Sometimes it is easy to become overwhelmed with the ‘technicalities’ of garden design. Frustration can quickly set in and long needed wildlife garden projects set aside.
Though the scientific and technical wildlife garden design approach is important, sometimes the processes’ rigid ‘mechanics’ get in the way of true creativity.
Writing about wildlife gardening can be fraught with similar issues. I usually hold myself to a standard of always using proper scientific names and proper design techniques. My rooftop, living wall and garden designs are typically based on proven landscape science, biomimicry and ecological botany.
Yet sometimes I just want to step back and relax, and shake the whole computer aided drafting process off.
After becoming caught up in ensuring that the garden design on the ground reflects the two dimensional design on the AutoCad drawing, I sometimes get the feeling I may be missing out on what the ‘real’ wildlife garden design factors may be.
So here is my top ten list of recommendations for more spiritual wildlife garden design approaches. These are the ones that help me loosen up when I become infected with ‘design block’.
Kevin’s Ten Tips
1. Step out into the area you are planning on creating your wildlife garden across and sit down on the ground, in the middle of all the grass or plants. Breath deeply with your eyes closed, letting your sense of smell tell you about things you cannot see. Imagine not how your future wildlife garden will look, but of the fragrances blowing through your hair and around your face throughout the seasons. I like to recall the lyrics of ‘Jet’ by Paul McCartney and substitute ‘flower scents’ for ‘laces’.
2. Know your garden plot’s nocturnal face. We use an infrared critter cam to document the coming and goings of area wildlife at night. Too often we view our wildlife garden as a ‘daytime thing’, when sometimes there are more wildlife at night, including pollinators, than in the day. Recognize your garden’s evening gown and she will bring you many surprises. Wildlife gardens should be designed with a twenty-four seven face.
3. Ride the local roads with your camera. Right-of-ways are virtual native plant nurseries waiting to be explored. Here you will undoubtably find every beautiful wildflower you need to grow in your wildlife garden. Take nothing but photos and the learning experience. Include in your garden design those native plants catching your eye during your roadside plant outings.
4. Read and understand your local sign ordinances. Think of yout garden as a potential upscale (or fast food) restaurant site and then decide where you’d locate your sign. Your wildflower garden’s plants will be doing the same as the bright golden arches – calling in potential customers. The sky above your garden plot is a multi-lane freeway to birds, insects and other pollinators. Be sure your wildflowers are positioned so as to catch the eye of passerbys. (Google Earth is a fun tool to use to fly over your site!)
5. Walk through your garden plot barefoot in a hard rain. Watch the water flow across the ground. Understand how water touches your garden site. Allow the rain to soak your creative soul.
6. Do the same as in the first recommendation but when you close your eyes, focus on sounds. LIsten to the wind blowing through leaves, bird calls, crickets, frogs and more. Your wildlife garden surroundings may already possess a melodious chorus. Know these sounds as local wildlife too will be listening.
7. Think complexity in plant choices. I compare this to my favorite oriental buffet. The more on the food bar (especially the sushi or sashimi counter) the better. Pollinators and wildlife expect variety. Stick with the 10-20-30 rule for species diversity.
8. Go and talk to the ‘ole timers’ in your neighborhood. Ask them what their parents and grandparents planted. Trade starts and cuttings. The ‘Pass Along Plants’ approach always produces smiles and unique varieties.
9. Have fun surfing the web for wildlife garden ideas. This blog is a great place to start.
10. Dream. Every night before sleep, think of your Eden-to-be. Take your wildest dreams and fashion into reality.
Computer aided drafting can always produce nice clean designs on paper.
But it is the reflection of your spirit that instills personality into your native plant and wildlife garden creation.
© 2012, Kevin Songer. 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