Natural landscaping creates variety, reduces yard work
By Barb Brown
Morgan County Master Gardener
Would you like your yard to look more natural, to fit in with your surroundings? Does your yard back up to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge or simply to an undeveloped area? Are you trying to cut back on your yard work? Do you simply want your yard to look more like it reflects your lifestyle or personality? Are you tired of straight lines and a formal and/or structured look?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to look at more natural landscaping for your yard or for a part of your yard.
Do you have a slope on your yard that maybe would benefit from terracing? Natural stone ties into the landscape so much more naturally than a concrete wall and will last much longer than wood. If for economic or other reasons you must go with concrete or timber, some plants can come to your rescue. Nature may give you a helping hand; if it is in a shaded area moss may grow over it. Dead nettle or different native ferns will grow in the cracks and crevices to take away the stark barren look. If your terraced area is in the sun, plants like thrift and vinca minor planted in the tiny cracks will add texture and interest and touches of color. In some situations creeping juniper can be used to hide concrete.
Another solution to a slope and a drainage problem is creating a dry creek bed with natural stone. This is a perfect place to plant ferns and other native plants along the sides of the dry creek bed.
Curving pathways in your yard make it seem much more natural. Think about the paths you follow in the forest; they never go in a straight line. These paths could be crushed stones or mulch. Depending on your situation, maybe the size of your yard and of the paths you are planning, you may want to outline the path with larger stones or wood.
Instead of steel edging, let’s again look at natural rocks. There are also many products on the market that compromise by at least trying to look a bit more natural. Rocks also have the added advantage that with all of the nooks and crannies they provide tiny spaces for soil and just a tiny splash of color to grow.
Now that we’ve gotten in the foundation of naturalizing your yard built, it’s time to put in some “furniture.” If you want natural landscaping (and less yard work), look no further than native or naturalized plants. First, you want perennials — those plants that will come back year after year. Ferns are my number one go-to plant in this department. Dead nettle, vinca minor, and thrift , as mentioned above, are great to fill in bare spots. The background is the place for the larger bushes — think native azaleas and oak leaf hydrangeas as two examples. The azaleas bloom in early spring with the hydrangeas following in early summer for continuous color.
Daffodils add such a wonderful spot of sunshine tucked here and there amongst your bushes and are such a joy after winter. For a real surprise, tuck some surprise lily/naked lady bulbs in with your daffodils. To really add color and personality think outside the box and add some yard art. Something you don’t have to mow or weed! A few colorful pots scattered about with colorful annual flowers also add interest without a lot of work.
The key to natural is to blend in with nature and to simplify.