Looking for previous installments in this series? Please see "The Saga Begins" and "A Natural Approach."
Working with nature means taking time, because nature does few things quickly. (And the few things it does do quickly--hurricanes, forest fires--are not things you want nature to do to you.)
So the first thing you want to do when confronting a new landscaping site is to relax. A natural approach to landscaping starts, first, with knowing your property. And that means knowing it in all seasons. And that means living there for a full year, at least, while asking and answering questions such as the following:
- Light – What areas are sunny, which are shady? At what time of day?
- Winds – From which direction do the prevailing winds come?
- Moisture – Where are the naturally occurring wet spots? What areas have good drainage? Which are dry? Do you have seasonal streams or ponds (dry in some seasons but wet in others)?
- Wild animals – Which animals are visiting your property? Where do they nest or bed down? Where do they hide? What are they eating? Most wild animals prefer not to be around humans, so it can take a lot of quiet observation to figure out what they’re up to.
- Human activity – How are you and your family members using the property? Where do the kids like to play? What windows do you enjoy looking out of? Which windows need privacy?
- Indoor temperatures – Are some rooms too hot in summer, or too cold in winter?
- Deadwood – Do you have any dead or dying trees, whether fallen or still standing; stumps; or even large branches? If you live in an area that is naturally forested, deadwood is going to be an important part of your natural landscape, just as it is an important part of most forests. Unless it poses a hazard, you will want to keep any deadwood as part of your landscape, even if you have to move it in order to keep it.
- Native plants – What native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns and even mosses and lichens are already growing on your property? You may already have many valuable plants that you just haven’t discovered yet. Keep in mind that some of the most beautiful and highly prized wildflowers, known as “spring ephemerals”, may be noticeable only for a few weeks a year. But it is equally if not more important to note the location and species of any mature native trees on your property. Mature landscape trees are quite valuable, particularly if they belong to longer lived species such as maple, oak or elm. Real estate professionals estimate that mature trees add anywhere from 7% to 25% to the value of a home.
Note to readers: The phrase in nature's time was inspired the title of a 2006 program sponsored by the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association, which titled that year's Fall Field Day "In Forest Time."