6 Tips for Designing With Native Plants

Native rhododendrons offer year round structure, shelter and nesting spots...an they were a favorite hiding place for my boys when they were growing up!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.

These native Eastern red cedars were planted to screen the client's pool from the road. One foamflower is good but six are even better! Cottage Garden A mass planting of native ferns and Virginia bluebells is simple but very effective.

Source: nativeplantwildlifegarden.com

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I'm not a designer, so here are some lists of books from a friend who is:
One of my favorite little design books is on her list - Paths and Walkways. I think about design in terms of the "bones" and shape of the garden and the type of plants rather than choosing a list of plants first. The other books I'm drawn to are on her "Sustainable Landscaping" list: The California Landscape Garden, Gardening With a Wild Heart, and Gaia's Garden.
I enjoy Mediterranean style gardens, perhaps because they fits well with our dry-summer Mediterranean climate

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But the American Society of Landscape Architects Conference isn't the only opportunity for people to learn about sustainable garden design. The Boston Architectural College, which has a huge focus on green design, has courses in landscape architecture.

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  • Avatar mommy to be of 3 Decorating ideas for a spa like- bedroom with a zen feel with hints of smoke blue?
    Aug 23, 2007 by mommy to be of 3 | Posted in Decorating & Remodeling

    Help any ideas or picture links would really help!

    • Well, basically you are going for a very relaxed look.

      you could first have a zen corner, with possibly a comfortable chair or better, a pile of pillows. you could have a small bookshelf or table with book …illows
      - towels
      - silver picture frames with pictures in them of course
      - hanging lanterns
      - possibly a small fountain or waterfall

      good luck, and enjoy designing your new room!