From coast to coast the lawn is one the most ubiquitous garden features in the landscape. Though all gardens require some maintenance, lawns require far more than most. Between fertilizing, weekly mowing and other requirements such as aerating and thatching, lawns are among the most labor intensive and chemically drenched types of landscape. While some lawn space may be managed with little trouble, large vast, weed-free lawns should be rethought. Consider the alternative, introducing native plants species into your garden. Reducing the size of your lawn and replacing it with a more low maintenance garden would be an environmentally friendly alternative.
Natural gardens emphasize native plant species of a local environment. Plants which are native to a specific area have adapted 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 introduce diversity to the landscape and use trees, shrubs and perennials not found in traditional gardens. They also provide a garden with a sense of place. Lawns are everywhere 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 draw inspiration from the natural environment are successful because they’re easy to maintain and will thrive even in the most extreme conditions. Planting a natural garden can help restore the landscape, attract a variety of bird species and provide the garden with a wonderful mix of under utilized, interesting plants.
The woodland garden, for instance, is a landscape which focuses on the forest ecosystem. Woodland gardens are low maintenance and provide your garden with a wide range of plants which add seasonal interest. In the dappled shade beneath deciduous trees, perennials bloom profusely throughout the spring months. In the shadier conditions of the woodland garden in summer, the spring floral display gives way to perennials and shrubs with rich varied foliage. Woodland gardens also provide a shady respite from the hot afternoon sun of summer. In the fall, colorful leaves brighten up the garden.
Wildflower meadows are another natural landscape type. Meadows are noted for their easy maintenance, wide diversity of plants, vibrant colors, interesting textures and distinct seasonal changes. Along with these aesthetic benefits there are ecological benefits as well, including the reduced need for maintenance, the creation of a habitat for native species of animals and the fact that wildflower meadows are very effective at trapping airborne pollutants. Meadows are relatively easy to create and need minimal maintenance once established. The reward is a colorful, self sustaining, low maintenance landscape.
All gardens require some sort of care and attention, natural gardens, those requiring less of it, are no exception. As with any garden, you’ll need to deadhead, prune and occasionally weed in order to encourage blooming flowers and healthy growth.
If you’re attached to the more traditional garden setting you can still introduce native trees, shrubs or perennials to your garden. Many of them flower just as beautifully as the ones commonly found in the garden.