a garden and use trees, shrubs and perennials usually not found in some gardens. Natural gardens also provide a landscape with a sense of place. Lawns are ubiquitous and it’s often difficult to distinguish a garden in New York from one in Washington even though their landscapes and climates are completely different.
Gardens which are inspired the natural landscape work well because they’re easy to maintain and thrive even in the most extreme conditions. Designing a natural garden can help restore the landscape, attract wildlife and provide the garden with a wonderful mix of interesting textures and colors.
Wildflower meadows are a wonderful natural landscape type. Meadows are noted for their low maintenance, wide diversity of plants, vibrant colors, interesting textures and seasonal changes. Wildflower meadows offer ecological benefits as well as aesthetic ones. There’s the reduced need for maintenance and the creation of a habitat for native species of animals. Meadows are relatively easy to establish and need minimal maintenance. Though wildflower meadows are easy to create, they do take a bit longer to establish. They are worth the wait, however, so be patient the reward is a colorful, self sustaining landscape.
Woodland gardens are another natural landscape. Here the emphasis is on the natural environment of the native forest. They’re easy to maintain and provide your garden with a wide variety of plants creating seasonal interest. In the woodland garden, perennials and bulbs flower throughout the spring months. Spring’s floral display gives way to perennials and shrubs with rich varied foliage with a wide range of greens. Woodland gardens, with it deciduous tree canopy, provide the garden with a shady retreat from the hot afternoon sun. In Autumn, the bight colorful foliage lights up the garden once again. In winter, it’s the form of the trees, such as the birch or ironwood, which provide the interest in the garden.
If you’re attached to the more traditional garden setting you can still add variety to your landscape. Consider expanding you shrub borders and perennial gardens and include in your design native perennials or native shrubs to your garden design. All gardens require at least some maintenance and, though they require less than the traditional garden, natural gardens are no exception. In order to encourage blooming flowers and healthy growth be sure to tend to the garden at least occasionally.