Lay of the Landscape: Natural Garden Style (2024)

A natural garden reflects the natural landscape that surrounds it, whether it's the prairies of the Midwest, the forests of New England, the fields of wildflowers in Texas or the starkly beautiful deserts of the Southwest. Natural gardens aren't formal; instead they feature free-form plantings and soft edges. Pathways meander through the space, sitting spots appear unexpectedly and havens are provided for birds and animals.

Natural landscapes can be easy to maintain; you needn't worry about letting plants grow as they wish, and weeds may turn into valuable garden assets. However, it can be easy to let these landscapes get out of hand. If you want to reflect the landscape rather than let it take over your yard, you'll still need to do some trimming and cutting back. It will just be a lot less work than with a formal garden.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

A side yard filled with grasses, annuals, perennials and shrubs softens the rigid lines of the house. A gravel path is less formal and more naturelike than brick or flagstone.

Richard Taylor Architects

It's the return of the prairie as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans fill an Ohio yard. These native Midwest perennials blend perfectly with other favorite perennials and shrubs and will spread, though not too quickly, for an easy-care yet colorful garden. As a bonus, they ensure the space will be filled with birds, butterflies and bees all summer long.

Shirley Bovshow

Native plants mix with Mediterranean imports in a Central California garden. Since both thrive in the same conditions, they work well together; most people would be hard pressed to know which is which. The result is an easy-care garden that's colorful without demanding too much water. The color of the decomposed granite pathway echoes the colors of the trails in the surrounding hills.

You may not have a large yard, but that doesn't mean you can't have a meadow view. No-mow and low-mow grasses are designed to clump softly in waves, like those found in a wide expanse of open grasses, though I've heard them described as looking like the ocean or hair. Think four times a year rather than two times a week for mowing, and these grasses are generally drought tolerant. Low maintenance and natural — what's not to love?

At the edge of a Colorado mountain garden, penstemons and sedums take center stage. In the higher mountain elevations, plants are tucked into the available soil, usually between rocks and trees, rather than being densely packed like in the more open prairie spaces. This landscape follows the same approach. The garden blends into the scenery, rather than competing with it.

Tip: Plant more formal and nonnative plants near the house, as was done here, and use the natives on the garden edges as a transition to the natural landscape beyond.

KitchenLab Interiors

Where a traditional garden plan would feature neatly arranged plants grouped by height in the bed next to the porch, this Michigan garden blends an array of plants and grasses in an equally mixed array of sizes that works perfectly with a farmhouse-style home.

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

A Southwestern-style house is matched with a Southwestern-style garden. The plants fit perfectly with the house style as well as with the gardening conditions. A typical front lawn would be less effective visually, plus a lot more work.

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

There's more nature than yard in this Wine Country garden. The space takes advantage of the view, whether someone is relaxing, soaking or swimming. At the same time, since it's set into the hillside and has stonework that matches the surrounding landscape, you might not even notice it until you are right on top of it.

Natalie Myers

The High Line, a converted elevated railroad track in New York City, is planted with natives along the walkway. The result is an easy-care space, but it was achieved after carefully considering plant placement so the plants would grow naturally yet not overrun the beds and the walkway.

Tip: Adding a planting bed in front of a potentially dangerous edge, such as the fence line here, and then planting it solidly, helps create a subtle physical barrier. You may not have a drop-off, but the same idea would work along the edge of the yard, encouraging people to use the pathways rather than tromp across the lawn.

Randy Thueme Design Inc. - Landscape Architecture

A mass planting of grasses flanking an unusual walkway fills a long space. It reminds me of walking down to the beach, but with a far more interesting boardwalk than you'll find at most public parks.

Randy Thueme Design Inc. - Landscape Architecture

A gentle path through trees and grasses leads to a sitting spot. It's about as simple as it can be, yet it's highly effective.

A water feature is always welcome in any garden. Keep it feeling natural by landscaping the edges to replicate what you'd find outside the garden confines. Instead of a necklace of matched stones around the entire pool that's a single depth, create a beach at one end and slope the sides down from the edge (also good for helping pets escape the water if they're not pond savvy; not so good for keeping other critters out). Very large, flat stones of varying heights provide places to sit and keep the edges from appearing too regimented.

Tip: Build a bit of a raised bed or a mound to one side of the pond. Water flows to the lowest spot, so a small rise will help make the pool look like it was meant to be there.

Ron Herman Landscape Architect

A field of wildflowers is perhaps the epitome of a natural garden. They can be overpowering next to the house, but if you have a large estate, a difficult-to-landscape hillside or simply a large empty lot in your sight line, consider sprinkling some seeds and seeing what comes up.

Tip: When planting a large number of perennials, annuals or bulbs, scatter the seeds in drifts to mimic how they grow in nature.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

If you have room to spare, take a cue from this beautiful example and blend your garden with the surrounding landscape. In this Maine garden, the goal was to renew the native plant community and remove much of the expanse of lawn. The lawn is still there, but it's not the main focus. Instead, it blends into the space, and the perennials and shrubs, along with the natural grasses, take center stage.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

The garden's edge is gradual. Instead of an abrupt end of lawn, casually (but thoughtfully) placed shrubs signal the boundaries of the garden.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

A path through this meadow allows access without interrupting the view of the grasses.

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More Lay of the Landscape:
Traditional Garden Design

Lay of the Landscape: Natural Garden Style (2024)


Lay of the Landscape: Natural Garden Style? ›

Natural gardens

Natural gardens
Natural landscaping, also called native gardening, is the use of native plants including trees, shrubs, groundcover, and grasses which are local to the geographic area of the garden. › wiki › Natural_landscaping
aren't formal; instead they feature free-form plantings and soft edges. Pathways meander through the space, sitting spots appear unexpectedly and havens are provided for birds and animals.

What are the 5 elements considered in a natural landscape? ›

An aesthetic landscape design incorporates five key elements: line, form, texture, color and scale.

What are natural gardens called? ›

Natural landscaping, also called native gardening, is the use of native plants including trees, shrubs, groundcover, and grasses which are local to the geographic area of the garden. Natural landscaping using pine, redbud, maple, and American sweetgum with leaf litter.

What does a natural landscape look like? ›

A natural landscape is made up of a collection of landforms, such as mountains, hills, plains, and plateaus. Lakes, streams, soils (such as sand or clay), and natural vegetation are other features of natural landscapes. A desert landscape, for instance, usually indicates sandy soil and few deciduous trees.

What are the three types of natural landscapes? ›

There are many different types of natural landscapes on Earth – including mountain landscapes, coastal landscapes and riverine landscapes. Landscapes created by people are called human landscapes. Natural landscapes are made up of a variety of geographical features known as landforms such as hills, caves and valleys.

What are the 3 major principles of landscape design? ›

Elements and Principles

The principles are the fundamental concepts of composition—proportion, order, repetition, and unity—that serve as guidelines to arrange or organize the features to create an aesthetically pleasing or beautiful landscape.

How do I plan my garden layout? ›

As a general rule, put tall veggies toward the back of the bed, mid-sized ones in the middle, and smaller plants in the front or as a border. Consider adding pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects that can not only help you get a better harvest, but will also prey on garden pests.

How to create a wild landscape? ›

If you're used to the kind of gardening where you color within the lines, then you'll want to plant with a little extra space. The goal for a wild landscape is to intentionally let a plant grow big and blend into its neighbor, but only just enough. Plant these neighbors too close and you'll lose any form or texture.

What is a fancy word for gardening? ›

gardening (noun as in horticulture) Strongest matches. cultivation landscaping planting.

What is a peaceful garden called? ›

A Zen garden, sometimes known as a tranquility garden, is one of the most delightful outdoor spaces to create and enjoy. Creating a sensory experience that allows visitors to truly feel and become one with nature requires the careful selection and placement of trees, shrubs, grasses, flowering plants and accessories.

What is a holistic garden? ›

A holistic garden employs the basic concept of holism - a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In a holistic garden, interactions among gardeners, plants, animals and environment produce results greater than the sum of individual parts.

What is naturalistic landscape design? ›

The basic concept behind natural design, however, is fairly simple – to incorporate native plant communities into the designed landscape. But their successful incorporation requires a basic understanding of how native plants operate in nature.

What is a pure landscape? ›

Throughout my portfolio you will find images that I like to call “pure landscape” – which for me is the holy grail of landscape photography – nothing in the image but what nature has provided: no man-made intrusion, no houses, no roads, no cars and no people.

What are the elements of landscaping? ›

These elements of design include mass, form, line, texture and color. In the landscape, they are used to transform space and create a unique experience. While color and texture add interest and richness to a design, it is mass, form and line that are critical to organizing space and providing structure.

What are the elements of landscape? ›

 Landscaping refers to any activity that modifies the visible features of an area of land, including: 1. Living elements flora or fauna. 2. Natural elements such as landforms, terrain shape and elevation, or bodies of water; 3. Human elements such as structures, buildings, fences or other material objects created and/ ...

What are natural landscape factors? ›

Through different intervals of time, the process of natural landscapes have been shaped by a series of landforms, mostly due to its factors, including tectonics, erosion, weathering and vegetation.

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