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Ecological Landscape Design

The first and most important thing to consider in an ecological landscape design is an environmental assessment of the site. Is it more like a sunny meadow or shady woodland? Is it wet and marshy or dry and well drained?

Secondly, find out which native plants thrive in your particular environment. This can be easily done by taking a closer look at what is growing in undeveloped areas around you. Look at areas that most closely resemble your site. Species that are flourishing in the wild in similar ecosystems nearby are more likely to do well, with little or no care, than species growing in different ecosystems, not to mention different regions of the country or world.

Some purists would argue that only native species be considered, but I personally feel that non-invasive species from other parts of the world are acceptable if used in the proper environmental setting. Whenever possible choose species that are propagated locally and select varieties that are disease, pest and drought resistant. This will preclude the need for intensive care and excessive watering.

Many native plants are often found growing as part of a larger community of plants. For reasons we don’t thoroughly understand, plants appear to form symbiotic relationships with each other. This may be for shade, nutrient contribution or protection from pests to name a few. When studying the local landscape, pay attention to plant relationships. In the wild, vegetation occurs in layers from groundcovers to taller plants and shrubs and often to a tree canopy above. These layers provide a diverse habitat for a variety of wildlife. Recreating these conditions in even a small part of your site will help to enhance the overall health of the environment around you.

In many instances homeowners will wish to deter certain wildlife species, while attracting others. While it may be possible to discern which plants attract different species in the wild, it may not be as easy to determine which plants will deter them. Local landscapers and plant nurseries will often be able to advise you about this.