Climate-Wise Landscaping Blog

Want to garden with mostly natives? You can.

IMG 0005Mosses, bearberry, Canada mayflower and thyme.This landscape contains no lawn, and instead features a mosaic of ground-hugging plants, stepstones, and pea-stone paths of varying widths, meandering like a lazy river between islands and drifts of taller, flowering plants.

Created on a bare, sandy plateau that had been built out from a high, west-facing hillside in the Berkshire foothills of Massachusetts, the new landscape is surrounded by an old pine/hemlock/oak forest. It contains 37 plant species that were chosen for their ability to thrive in the site's dry soil, strong winds and hot afternoon sun, and to be a natural extension of the enclosing woodland. Almost 90% of the plants are native species, and 70% are locally indigenous.They include:

  • 26 western New England natives (most of them indigenous to pine/oak forest)
  • 7 that are native to the Appalachian region
  • 1 species that is European
  • 3 types that are cultivated varieties (as opposed to “true” species)

Many of these plants are shown in the photos below, opccupying various sunny and shady positions within the property.

IMG 2906Sweetfern, lowbush blueberry, huckleberry, wintergreen, moss.

IMG 2888Mountain laurel, mountain andromeda, paxistima, three-toothed cinquefoil.

1-IMG 2864Leucothoe, mountain laurel, paper birch, haircap moss.IMG 0014ASheep laurel, huckleberry, three-toothed cinquefoil, sassafrass.IMG 2879Striped maple, rosebay rhododendron, maple-leaf viburnum, bloodroot.My aim here is not to explain exactly how to create such a place, because that would be a much longer and different sort of article. Rather, I hope to show how much beauty can be possible if you choose to garden with mostly (or even all) native plants. This rich and diverse landscape is just one example, a place that reveals and highlights the natural character of its own geographic location.

What plants grow native in your region? Do you know of local nurseries that already sell native species or could be convinced to offer them, or more of them? What landscape contractors and designers in your area focus on working with natives? Informative websites and blogs abound, and are so easy to find. A single internet search for native plants in your region will undoubtedly yield heaps of great information. This is an exciting time to be interested in gardening with native plants. Everyone can do it.

Whatever your reason - to provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators, to attract specific birds, to be a good citizen, to shrink your carbon footprint, to participate in an exiciting movement, or just generally to support the natural world - you will find that native plants are equally beautiful, and sometimes even more so, than the non-native, everyday horticultural varieties of plants that have been sold to homeowners for decades

“Careful landscaping can be much more effective at saving energy than many of the other efforts we make each day, like turning off lights and turning down the heat. Having the right plantings outside your home will not only save you money, it will also help you live more comfortably in an aesthetically pleasing environment. That’s the essence of the message embedded in every page of Energy-Wise Landscape Design.”