Here in the Minneapolis area, there have been a few BUZZ words that have been attracting peoples interests lately. Words like Pollinator Friendly, Pollinator Gardens, Rain Gardens, and Native Plants. As a Landscape Designer I couldn’t be happier to receive so much positive feedback from this type of vocabulary.
Native plants serve a number of functional purposes when assigned to the right application in the landscape. At a bare minimum, most Flowering Natives attract desirable wildlife and beneficial pollinators like the Monarch Butterfly or Bees. Native Forbes and grasses also have a very deep root system which can be used for erosion control and helps to reengineer compacted soil structures and allow more efficient drainage for Rain Gardens.
Native Plants and Gardens are trending in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and there is nothing more contemporary than environmental and sustainable design. We incorporate Native Plants in almost all of our landscape designs in one regard or another. The following is my personal methodical approach to natural design for the urban landscape.
Layout functional planting areas and bed-lines (these can be redefined later on)
Plant Selection- Make a selection of native plants you intend to use. I use quite a few varieties for diversity even if I only use a small number of certain plant species. You will want to diversify to make sure you have enough color for the full growing season.
Layer Plants- At this point you will want to categorize Native Plants by height. I always start with the lowest growing in the front of the planting bed area. For bordering plants, I like to choose varieties that stay somewhat self-contained and offer a clean texture for when the plant reaches maturity which seems to say “This naturalized area is intentional and functional”.
Plant in Rows and Drifts- When laying out plants try to design in mass plantings of each variety so when they flower it is a significant event. I like to mass plant in rows or “drifts” starting low at the front of the garden and building up the landscape toward the back. You can play with this concept as well, creating pockets of Specific Native Plant Varieties you would like to build framework around.
Add 4th Season Interest- Once I have the basic plant placement and layout I want I will go back and adjust any bed-lines necessary. I will at this time also incorporate any native or non-native specimen trees or shrubs in the bed area to add another season of interest to the design for when all the herbaceous perennials are covered up.
There’s no doubt as we move into the functional age of contemporary design elements we will continue to see Native Plants used extensively in professionally designed landscapes and environmental solutions. Whatever your motive for looking toward Native Plants for your gardens, if you design with intent you will sustain a vibrant and lively focal point to enjoy year-round.