On a recent garden walkabout a client asked me, “Do I have to replace all my plants to have a natural garden?” What a great question! And the answer is even better, most likely, not. Many of the landscapes we visit have a fine collection of plants from which to start a new design. The solution is often adding more of the same plants to create generous stands, such as a large stand of ‘Magnus’ Echinachea instead of a few plants dotted randomly in the garden (or worse in a straight line), eliminating the old, overgrown plants and removing straight bed lines.
The natural garden could be all native plants, and that is certainly an option. But it can also mean, and how we interpret it in many of our designs, adding large groups of plants, not soldiering of plants along walks and selecting plants that have year-round interest and attract wildlife such as birds, butterflies and beneficial insects.
The next element is the use of pine straw or, if possible, the complete elimination of mulch. Unlike traditional garden designs, where large expanses of mulch is often seen, we opt for more plants and less mulch. There is no reason why plants can’t intermingle, even drape over or support each other: it’s how it’s done in nature after all.
There is a happy middle ground. We know that not all gardeners can go from a tidy, manicured garden of perfectly spaced plants to one that is left to intermingle, migrate and evolve on its own.
That’s where we come in. Not only will we evaluate existing plants, we will fill in the gaps with new plant selections and arrange them in a way that is comfortable to you. We will also take into consideration how often you like to tend your garden or have us professionally maintain it for you.
“The natural garden is rather flexible. It can be tucked within a surprisingly formal garden, designed as a stand alone garden in the landscape, or, as in my landscape, allowed to encompass the entire property. The design elements and practices are the same, it’s a matter of to what degree we execute them,” shares Peter Wimberg.