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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.

Forest Savers LLC from Woodstock, Vermont uses a custom-built tractor to uproot and shred invasive shrubs at the Oyster River Forest in Durham, NH as part of a 60-acre restoration project to restore a healthy native plant community to benefit pollinators, songbirds, and the state-endangered New England cottontail. 

Reducing Invasive Plants and Recovering a Healthy Plant Community

By Ellen Snyder

In southeastern New Hampshire, where I work with landowners and communities on land stewardship, managing invasive plants is a constant struggle. As the Land Stewardship Coordinator for the Town of Durham, I’m guiding three restoration projects on town conservation land. It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of invasive plants on all three properties. To avoid invasive paralysis, I keep my focus on the goal: restoration of a place to a mostly self-sustaining, healthy plant community.  The reward is a restored landscape brimming with native plants and native beneficial insects. 

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 The sheet mulching project at Wellesley College taken 10 years after it was first installed to suppress turf grass June 2020 shows a thriving plant community.
 

Alexandra Botanic Gardens of Wellesley College: Sheet Mulching Update

By Tricia Diggins

Ten years ago I wrote an article about sheet mulching that highlighted a project in the Alexandra Botanic Gardens of Wellesley College. It was so interesting to revisit the project ten years later and to see if the sheet mulching solution stood the test of time and kept the turfgrass at bay. One of the unexpected benefits of smothering the turfgrass was that it allowed native plants to naturally form a thriving plant community.  

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Patio with salvaged sandstone 

Revitalizing A Tired Palette

by Don Pell

Four years ago, a project inquiry brought me to a site that dreams are made of—an 18th-century colonial farmhouse beautifully restored over the past 30 years by its owners. The details of the home were meticulously curated; however, the gardens were entirely unconsidered. The home’s surroundings looked degraded and sadly suburban. Join me as I transform this landscape into an ecological oasis for the homeowners to enjoy for years to come.  

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 In this second year of growth, the Education Building begins to feel grounded in a verdant landscape. Photo by Jamie Purinton 
 

Let it Rain

by Jamie Purinton &  Marc Wolf

Mountain Top Arboretum was designed to mimic and compliment the wondrous native plant communities of New York’s Catskill Mountains. Habitats such as wet meadows and seeps, woodland edges, and bedrock alpine communities completely guided the style and content of the plantings and the stonework. Teamwork combining design, planting, stormwater management, and a focus on educating the public culminated in a landscape that can be resilient through all types of weather. 

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 From left: A garden of anise hyssop, little bluestem, sneezeweed, boneset in front of smooth hydrangea. 

Lessons Learned on A Native Plant Journey

By Cathy Weston

A visit to  Cape Cod brings us to a  2-acre fallow farmland property where the homeowner/gardener has spent years cutting back invasive plants to return the land from an Old Field habitat to a Coastal Woodland.  The amount of effort to remove and keep invasives at bay could seem a daunting task, but this homeowner persevered and with trial and error created a beautiful ecological habit for both herself and the wildlife her property now calls home. 

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The Curtis Cottage Garden at Garden in the Woods in Framingham, completed in 2019 by Wolf Landscape Architecture. 

Design Communications: Engaging the Clients

By Toby Wolf

Ecologically designed landscapes come into the world small and vulnerable. Until they are established, they rely completely on their owners’ patience and care.  And their owners rely on us, as designers, to tell them what to expect from their new landscapes and – even more importantly – to make sure that the landscapes fit the owners’ needs, values, and capabilities.

 

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Yael_Weiss_Liatris_aspera 

Spotlight on Natives: Photo Contest Winners 2020

by Georgia Harris

This year our Spotlight on Natives Photo Contest garnered over 200 photos from across the country. While it is exciting every year to see so many lovely photographs of native plants, in this year’s climate of uncertainty, it is wonderful to have such a substantial response from our community. We hope this groundswell of interest in native plants and habitat continues to grow and blossom throughout the coming year. 

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A blue heron in the wetlands as they appear today. Photo by Pam Morris Olshefski. 

Restoring the Wetlands of Morris Arboretum

by Eloise Gayer

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is well known for its abundance of mature trees and horticultural displays. In 2001 the Arboretum began the restoration of a drained wetland that would not only serve as a blueprint for other wetland restoration projects but also create more educational opportunities for the entire community. Learn about the history of this wetland, that was farmland at the turn of the century then one hundred years later was reverted back into a natural wetland.

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13.Pet.memorial.garden.overlooking.marsh 

Celebrating Native Gardens Tour – Amesbury, MA

Hosted by Nanette Masi

When Nanette and her husband Mike purchased their two-acre property in 1994, the landscape was overrun with invasives, including Japanese knotweed, honeysuckle, barberry, burning bush, and more. Take a walk through Nanette’s gardens to savor what 26 years of loving care and native plant choices can bring to an environment. You’ll find inspiration in the sanctuary she’s created for people, animals, and plants.

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CSummers Carolina silverbell 

Why Aren’t These Plants in Every Garden? Three Great Plants to Know and Grow

by Carolyn Summers

Throughout her career working with people, plants, and landscapes, author/designer and gardener extraordinaire Carolyn Summers has often been puzzled by the lack of interest in certain plants that she finds exceptionally useful.  These plants bridge the gap that sometimes exists between what humans want and what wildlife needs. Carolyn introduces us to three underused plants that are a must-have for native gardeners. 

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