Not Your Grandmother’s Landscape: Why Naturalistic Design Is Trending

By February 27, 2019 Landscape Design
Not Your Grandmother’s Landscape: Why Naturalistic Design Is Trending

When was the last time you thought of your landscape as a wildlife preserve, or the last frontier in nature conservancy? Probably never! But as human beings encroach further and further into the natural world, and as nature’s landscapes disappear under manicured lawns and shopping malls, suburban homeowners are fighting back.

The boxy rows of hedges, carefully sculpted gardens and pristine lawns are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. Forward-thinking homeowners, those more interested in being part of the natural world rather than dominating it, are pursuing a new trend. That trend is naturalistic landscape design, and it’s coming to a neighborhood near you.

Here’s why naturalistic landscape design is perfectly suited to a modern sensibility and lifestyle – and why it matters to you and the world around you.

native nj plantsIt’s Wholly – And Legitimately – Organic

The term “organic” is a bit overused and unfortunately it has lost some of its clout as big companies jump on the bandwagon and abuse the term to sell their latest “natural” products.

But for people who care about the environment, it still conjures visions of something sustainable, chemical-free, safe for humans and wildlife. And that’s exactly what naturalistic landscape design strives to achieve.

By incorporating native plants rather than exotics imported from anywhere from China to Tennessee, your landscape becomes its own naturally balanced ecosystem.

Native plants have evolved to thrive in their natural home-field environment. That means they don’t need special pesticides to help them survive insects or disease. And since they grow in balance with other native plants, they won’t take over your yard and threaten the rest of the surrounding environment.

Native plants also know how to play nice with local wildlife. They attract birds, bees, butterflies and other animals and insects in a symbiotic give-and-take. Plants sustain wildlife by providing food, shelter and breeding space, and wildlife fertilizes and protects plants. No pesticides, no herbicides, no special growing materials required.

It Fits A Busy Lifestyle

Be honest: who has time to mow a half-acre lawn every week? Who *wants* to mow a half acre lawn every week? The old-fashioned image of dads pushing mowers behind their white picket fences should be relegated to old TV shows where it belongs.

Skip the mowers – pushing, riding or otherwise – and enjoy your nearly maintenance-free naturalistic landscape instead. And no, we’re not suggesting that you let your lawn run wild. We’re suggesting another, totally subversive idea – losing the lawn altogether.

Those vast expanses of green are water and energy hogs, and in the end they don’t add much aesthetic to your landscape. It may seem like a crazy idea; after all, we’ve mostly been conditioned to think of a “landscape” as a “yard”, and that includes a whole lot of grass – green, yellow, weedy mass or otherwise.

But there is life after grass. A much more relaxed one, in fact, that doesn’t involve mowing, weeding, watering, reseeding and all of the other maintenance that lawns require. Native plants will naturally crowd out weeds, require less water than exotics and non-native plants, and thrive with little input from you.

Without a lawn to tend, hedges to prune or plots to weed, you can spend more time enjoying the wildlife that your native plants invite, or sipping a coffee or tea on your patio. You can put some of that energy into vegetable gardening or tending a koi pond. In other words, enjoying your outdoor space instead of slaving to it.

It Reflects Your Personality

The way we design and maintain our homes and landscapes is a statement about us, our personalities, our values – even our wealth and status. Most of us have endeavored since childhood to express ourselves somehow, whether through art, our work, a hobby or a cause. Now, homeowners are taking that personal expression to the outdoors.

Carefully controlled and manicured landscapes say more about expectations than about our personalities. Until recent memory, it’s been fairly expected that homes were kept neat, trimmed and contained. Fall leaves were banished to large plastic bags and set out for trash collection. Stray plants were ruthlessly plucked to make way for neat rows of perennials. Natural elements like sandy soil or shady spots were the bane of many a homeowner’s existence, inciting them to fight any spot that didn’t conform to perfection.

Sounds exhausting! Not only does naturalistic landscape design relieve you of the pressure of perfection (let a few leaves fall, and enjoy the dandelions!), but it eliminates expectations in favor of expression. Choose colors, textures and scents that appeal to your style. Incorporate décor that surprises and delights. Fuse truly wild surroundings – a stream running through your property, a natural woodland area – seamlessly with your landscape in a way that creates harmony and balance.

There are so many features you can incorporate into a landscape to reflect your personality and lifestyle, from cozy seating areas, to winding pathways, fish (or even swimming!) ponds, a place for outdoor dining, a fire pit to gather friends around, and much more. From whimsical to serene, bold to subdued, you can create a space that says a lot more about you than a round shrub and a half-acre of lawn.

It Brings Your Indoor Lifestyle Outdoors

Do you have one of those older relatives (or maybe you’ve heard tales of one) whose dining room was strictly off-limits except for the rare special occasion or dinner guest? Yes, people really did cover their sofas in plastic to keep them clean. But who wants to sit on a plastic-covered sofa?

Our homes are becoming much more a center of our lives, as we invent things like “staycations” and enjoy the idea of nesting more than flying the coop. That means plastic-covered furniture is out and real living spaces are in.

Naturalistic landscape design takes the figurative plastic off of your outdoor space, turning it into a room rather than a yard, a place to live in and not just to admire from the curb.

Lawns and carefully tamed hedges may have a certain impressive air, but they don’t exactly invite you to visit for a while. And believe it or not, all that open space is actually less functional than a yard that is thoughtfully segmented.

Consider the interior of your home. You may have an open floor plan, but you create functional (and aesthetic) spaces by strategically arranging furniture and décor to create smaller “rooms” within rooms. Even in a studio you can differentiate a kitchen from a living area from a sleeping area.

The same premise holds true for your outdoor space. Natural “furniture” – whether in the form of trees, tall grasses, plantings, gardens, or additions like natural wood arbors and stone pathways – is used to delineate space. An open lawn makes way for multiple spaces, to gather around a fire pit, dine with a partner, retreat to a hidden sanctuary, walk among the butterflies or gaze into a pond.

Naturalistic design aims to erase the line that divides your outdoor space from your home so that you can move seamlessly from room to room – whether that room is under your roof, or beneath the blue sky.

We hope you’re beginning to see why naturalistic landscapes are replacing the traditional lawns of generations past. We invite you to explore your vision with us, whether you’re ready to join the natural movement or you want to know more about how it can change your life. Contact us for a consultation and let’s talk about your dreams for your outdoor space.