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Your Garden May Be Pretty, but Is It Ecologically Sound?

By Margaret Roach

Aug. 11, 2021


Image from the New York Times Article is of Darrel Morrison’s mesic prairie design for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum Native Plant Garden


A recent article in the New York Times with this title writes about Darrel Morrison, the elder statesman of the ecological landscaping movement who offers some advice for gardening in a changing world. Ecological landscaping, he says, is the merging of environmental science and art. Consider what happens when plants are chosen only for show? They become sterile wastelands of monotony. In contrast, hes says native plant communities “provide the logical starting point for designing beautiful, functioning regional landscapes.”

His design philosophy boils down to four successful landscape design characteristics.

1) it must be ecologically or environmentally sound, meaning that it has a level of natural diversity that will provide resilience against climate change.

  • No non-native plants

  • All choices are locally adapted

  • Pesticides are unnecessary while some insect grazing is expected and encouraged

  • Once established, little supplemental water is needed

2) Designs are experientially rich

  • There is motion as wind moves through it

  • There are scents from flower and foliage

  • Pollinator interactions that support butterflies and many varieties of local wildlife

  • Seasonal changes with a succession of growth, bloom and pollinators

3) Be of the place

  • Avoid the big box, standardized, just like everywhere else atmosphere

  • The garden should feel like the place you are, at home in this space

4) Compose for four dimensions, that transitions through the season and adapts over the years

  • Bloom succession

  • Varying heights

  • Organic spread of dominant plants


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