Naturalistic Gardens draw their inspiration from nature. They are well suited for the Mid-Columbia with its spectacular scenery. The naturalistic garden is designed in harmony with the climate and locale of its surroundings. It attracts desirable wildlife and respects nature’s resources. Conservative water use is encouraged. Application of organic soil amendments, and little or no chemical use, result in an active, vibrant soil life. Through selection of the right plants for the site’s microclimate and geography, typically including native plants and promoting plant diversity, healthy plant communities can be created and maintained.
The best naturalistic landscapes blend into and are congruent with their natural surroundings. They are calming to the mind and spirit, peaceful and enjoyable.
HISTORY: Natural landscapes are not a new concept, and were first made popular in England by William Robinson in the nineteenth century. His ideas were expressed in his book The Wild Garden, published in 1870. Robinson’s landscape gardening style spurned the formal Victorian patterned gardens of that time. Similarly, the Japanese have always looked to nature to teach them about beauty. Japanese gardens endeavor to attain inner peace through the re-creation of nature. Germany pioneered Ecological Planting Design, starting with Karl Foerster in the 1930’s and culminating into the research by Hansen/ Stahl. Their “perennial bible”, Perennials and their Garden Habitats, was first published in 1981. Oehme/Van Sweden established the New American Garden in the United States, starting in the 1970’s in the DC area. Dutch designer, Piet Oudolf, has published several books, and designed numerous public parks depicting his flowing, rhythmic freestyle of using perennials and wild grasses.
DESIGN AND INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS: Naturalistic gardens can be created in woodland locations, arid regions, or meadow-like prairie settings. During landscape installation, the topography of the land ideally is minimally altered, and existing trees and plants are maintained wherever possible. Local materials, such as river rock or basalt boulders, are incorporated into the new landscape. Many different Columbia River Gorge and native mountain-region plants are available to the gardener. In any locale, knowing and understanding the plants’ native habitat in context with their preferred growing conditions will lead to the establishment of successful plant communities, and will result in low-maintenance gardens.
RAIN GARDENS / DRY CREEK BEDS: These features collect and divert rainwater from downspouts and drain wet areas. Rain gardens are attractive, planted depressions in the garden designed to absorb excess rainwater. Rain chains replace downspouts. Vegetated bioswales collect and filter water runoff before releasing it into the storm sewer. Dry creek (or dry stream) beds are designed to resemble streams and retain water during rain events and release it slowly into lower-lying areas or drain tile, reducing erosion and easing strain on storm water drains. All of the described methods are recognized as sustainable gardening practices. For more information about Dry Creek Beds, please also refer to the Xeriscape Garden section.
PLANTS: Naturalistic gardens are abundant and may look less manicured than traditional landscapes. The premise is to avoid invasive plants and select plants with high pest and disease resistance and low maintenance needs. This way, upkeep can be kept to a minimum, without having to sacrifice aesthetic value. Frequently, ornamental grasses and American native prairie plants are suitable plants for the natural garden, especially if arranged in large sweeps or groupings. Native plants, while not universally suitable for your garden, thrive and are adapted to the local prevailing conditions. They support more animal and insect life than non-native plants. “Quasi-native” plants are often a good choice. They may be an improved cultivar of a native plant, or different species within the same genus.
WILDLIFE: Attracting desirable wildlife and creating a Backyard Wildlife Habitat can be very rewarding. Your garden is a living ecosystem, with plants and animal life connected in an intricate web, in harmony with the earth and the cycle of the seasons. By using certain plant species, the gardener can attract and sustain wildlife in his landscape. Birds and beneficial insects are among the desirable wildlife in a natural garden, and will aid in keeping harmful insects and worms in check. Healthy soil will produce robust plants. It is important to create a favorable habitat and nesting opportunities for the birds you wish to attract. If you live close to a wooded area, keeping out deer may be a vital consideration, as is using deer-resistant plants.
To work with nature in the garden permits us to enjoy its benefits as we foster a healthy, and nearly self-supporting environment. Observing a hummingbird drawing nectar out of a trumpet-shaped flower with its long, narrow bill while hovering in mid-air, or bright butterflies visiting your garden’s flowers, seeing a flock of plump quail walking across the garden, or listening to the music of numerous songbirds is one of the gardener’s and nature lover’s greatest pleasures.
Residential Landscape, Hood River
The rural setting of this expansive property lends itself to a Naturalistic style. Large planted berms surround the standard size rectangular swimming pool, affording privacy and visual enjoyment.
(Please click image for an enlarged view)
This planned residential development features extensive streetscape plantings visible when traveling along the public lane. Many of the plants are repeated throughout the inside of the development. For more images, please view Willow Ponds in the Portfolio Commercial Installations section.
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