Ecological landscaping begins with a thorough evaluation and understanding of the project site. What is the soil series? What is the moisture profile? What plant communities would naturally occur on a site with similar characteristics? What plants and plant communities can be supported on the site? The answers to these questions frame a quality restoration with sound environmental information and ecological understanding. Proceeding to design and construction without these is the #1 reason why so many natural landscaping or restoration projects fail.
Embarking on a Restoration Project
Let’s take the popular rain garden as an example. We all know that planting a cattail in a desert is a silly proposition. But did you know that a cattail will similarly die in the typical rain garden or bioswale? Cardinal flowers grow in moist areas; we know this too. But did you know that even after having planted hundreds of them in a rain garden, by year 4 they all will have disappeared? How about butterfly weed? This beautiful orange colored milkweed is found on slopes and dry gravelly areas; but it can live quite happily in some rain gardens. Do you know why? Rain gardens are being prescribed liberally across the country in cookie-cutter fashion and too often falling prey to weeds, disinterest, and then neglect. The root cause is a disregard of the interrelationship between soil, water, and plant. There is, however, an even deeper cause: lack of clarity on the restoration objectives.
What are restoration objectives? Is an objective the need to satisfy a specification that may be outdated or misinformed? Is it a desire to achieve a certain color palette? Is it a specific water-handling need? Is it an interest in promoting a certain animal species? Or does the owner have another desire? There can be many valid objectives for a restoration project, but objectives that clash with what you would normally find in a durable and balanced ecosystem will often end in disappointment.
We have learned much over the years by following specs, implementing others’ designs, speculating, and ultimately performing research. We have learned what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, we believe we understand the underlying factors that lead to success. Get in touch with us to learn more and let us give your next restoration project a greater chance of long-term performance.