Manicured landscapes are so… Versailles. They look impressive attached to a 17th century castle, but aren’t exactly approachable in today’s modern suburbia.
There are lots of great reasons to go natural, not least of which is a more environmentally sustainable approach, but for now we’re focusing on the how.
Here are some ways to incorporate naturalistic design into your landscape, so you can enjoy a beautiful, low-maintenance outdoor living space that can become an extension of your home.
Bring On The Stone
Hardscapes, which can include everything from patios to rock gardens, are an integral component of naturalistic landscaping. In addition to being low-maintenance, they create flow and bring natural spaces together.
Keep the word “natural” in mind – that means regular, manmade materials are kept to a minimum. Composite decking is out. Natural stone, like Bluestone and Flagstone, are in.
Native boulders, rivers of stone and gravel, naturally embedded stepping stones, gravel pathways, all contribute to a naturalistic hardscape.
Add A Soft Touch
Think soft, billowy plants, perennials with irregular growth patterns, tall grasses that bend and sway in the breeze.
Wildflowers are a perfect choice for naturalistic landscape design. Choose plants for their diversity in color, shape and texture. Intersperse springtime blooms with plants that hold their greenery through summer and shed their foliage but leave berries or softly curling bark behind in winter.
Imagine rambling vines rather than boxy hedges, meadow gardens rather than circular plots of perennials, and tall, native grasses covering swaths of space where ordinary, clipped lawns used to be.
Bag The Borders
The artistry of a naturalistic landscape lies in how much it looks as if Mother Nature has designed it herself. Ditch the hard edges and clearly defined borders for something more soothing and organic in appearance.
Say goodbye to straight lines. Enjoy instead the meandering curves of pathways, and boundless expanse of blooms in color and motion.
Set aside your urge to clip hedges and plant grass in square patches, and appreciate the carefree, inviting views that a naturalistic design brings. If you have the luxury of living beside an open space or wooded area, consider removing any fences and borders entirely and blending your landscaped space right into the natural environment.
A low-maintenance, eco-friendly and naturalistic landscape takes advantage of local plants, trees and flowers. Skip the imported exotics, whether they come from two states or an ocean away.
Plantings that can naturally grow and thrive in your local environment mean you don’t have to fight pests, water restrictions, or the weather to keep them alive.
Plus, with native plants you will create an inviting space for local wildlife, from birds to rabbits, and attract essential pollinators like bees and butterflies. That doesn’t mean you can’t include any plants from beyond your geographical borders but do choose wisely. The more native plants you include, the more self-sustaining your landscape will be.
A naturalistic landscape doesn’t mean you can’t decorate! Pink flamingos, however, are out. Choose décor for its significance to you, and for its contribution to your overall landscape. That likely means keeping it minimal. A flowerbed full of garden gnomes isn’t quite what we have in mind.
Tuck an art piece into a bed of natural grasses. Add some stone pillars into mulch gardens to create height or as pedestals for container gardens. Create a focal point with one bold, favorite piece.
Décor should work with the space, not dominate it, drawing the eye, or delighting the viewer unexpectedly.
Local wildlife is as essential to a self-sustaining natural landscape as the plants. And in the perfect circle of life, native plants are exactly what will attract the wildlife.
The right plantings offer food, safety and nesting places for all sorts of wildlife, and in turn, that wildlife will help your garden thrive by pollinating, fertilizing, keeping pests at bay, and contributing to the ecosystem.
In a naturalistic landscape design, plants are chosen for their ability to attract certain types of wildlife. Choose succulent honeysuckle to attract hummingbirds, berry-producing holly for other feathered friends, and goldenrod for butterflies. There are plenty of choices, all with unique colors, textures, blooms and growing seasons.
While you’re inviting all that wildlife, there may be other types you’d prefer to keep out, like hungry deer. Don’t fret – just because you invite the birds and the bees doesn’t mean you have to open yourself up to a lifetime of battling Bambi. Many plants are quite unappetizing to deer, so if they’re a problem in your area, choose those that don’t make a tasty lunch.
You can mitigate water concerns by starting with native plants. They’ve evolved to thrive in your local weather conditions. It’s why cactus – and not cucumbers – are found in the Arizona desert! Reducing lawn area can also help. Those vast, green expanses and incredibly heavy drinkers.
But droughts happen everywhere, and even the best irrigation system is no match for a town’s water restrictions during a particularly dry season. That’s where rainwater harvesting comes in. It can be designed right into your landscape and appear as natural as those Black-Eyed Susans. You’ll be the only one who knows the secret to how efficiently your landscape funnels and captures rainwater for future use.
Beyond the need for water, is the addition of water as a natural element. Through ponds or fountains, water columns or bubblers, the very presence of water adds to the sights, sounds and motion of a truly natural environment. Plus, water features are excellent attractions for wildlife, too.
Let It Run Wild
Part of the art of naturalistic landscaping is creating a manmade space that looks anything but manmade. It doesn’t mean allowing the space to be overgrown, unruly or chaotic, however. Rather, it requires a strategic choice of hardscapes, plantings, artwork, and other features. It also doesn’t mean that every last space needs to be “designed”.
Let some parts of your yard go a little wild. Let the leaves fall, let the wildflowers (“weeds” to those who prefer the stoic yew) grow. If you abut a true natural property like a lakeside or the edge of a wooded area, let the neighbors wonder where your yard ends and the area beyond begins. Seeing nature take hold – in all its unplanned glory – can be as much a part of the experience as your koi pond and butterfly garden.
Pay homage to the unplanned parts of your space by working around that old growth tree in the middle of your front yard, instead of against it. Incorporate that naturally flowing stream into the design, or turn an otherwise large and stubborn boulder into garden art.
There are so many components that can be designed into a naturalistic landscape that it would be impossible to list them all here. From salvaged wood, logs and twigs, to stone, bark and water, a variety of elements combine to create a holistic outdoor space that can be the center of enjoyment for the whole family.
If you’ve started to daydream.. just a little… contact us for a consultation and let’s talk more about how we can bring naturalistic landscape design to your New Jersey home.