As a landscape designer, one of the most common complaints I hear about native plants is that they are too messy, weedy-looking, unstructured and unkempt to be used in a designed landscape. While there are plenty of native plant gardens that unfortunately live up to that reputation, it’s simple to incorporate native plants into any garden to increase it wildlife value while also adding to its overall beauty.
There are appropriate native plants for every gardening style from formal to informal, from cottage to contemporary and any style in between. By following some simple steps – let’s call them the six S’s of wildlife garden design – you can create a lush, beautiful garden that is more than just a collection of pretty faces.
Structure ~ One key to designing a garden that looks good all year long is to design for winter interest. And one aspect of creating an attractive winter garden is to provide structure with conifers and broadleaf evergreens. By choosing native conifers and evergreens, you’re also providing vital shelter, nesting spots and food as well as creating that structural back bone every garden needs.
Select ~ There are native plants for every use in a designed garden. They can be planted as specimens or focal points, for screening out unsightly views, creating a sense of intimacy and dressing up front foundation plantings.
Simple ~ It’s tempting to buy one of everything when you go plant shopping, but it’s much more effective from both a garden design and a habitat creation perspective to choose several species of plants and then use them in multiples. Cluster plants of the same species together in groups of 3+ plants. Not only will this maximum their visual impact, the groupings will also be more attractive to wildlife.
Sequencing ~ When designing your wildlife garden, think of how plants can be connected and work together to create interest and depth. Combine native plants with sequential flowering times, and play up contrasts in texture, size, shape, and color.
Sweeps and swathes ~ Use sweeping lines for beds and plant in swathes, drift or masses to create a sense of abundance, continuity and movement.
Shrink ~ I personally feel a little lawn is appropriate in a garden, in part because it helps set off the designed elements. But lawn grass is an ecological wasteland because it does not contribute to the wildlife value of your garden so remember when it comes to lawns, shrink your lawn because ‘a little’ goes a long way.
Every wildlife-friendly garden needs to provide the basics for supporting local wildlife: water, shelter, food (nectar, insects, seed heads, berries, fruit and nuts) and place to raise their young. This blog is the perfect place to explore specific native plants to add to your garden, regardless of where you live. And with a bit of planning, you can design a native plant garden that supports a broad array of wildlife and looks like it was designed by a pro.
© 2013, Debbie Roberts. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us