Naturally occurring landscapes like meadows or woodlands are denser than standard gardens. In the book, Planting: A New Perspective, the authors explain that conventional gardens have around 10 plants every square meter where sustainable landscape design can have hundreds of plants in the same area. It is this body of plants that emulates the ecological realm and grabs us so deeply. It is also how you eliminate erosion, invite butterflies, bees & birds to the space and have the intensity of beauty in the after.
Expensive is Optional
When I first discuss four-season landscapes with clients, they always love it. As I describe the number of plants needed to get the density necessary, they automatically start thinking, “How much is that gonna cost?” I’ve found that it isn’t more expensive as long as you can source all the materials in the right way.
Time, Time, Time
Time is the other ingredient to consider. Perennials and grasses planted as plugs will need time to grow, and seed needs to be sowed correctly for the best result. Yet, even with conventional gardens, the desired outcome can take lots of time. Shrubs like boxwoods take 4 to 5 years to mature while rhododendron can take up to a decade.
Four season landscapes take a fraction of that time to become awesome. Nearly 95% of any perennial used will bloom within 2 seasons. Nearly 100% of all grasses will likely get to full height in the same time.
Below are images from an installation I did for a residence in Maplewood during Aug of 2016. The planting area needed over 600 plants plus seed to cover the bare dirt. The majority of the plants were installed as plugs. You can see Shenandoah plugs below. They are no more than 6 inches tall.
Seed is Good
This project needed seed as well because we wanted to cover as much of the soil as possible. The seed was dropped in early September and within the same month we had flowers blooming. You can see the flowers in the image below.
The last part of the time factor is that sustainable landscapes are inviting and should be engaged. Just like yoga or meditation, gardening can be a transcendent experience. With a sustainable landscape, you can have a little chuck of wilderness just out your front door. Research has found just a short time in nature on a regular basis has huge positive impacts on both our mental and physical lives. Digging in the dirt has never been so easy. It’s worth the investment and the payoff is an incredible winter garden.