The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodeversity in the Home Garden

Rick Darke

Language: English

Pages: 392


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Many gardeners today want a home landscape that nourishes and fosters wildlife. But they also want beauty, a space for the kids to play, privacy, and maybe even a vegetable patch. Sure, it’s a tall order, but The Living Landscape shows how to do it. By combining the insights of two outstanding authors, it offers a model that anyone can follow. Inspired by its examples, you’ll learn the strategies for making and maintaining a diverse, layered landscape—one that offers beauty on many levels, provides outdoor rooms and turf areas for children and pets, incorporates fragrance and edible plants, and provides cover, shelter, and sustenance for wildlife. Richly illustrated with superb photographs and informed by both a keen eye for design and an understanding of how healthy ecologies work, The Living Landscape will enable you to create a garden that is full of life and that fulfills both human needs and the needs of wildlife communities.

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I was about to change my mind about becoming a water strider and then I looked more closely. The weight on each leg wasn’t breaking the surface but it was depressing it enough to create a concave mirror. The darkness around the legs wasn’t debris—it was a mirror image of the canopy trees and sky above. —RD 124 The Art of Observation Banking on Old Logs Most birds rear their young on insects, but those that spend the long winter months where insects are few must turn to other sources of food. Protein-rich seeds are an obvious source, but they are produced in abundance only once in the early fall.

The key to a durable herbaceous layer is to rely primarily on a mix of clump-forming plants that are inherently long-lived, plants that regularly perpetuate themselves by self-sowing, and spreading plants that have a capacity for self-repair. Phloxes meet these criteria. Maintenance Strategies Though herbaceous plants are commonly selected for their ornamental flowers, they often contribute other necessary qualities in the landscape. A disproportionate focus on species with showy flowers has long obscured the functionality of plants such as barren strawberry (Waldsteinia lobata).

The simple lesson is to anticipate that there is a great diversity of life and essential processes below ground, and that respecting and conserving the health of these contributes to the health of life above ground. Unnecessary mechanical disturbance should always be avoided. When preparing areas for planting, dig only as much as needed. Use less destructive hand tools such as trowels, shovels, and spades instead of power tools such as rototillers whenever practical. Instead of pulling weeds, clip, mow, or use a hoe to scrape the surface.

Evidence to date shows that scrambling age-old relationships causes a precipitous loss of species from ecosystems. The bolas spider would not persist in our yard if there were not also a viable population of the moth species it chemically mimics. The chickadees that nest in our yard could not rear their young if there were not thousands of caterpillars in enough diversity in the landscape to persist through normal population fluctuations. And there would not be a diversity of caterpillars in our yard without a diversity of their co-evolved host plants.

Imagine being given the task of establishing hundreds of redbud trees on a rocky slope that’s so steep you can’t walk or climb up it. And on top of that, you must accomplish the task without watering the trees when you plant them or at anytime afterward, not even in the worst droughts. If the task must be accomplished immediately, it is simply impossible. If it must be accomplished using standard horticultural techniques, it is probably still impossible. However, if you have time and a means of dispersing an adequate quantity of redbud seeds, the task can be done.

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