Landscaping with Natives


Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 24-01-2013


landscaping with nativesThe wisest tip on gardening and human intervention on the environment I had received from an old neighbor with the most beautiful garden I had seen in my life. It was, “Be quiet. Listen. Look around you.” I was too young and impatient then. And I’ve seen many beautiful gardens since.

Whatever I learned in the subsequent years (and I know a few tricks, after so many years in the business of shaping, preparing, and tending to the land, for both ornamental and cultivation purposes); the cornerstone for my subsequent development as a gardener has been, first, the careful examination of a given space – as well as of the various natural and artificial conditions of the area – and, secondly, an intervention aiming at preserving (as much as possible), restoring, and/or enhancing the balance, the health, and the looks of a garden.


To design a wildlife garden with native plants


If you wish to create a wildlife garden or, at least, to include a number of native plants that will grow add color to your flowerbeds and that will stand wonderful chances of thriving without much effort, start with a few walks in the surroundings and the nearby area. Take a camera and a notebook or a voice recording device with you.

Observe the ground.

  • What’s its color?
  • Is it dry or wet?
  • Is it compacted or fluffy? Light or heavy?
  • Does it crumble?
  • When crumbled, does it turn to dust, or does it have bigger grain?
  • (Ideally: what’s the pH index; composition)

How is the surrounding area?

  • Are there rises of the ground and other geological elements?
  • Are there water features in the vicinity?
  • What’s the weather (on that day / usually)
  • Inform yourself about the particularities of the area (local geography and microclimate)

What is/are the predominant species of wild and domestic vegetation?

  • What plants do you see most often around you?
  • What do they look like? What are the functions of their physical traits?
  • Which spot do they seem to prefer (e.g. walls to climb on, level ground on which to crawl, rocky and well-drained areas, shady spots protected from the winds, etc)?
  • Do they tend to spread?
  • Which of them have you already seen in your garden and near your home?

How would you incorporate the findings into your garden, so that it remains (or becomes), even partly, the continuance and the reproduction of the nature around you?


In order to create wildlife and native plants garden, your landscaping planner should work in conformity with the natural tendencies of the area. Tags: geology, geography, climate/weather, flora, fauna.



Set high standards, go after quality and knowledge: It’s the well-cared for, healthy gardens that you should examine. You will get some good lessons from the solutions that have worked for them and from the techniques they have applied successfully.

There’s more than meets the eye. Ask, whenever you can – e.g.,

  • what substructure work had to be done in order to plant those juicy vegetables up on terraced flowerbeds (and, at the same time, to tackle a geographical feature, a slope, that you didn’t know how to add value to)?
  • why are those rosebushes planted amongst the vines?
    [Bonus-answer: Mildew, a disease that inflicts both plants, manifests its symptoms earlier in the rosebush. This gives you enough time to take the necessary steps and measures of protection for your vineyard.]

Besides your on-the-spot observations, make sure to get the scientific and empirical facts about the plants of your area (their life cycle, their needs and preferences, their geographical spread, etc), as well as about the climatic conditions of your specific area of interest (yearly cycle, in a span of several years).

Familiarize yourselves with your garden’s microclimate.

  • How is it oriented?
  • How much sunlight does it receive, and when? On which particular spots/sides?
  • What about humidity?
  • Which winds does it bear?
  • What are the surroundings, and how do they influence the garden?
  • What’s the soil type?
  • How does water flow in and through the garden?

These are a few of the clues that will lead you to verify the real needs of your garden, in relation to the area and to your tastes. The selection of the plants that are appropriate for the specific conditions of each separate section of the garden will thus be much easier, since you have definite criteria to work with when drawing your landscaping plans.

Image Credit: zenera via Compfight cc