Sep 14 2016
By: Kyle Braun | 0 Comments
A lofty fragrance. Lush in color. Tidy and tailored to straight lines. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying holds, and for many Pacific Northwest landowners this means a traditional English-style lawn. However, for those hoping to achieve a more environmentally-friendly aesthetic in their yards, it’s important to know how “natural beauty” isn’t just how green a plant appears or well its flowers look or smell, but how the plants contribute to its surrounding ecology.
Take the non-native Vinca Vine (upper left), or the English Ivy (lower left) for example. Their ground covering characteristics and colorful flowers make it a favorable species to plant in the back yard. Yet, a homeowner looking to highlight “natural beauty” in their landscape design may instead look to the Kinnikinnick (upper right), or the Beach Strawberry (lower right).
The non-native Vinca Vine and English Ivy, although pretty with grander leaves, are selfish plants that consume a lot of water, attempt to outcompete other yard plants for resources, and often choke out native trees. Meanwhile, landowners can count on the Kinnikinnick and Beach Strawberry to not only look good, but also maintain a symbiotic relationship with their other landscape elements, their comparatively “messy” flowers and berries acting as a resource for many pollinators and bird and insect species.
Mistaking non-natives’ “skin-deep” aesthetics for “natural beauty” is easy to do. In fact, many popular ornamental plants—exhaustively trimmed and watered by Seattle-area landowners to create their seasonal affect—are actually harmful to their local habitat and identified by King County as noxious weeds. These ornamental plants can be replaced by cheaper local natives (right) that require no additional watering and whose aesthetic matches the noxious peers. Why work so hard when there are native plants that look good year-round and achieve local permitting and restoration goals?
Don’t know what’s native or not? Want to make your yard into an urban wildlife sanctuary? Watershed’s landscape architects and designers can help create planting plans and landscape designs that achieves your aesthetic goals while benefiting the local environment. Contact us today for more information.