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Naturescaping, also called natural landscaping, is an idea that supports local biodiversity, rather than some sort of static, externally-defined concept of what a yard “should” look like.
In naturescaping, gardeners use local plants, locally-grown, to design and fill their gardens. They work with the contours of the land rather than against them. Traditional gardens, in contrast, adapt the land to the plant, often with a heady mix of fertilizers and other chemicals.
Traditional gardens are largely the creation of landscape architects trained in specific ways, coupled with a culturally-induced expectation of what a yard should look like. The green lawns of Arizona are a classic example of this, requiring watering several times a weeks in the middle of a desert. In this type of gardening, stock solutions are sought, rather than best solutions. While these solutions are often beautiful, they don’t always fit the land, and often do not make use of native materials or sources.
Naturescaping has a number of benefits, both for the home-owner and for the environment. Naturescaping saves both time and money. A garden planted with local plants rarely needs to be watered once it established, and is low-maintenance. Since it requires no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, it is less expensive to keep, and far healthier for both the environment and the homeowner.
Between 30% and 60% of a household’s water bill goes to watering the lawn. This alone should indicate a problem. A natural landscape needs little or no extra water, as the plants are adapted to the local rain conditions.
These local plants are also better suited to attracting native birds and small wildlife. Loss of habitat is contributing to the annual 5%-10% decline in songbird populations, but naturescaping works to start rebuilding lost ground.
A natural yard is a more dynamic place, less-planned, with more possibilities to let the imagination wander. While some view this as a benefit, others view it as a drawback.
The natural landscape is much more random than a planned, picked-from-a-garden-centre sort of place. A local tree may not conform to our expectations, and while is kind of the point, for some it causes difficulty. It is more difficult to create a specific “look” with this brand of gardening, and letting nature take its course may also appear sloppy. This can be an issue in some areas, especially areas where strata agreements or Home Owner Associations (HOAs) have rules in place governing yard appearance. Even where such rules do not exist, naturescaping can draw sharp looks from neighbors, and even the occasional call from local officials concerned about weeds. However, properly maintained, it should not be a problem.
As concerns about chemical and fertilizer use continue to grow, the natural landscape is becoming more and more the logical, practical, and proper choice for a yard. It is now a matter of educating people to the benefits, and beauty, of the naturescape.