Nature is the best landscaper; there’s nothing prettier or more perfect than a naturally occurring patch of wildflowers, offset by some intriguing stone formations and brambly vines, such as one sees during a walk in the woods. Nature itself needs no improvements. Why not bring a touch of that wild, rambling beauty to your backyard garden? It’s easy and kind to the environment as well! It’s also an opportunity to discover and work with (rather than against) the charm of the natural terrain, and to make ample use of found objects such as driftwood, beach stones, weathered logs and other items of found interest.
Weeds, I love ’em! Some of the most delightful plants are weeds. Use them! Let them protrude a bit here and there… unpretentious and fragrant. Don’t fight them; just thin them out so they don’t multiply out of hand and crowd out your other plants. They can set off the delicacy of cultivated flowers quite nicely, adding depth and character to the landscape. Many weeds are also natural pest repellents and can protect the rest of your garden from infestation.
Where you don’t want weeds to grow, lay down red cedar mulch. It is an attractive garden accent, sweet smelling, and it will lock moister into the soil. The cedar will also act as a natural moth repellant. You can lay it right down at the base of mature plants, hedges and anywhere you want to add it as an accent and to inhibit weeds.
A funky old old tree stump? Make it work for you. Fashion it into a seat, or let it be a centerpiece with ivy vines trailing over it. Beware of English Ivy though. It will take over your garden and be difficult to contain.
Naturally weathered wooden railroad ties make excellent borders… they can often be found around abandoned railroad tracks. I’ve often found a treasure trove of them in the woods near where I live.
If your soil is sandy, use it to your advantage. Grow plants that thrive in sandy soil: fragrant sage, wild roses, the regal yucca. Don’t be afraid, go Zen with it. As for lawns, why some people think that lush, green turf is the only way to go, baffles me. A naturally occurring stretch of sand on the peripherals of a garden can be aesthetically pleasing and save on your water bill.
Beaches are great places to salvage accents for your garden. Interestingly twisted shapes of silvery bleached driftwood, seashells, mottled and colorful stones all make for nice borders. Incidentally, seaweed is a great natural fertilizer.
Instead of leveling your garden off to an even plane, work with the natural flow of the ground. Let it undulate, slope, rise. (The effect doesn’t have to be dramatic either. Even minor irregularities in the lay of the land can add charm.)
Species of plants that favor well drained soil will thrive in elevated areas or on mounds. Plant species that seek extra moisture in low lying areas. Accent the heights with found rocks. An accumulation of lichen and moss add a romantic touch.
Winding walkways or footpaths can be fun to create. The lay of the land will often suggest where to place them. Bare soil, pebbles, sandy paths are all options. There are no rules… only your imagination!
Most importantly, be creative, have fun with the process, and be confident. Your garden will reflect it!
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