You may have heard the term “naturalistic landscape design” but how much do you know about what it really means?
Here’s a hint: curved rather than hard, straight lines; informal flowerbeds rather than stoic rows of arborvitae; casual, modest décor rather than bold, stately pieces…
Those things are NOT it! Well, not exactly…
Those are the images that so often come to mind when people imagine naturalistic design, and yes, they CAN be part of it, but those elements alone are simply not enough to define the heart and soul of naturalistic landscaping.
If you’re curious about what naturalistic design is – and not just what it isn’t! – then these four factors will help you understand, appreciate, and perhaps even think about how you can incorporate it into your landscape.
1. An Appreciation Of Natural Beauty
It’s easy to appreciate nature when you’re enjoying the sunrise over a vast ocean, or looking up at a majestic mountain. But when it comes to your home’s landscape, the aesthetics of natural beauty are much more subtle.
Beauty is highly subjective, and it can be more challenging to discern it in everyday landscaping. Part of appreciating the natural landscape is in accepting what nature gives you. That means not every fallen leaf must be swept, not every dead branch disposed of, not every stone removed.
In fact, naturalistic landscaping takes every opportunity to incorporate those elements into the design. Natural stones and boulders become every bit a part of the beauty as carefully laid paving stones. Branches, reclaimed driftwood and even tree stumps are part of the décor right along with your favorite ceramic or iron pieces.
The beauty of a naturalistic landscape can be seen in colors, textures, and motion, too. Imagine the contrasting golds and oranges of tall native grasses against a deep blue sky, the texture of the soft white bark of a birch tree, the boldness of red holly berries during winter, the bubbling of a waterfall or natural stream.
Naturalistic design forces you to think beyond the standard garden of rhododendron and juniper, to plants and other elements that add unique interest throughout all four seasons.
2. Harmony Between The Native Landscape And Designed Landscape
Naturalistic landscape design isn’t about razing the area surrounding your home and designing from the ground up. It’s about incorporating the character and even challenges of what already exists into the design.
Shady spots, old growth trees, wet areas, natural streams, woodlands – all of those things and more become part of the overall design.
In fact, naturalistic design aims to disturb as little of the natural environment as possible. That doesn’t mean you’re held captive to random elements and uncooperative spaces. It simply means working with the environment rather than against it. It means letting go of a vision of vast plots of tomatoes if you live in a heavily wooded area, and working to incorporate the trees and even the ground cover into the aesthetic of your space instead. It means building container gardens on top of inhospitable soil, or laying hardscape instead of flower gardens in the shade.
It means, ultimately, a graceful and seamless melding of what Mother Nature has bestowed on your space with the elements that you and your designer choose to add.
3. A Celebration Of Native Plants
Native plants are simply those that are naturally found in your local area. It’s tempting to bring in exotic plants to create a unique landscape, but those types of plants will bring you more headaches than they may be worth.
For starters, they are not part of the natural ecosystem, so they don’t have the same ability to thrive or the natural resistance to insects and disease that native plants have. They can require a great deal of care, excessive amounts of water, and still fail to do well over time. They won’t have the same value as native plants to attract wildlife, which means they won’t attract the pollinators that are so essential to the survival of a plant species.
On the flip side, native plants not only fit well aesthetically and ecologically, but they won’t require the copious amounts of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that you will likely need to apply to support non-native plants. That’s good news for the environment, and for the safety and health of the people and pets who enjoy your outdoor space.
4. A Self-Sustaining Ecosystem
A naturalistic landscape done right is inherently self-sustaining. Native plants provide food, shelter and breeding spots for local wildlife, which in turn contributes to the protection and propagation of the plants. Wildlife also adds a wonderful aesthetic and is a source of enjoyment year-round.
Harmful insects are kept at bay while beneficial ones are invited to participate. Fallen leaves serve as both ground cover during winter and natural fertilizer during spring.
All of that means not only a self-sustaining ecosystem, but a low-maintenance one, too. Even ponds fall into this category. Built properly, they mesh perfectly with the environment around them, attract insects and wildlife that keep them clean and healthy, and provide you with multi-sensory, four-season enjoyment.
Rainwater harvesting is another component of a self-sustaining ecosystem that can be designed right into your landscape. Through the right placement of streams, stones and funnels, and the right selection of containers and aquifers, you can reclaim and use water efficiently and wisely. That’s good for the planet and a healthier source of water for your plants than the water that comes directly from a plumbed irrigation system.
If you’re intrigued by naturalistic design and want to know more or learn how it can be incorporated into your unique space, get in touch with us for a consultation. We’ll visit your home and inspire you to dream beautifully!