DESIGNING your landscape

If you have attended one of our programs, you can review the photos you saw by visiting the speaker programs page.
Following is a snippet of the advice offered in the “Your Homemade Wilderness” program.


(formerly familiar as “form follows function”)

So, what’s practical?

Practical would embrace all the utilitarian devices that make being outside comfortable, pleasurable, productive, and safe.

We have, sadly, lost sight of the tradition of expansive, inviting porches which invite us to linger outdoors. Unroofed decks have gained popularity, but are not nearly as protective and seldom as stylish. As much as you can, give yourself a pleasant outdoor room.

Paths are almost never well conceived in home landscape designs. Most often they are too narrow — not allowing for how people like to walk side by side or how plants will billow into the space. The safest surfaces for us bipeds to navigate are mowed grass, boardwalks, and paved surfaces. Be mindful that you or someone you care about will likely spend some time in a wheelchair.

Practical thinking allows for maintenance, plant growth, and the effects of gravity and environmental forces. For this reason, avoid shrubby foundation plantings. If we are to grow plants next to the house, let them be food sources with a direct connection to the kitchen (part of the permaculture philosophy). If not edibles, then choose low-growing groundcovers (see groundcovers page) that will not compromise the exterior finish of buildings, detract from their architecture, or interfere with their upkeep.

Consider how water arrives, lingers, and departs your property. Detain it via a rain barrel (in order to use it to water your vegetables), or use the rain to recharge the local groundwater supply and deter flooding by installing a swale or rain garden. If rainwater is in short supply, look into assembling either a simple or a luxurious outdoor shower whose graywater can be captured for later use in the garden or immediately directed toward where it’s needed in the landscape.

The practical homeowner conserves energy, and so allowing for a place to hang the laundry in relative privacy should be part of a comprehensive landscape plan.

A composting site may be elaborately contained or simply heaped, depending on your aesthetics, athleticism, and patience.

Yard ornaments can be routine and purchased (birdbath, garden bench, trellis, feeders, hanging planter, bird and bat houses) or natural and free (stumps, snags, brush piles, stones) or a happy conglomeration of all things.

Once you situate all the practical objects in their most convenient locations, ask yourself if the rest of your land couldn’t be dressed up in plants the way it was a couple hundred years ago when we called this same piece of land “wilderness.”

So, what’s pretty?

You know the expression “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” Since you’re the landowner, you get to deem what is pretty.

The temptation is to choose plants based on the color of their blossoms, but since flowers decorate only a small part of each plant and for only a segment of the growing season, develop an eye for what texture brings to the overall picture. Whether motivated by color, texture, or value to wildlife, think “diversity.” By utilizing a wide variety of plants native to your region, you’re maximizing your rewards: a spectrum of flowers over a range of bloom times, an array of textures from a variety of leaves, and a high-quality habitat.

To see photos illustrating the points made in this article,
view the videos at the Homemade Wilderness channel.

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