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Designing Ecological Landscapes

Landscapes that mimic natural systems deliver important ecosystem services and are also aesthetically pleasing. Guided by principles that reduce resource consumption, ecologically designed landscapes provide natural solutions when land is disturbed by the construction of buildings or roadways, and they support landscaped communities from tiny rooftops to grand urban parks.

UConn Native and Sustainable Plant Guide_Page_08 

Connecticut Native Plant and Sustainable Landscaping Guide

By Victoria Wallace and Alyssa Siegel-Miles

Interest in native plants and sustainable landscaping has exploded over the last decade. Through our UConn Extension Sustainable Turf & Landscape program, we provide practical science-based information to support the sustainability goals of Connecticut green industry professionals and home gardeners. With that in mind, we developed a free online guide of 44 pages of plant lists for every location matched with vibrant photographs.

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Colorful flower power July salad.
 

Eat the Lawn

By Arianna Alexsandra Collins

July is a perfect time to gather flowers and greens for salad and pesto. There is an abundance of wild and garden edibles, so why make the trip to the grocery store for produce when you have a variety of food to choose from right in your yard? Create a daylily salad, with a little yard-grown purslane topped with pedals of bee balm for color and bergamot flavor finished with a tasty vinaigrette.

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tree picture for Norm's article 

Tree Decline, Dieback, and Death

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Jerry Harris: Nymphaea odorata 

ELA Names Winners of 2021 Spotlight on Natives Contest

Photographers from across the country submitted nearly 200 images to ELA’s 2021 Spotlight on Natives Photography Contest. Each sought to capture the special allure of native plants – the unique structure of trunks, stems, leaves, blossoms, seeds; the juxtaposition of native plants in groupings; and the interaction of pollinators with native plants. This year’s entries again encompassed an outstanding array of plants and habitats.

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This combination of threadleaf bluestar, showy stonecrop and aromatic aster packs a colorful punch in a small space for the fall garden. 

Planting Landscape Niches

By Susan Barton

In today’s rapidly urbanizing environment, we have a unique opportunity, if not a duty, to create livable landscapes that are attractive, easily managed, and provide a rich complement of plants to support diverse ecosystems. Let’s adapt a naturalistic design aesthetic that allows us to use native plants in home gardens, reflecting our regional spirit of place.  

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Chicken of the Woods on an oak log. © Anna Fialkoff.
 

Think Like a Forest

By Anna Failkoff

Forest trees are not singular specimens but are interdependent players in a dynamic natural community. The tree canopy casts critical shade, moderates moisture and temperature, drops leaf litter to help build living soil, and provides sustenance for a diversity of life on roots, trunks, branches and leaves. Using forest ecosystems for inspiration, we can bring maximal biodiversity, resilience and biomass back into human landscapes. 

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Partridge_Pea_&_Bee_(5761053027) 

Lawn Murder

By Leslie Duthie

Americans love their lawns yet they provide minimal habitat or ecological value for anything other than humans. From an ecological standpoint, I started to rethink the importance of the “lawn” and to consider a smaller lawn and? or? lawn alternatives that do not require fertilizer, water, or much mowing. Ultimately, I decided the best solution would be to replace the lawn with new gardens. 

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pica large 

Echinacea Trials at Mt. Cuba Center

 By Sam Hoadley

Echinacea, commonly known as coneflower, is experiencing a horticultural renaissance thanks to plant breeders’ hybridization work resulting in the flood of new Echinacea cultivars to the horticultural market. While many of these plants look fantastic on paper, Mt. Cuba aimed to assess their actual garden performance and document their ability to attract insect pollinators.  

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<em>Cercis canadensis</em>( Eastern redbud) Photo credit Hoodedwarbler 12 Wikimedia Commons. 

Notable Natives: Large Shrubs and Small Trees

by Sarah Middeleer

Proponents of ecological gardening are urging gardeners to reduce lawn areas and add native plants. Native shrub borders are lower maintenance than perennial borders, making them an excellent solution to this challenge. These plants often provide multi-season interest, including showy flowers, fruit, and fall foliage. Perhaps their best feature is the habitats and food they offer birds and pollinators.

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The completed bioretention system at Wellesley’s Hunnewell Fields naturally and effectively captures stormwater runoff. 

Merging Nature-Based Solutions and Recreational Areas

By Leah Wallner

The Town of Wellesley makes updates to improve a girls’ softball field, mitigate stormwater runoff and create a habitat for wildlife. The field was bordered by a busy street, an aqueduct, a neighborhood, and mature trees which provided many landscape challenges.

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