A Landscape Maintenance Reality Check
As residential customers age, they become less and less able to maintain an ornamental landscape design, especially if they have a large yard. Hiring a professional crew to keep up the pruning, raking, edging, fertilizing, and watering is an option. Another option is manipulating the existing and volunteer vegetation to morph into a more natural garden of natives and undaunted non-native species. Garden naturalization is a way to take away the burden of ornamental landscape maintenance, at least the bulk of it.
Each yard will have its own unique selection of volunteers. The invasive ones can be eradicated. The less-ornamental or more aggressive spreaders can be relegated to areas I call “dead zones”. Dead zones are micro-environments that somehow discourage any strong, healthy growth. Relocating aggressive species to dead zones will slow their spread and provide a living ground cover for an area that would otherwise be bare. Attractive volunteers, like the adorable Frost Aster, shown above, can be moved or reseeded into consolidated plant beds beyond the circulation paths. If your local plant volunteers are happy with your soil and climate, then why not allow them to join the garden party?
To naturalize a landscape, reduce the amount of turf grass to an absolute minimum. Older homeowners aren’t playing much touch football outdoors, anyway! Lawns require mowing, fertilizing, edging, raking, and weeding. Garden naturalization utilizes plant communities that are self-sustaining. Every inch of turf you keep is a patch of year-round work and intervention to unnaturally cover the ground. Mulched beds, when under a canopy of trees allows replenishing leaf litter to carpet the ground. Mulched beds, when in open, sunny areas, can be planted with diverse, massed shrubs and ground covers. The less grass, the more self-stable the plant community, if you choose the grass replacement plants wisely.
A naturalized garden, with logical walking paths and strategic planting design, may be a bit less formal-looking than a showstopper ornamental landscape. It will require talented and thoughtful structure and planting design. It will be successful if the complex interplay of volunteer plants, new native plants, and diverse ornamental non-natives are carefully staged to survive without special care and a lot of pruning and maintenance. They can be allowed to grow and spread naturally within the boundaries of beds delineated by circulation paths. Delightful and colorful new plants can always be added within the beds, without upsetting the overall design scheme, or the landscape can be left alone and still enjoyed. Garden naturalization is sophisticated, understated maturity in landscape design which fits perfectly with the older homeowner’s lifestyle.