Natural Landscaping

What is natural landscaping?

Natural landscaping is the design, construction and maintenance of landscapes that provide the beneficial natural functions thatnative_landscape are lost through cultivation of conventional lawns. Natural landscaping stresses the preservation and reintroduction of plants native to our area. The native plants used in natural landscaping are hardy and attractive. They can also be used to stabilize soil, reduce flooding, absorb pollutants, and sustain wildlife. Conventional turf, composed of cool season grasses (e.g. Kentucky blue grass), is costly to maintain, dependent upon environmentally damaging chemicals, non-supportive of the diversity of organisms that are characteristic of a healthy environment, and lacking in visual interest.

What can I do in my community to promote the use of natural landscaping?

Private property owners can install natural landscaping on your own land and encourage other property owners to do likewise, including your local public landowners. Encourage your local City or Township officials to consider:

  • installing natural landscaping on new and existing public sites
  • adopting or amending local weed ordinances and development standard to allow and encourage natural landscaping
  • providing information about natural landscaping to residents, developers and civic organizations
  • identifying natural areas within the community that need to be preserved or restored
  • sponsor demonstration projects and award creative efforts

Volunteers can assist in the installation and monitoring of natural landscaping projects and work with local officials and conservation organizations to promote natural landscaping. Developers and contractors can include natural landscaping as a component of new development projects.

What are the benefits of landscaping with native plants?

Purple_Coneflower

Purple coneflower

If you haven’t worked with native plants before, you may be wondering how natives are different than traditional landscape plants, such as daylilies or hostas. The following statements answers this question and will help you begin to see why using at least some natives in your garden can be beneficial to the environment. Using native plants in your landscape will yield many benefits, including the following:

  • Native plants are beautiful, providing an entirely new palate of plants compared to a traditional landscape.
  • They are well-adapted to local conditions, therefore requiring little maintenance once established.
  • They eliminate or significantly reduce the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water, and lawn maintenance equipment.
  • They also often attract beneficial insects, which prey upon pests, decreasing the need for pesticides.
  • Most native species are perennial or self-seeding biennial plants.
  • Native plants attract our native songbirds and butterflies.

To view a list of some Michigan native plants click here.

Where can I go for additional information?

Michigan Conservation Districts can provide assistance with planning your backyard habitat or native planting.

Wild Ones mission is to “promote environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities.” Wild Ones has a diverse membership interested in landscaping using native species in developing plant communities. The Wild Ones website has a Native Landscaping section with many useful links. There are 12 Wild Ones chapters in Michigan.

Michigan Native Plant Producers Association members are nurseries that sell native plants and seed in Michigan.

Wildflower Association of Michigan promotes, coordinates and participates in education, enjoyment, science and stewardship of wildflowers and their habitat. Links to dozens of sites.

Michigan Green Industry Association is a professional association for the landscape industry in southeast Michigan. Directory of members and services is available.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Greenacres: Landscaping with Native Plants