Notes from the Garden: Embracing the Natural Hamptons Garden

Landscaping contains many ornamental elements, and the variation of these elements makes it interesting and unique. For many years the tendency has been to follow the traditional conventions of landscape design. Styles that have now become the trends are rooted in older methods; embracing more of the natural environment, the situation of the land and, above all else, minimizing the application of water and pesticides used for the routine upkeep of garden areas.

The natural garden can be designed in many different styles. However, the existing natural landscape has key features that must be taken into consideration; fields, wooded or rocky areas, dunes, water and frost. The core elements of these landscape scenes can be transferred to the garden with amazing results. The naturalistic design utilizes the native species of trees, shrubs and flowers blending with various elements that make up part of the entire project. Every piece of the design works to keep the style of the garden simple yet adequate for the setting. This is not a hard and fast rule to adhere to, but is a useful train of thought in developing a landscape that fits in perfect harmony with its environment.

The existing landscape where the garden will be developed should be the main inspiration. The plants naturally growing in nearby woods, fields or dunes, with their different textures, scents, colors and contrasting elements will be the starting point of the design. The natural fields can be an abstract concept, but always works as a default starting point. Each plant grows where it should, the species blend into one another just the right way and the colors are in the perfect configuration, continuously changing according to the season. Each area’s particular species has completely evolved and adapted to the climate, soil and natural predators.

The natural landscape teaches us how to appreciate all the tiny details that make it more beautiful: the light and the shade, the water, the rocks, the soil, etc. It’s a method of using what nature has already provided, and of following her example to produce a design that looks spectacular. The selection of trees, shrubs and flowers should be done according to the size of the plot in order to keep the whole design in perfect scale. The plant material should be mixed in texture, color and height, capturing the essence of a natural landscape. Ornamental elements can be added, such as logs, rocks, gravel, stone pathways and walls. Irregular bluestone paths are especially attractive—you can even plant different kinds of herbs or groundcovers to amplify their appeal.

The essence of the natural landscape relies upon using the proper amount of water and minimizing the need for fertilizers or pesticides. Aromatic succulent and grass species need less water than other species, and are also more resistant to disease and pests. American Beech, Atlantic White Cedar, Flowering Dogwood, Gray Birch, and Magnolia Virginiana, are all trees that grow easily and adapt to the different types of soil found on Long Island. Shrubs like Viburnum, Bayberry, Beach Plum, Inkberry, and Rose of Sharon also perform very well in our area. Some of them produce beautiful flowers and colorful berries that will attract birds and butterflies to the garden. Bee balm, Baptisia, coneflower, lavender and primrose are some flowers that fit with simplicity and grace the scape of any garden. The tendency should be to include more of these native species in the garden because of their tolerance to the weather and soil conditions. As a groundcover to the garden areas; gravel, sand or plants like vinca are suitable for this design.

The success of the natural garden landscape will be directly related to the correct design using the basic appropriate selection of native plant materials in each case. It’s an interesting design that will surprise you with its beauty and capacity to be adapted for different landscaping projects.

Landscape Designer, writer and lecturer, Frederico Azevedo is the founder of Unlimited Earth Care, Inc., providing landscape design and maintenance to the Hamptons for over 20 years. For more information call 631-725-7551 or visit unlimitedearthcare.com.

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