Saturday, March 1, 2014

Design of a Long Island Native Garden

Long Island Native Garden
As a designer I occasionally encounter jobs that are more challenging than others. This past summer I was contracted to design a Long Island native planting on the island's north shore.  Being the natural area was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy of 2012 and needed to be re-vegetated, there were set environmental guidelines that all plantings had to be native to the area and that the use of topsoil, mulch or fertilizers to sustain the plants was not permitted. That was no problem.  Most native plantings are tolerant of a variety of soil types and can thrive even in poor soil.  The challenge was that the homeowner did not want a natural planting but rather an organized garden that would look well planned and aesthetically pleasing. As you may be aware native plantings are not known for their aesthetic value. My idea was to create a garden with evergreens, flowering shrubs and colorful perennials that would be native and fit into the style of the surrounding area.  After going to several nurseries and researching numerous native plants for the area I proceeded on a design plan which gradually fell into place.
Before & After 
The first thing was to measure the blank slate and see the amount of space I needed to fill.  My goal was to achieve a well-balanced structure throughout the garden as to attain all season interest and provide a framework even in winter. After much decision making I choose native plants with good structural qualities such as Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron Maximum), Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia' Sixteen Candles'), Inkberry (Ilex glabra 'Compacta') and Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica).   For colorful blooms I choose Echinecea, Liatris, Yarrow, Tiarella and native American Wisteria for the pergola.  Native Shenandoah Switch grass and Christmas fern were added throughout the garden to add movement and Bearberry was used as a ground cover for soil stabilization. 
Before & After 
I massed the different species of plants to achieve more impact and give the area a relativley full look while allowing growing room. 
Besides the requirement of being native, the plantings also needed to be as "deer resistant" as possible.  Once I had the main list I  used my own experiences and research to determine the best plantings for the space. Besides the deer, there were a multitude of other local guests to the property including ducks, swans and rabbits.  As I was first designing on site one of the local swans diligently watched over every move I made until I quietly worked from one of the boulders.  Being an animal lover I guess he sensed it was alright for me to be there.  Eventually we developed a mutual understanding and I was able to walk around and continue on with my work.
Native Plant Pallette
Here are some of the plants I choose for the design.  Top Row (Left to Right):  Achillea, Yarrow, Liatris and Bottom Row (Left to Right) Echinecea, Clethra and Switch Grass.  I laid out my landscaping flags to get a good vision of how the plants would come to play and everthng came together.  The combinations of plants worked beautifully and the garden design that I set out to achieve for the client was accomplished. 
Long Island Native Planting
Every project I encounter is always exciting and new and sometimes it is exhilarating to encounter a good garden challenge.  The completed garden was a success and turned out to be everything the client and I had hoped for.  The moral of the story...it is possible for a native planting to be well-structured, fit into a natural setting and be aesthetically pleasing!
As Always...Happy Gardening!


Author: Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening, Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

28 comments:

  1. You did a fantastic job friend! What an exciting project to work on! And how wonderful that you were able to help restore this garden after the hurricane. The path and plantings are powerful in this space and the difference is outstanding! Makes me want to go on a stroll through the garden! A job well done! Nicole

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    1. Thank you Nicole. It was sad what the hurricane did to the island. The job was challenging but it was so rewarding to be able to restore the area back to a native planting with order and color.

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  2. From zero to hero! I can see why the client (and yourself) is thoroughly pleased with what you've creaded Leah. The meandering path just leads you through at a comfortable pace - or at least that's how I see it in my eye. Those swans can be tricky creatures, glad he finally accepted you.

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    1. Angie-the swans did not make it easy at first and were up for the challenge of chasing me away but we did become friends once I established I would not harm them. They are beautiful animals. Thanks so much for visiting and I appreciate your kind comment!

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  3. You did a fantastic job despite the challenging requirements! I also love your homage to those foraging deer! The path leading to the arbor is delightful. I like your choice of American wisteria. This plant needs more publicity!

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    1. Thank you so much! I learned quite a bit more about native plantings while planning this project. The American Wisteria is a nice plant with the same purple blooms as the Japanese Wisteria and it is native to Long Island. I would definitely recommend it.

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  4. This garden is going to be so beautiful when everything fills in. The deer are a nice touch too. Good job Lee.

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    1. Hi Donna. The deer were there already from the homeowner but I can't agree more how well they fit it and am glad having them as part of the garden. I am also looking down the road for when the shrubs and perennials really fill in.

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  5. Wow! What a challenge! You did a wonderful job and I hope you are able to re-visit when it fills in and share some additional photos with us. That must have been very rewarding for you. Beautiful pictures. Sue

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    1. Thanks so much Susan. I am hoping to get some photos with more blooms since it was the end of the summer when it was planted. This was a really rewarding experience!

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  6. It looks fabulous! Congratulations! I'm in the process of planning a pollinator garden for a community garden and want to fill it mainly with native plants. A few questions--I have some ideas about plants, but any specific ones you would recommend? What did you use for the paths between the plantings--is that straw? Very nicely done, Lee!

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    1. Hi Beth. I liked the look of the Clethra 'Sixteen Candles' most with its full foliage and abundant blooms in spring along with native Liatris, Echinecea, Yarrow and Shenandoah Switch Grass. I would also recommend Rudbeckia, Goldenrod, Bee Balm and Russian Sage for pollinators. My plantings had to be native and some of these are not on the native list for Long Island but great plants. The path leading from the pergola put in by the client's grounds keeper is pea gravel and just native soil between the plants as other materials were not permitted. I am looking forward to when all the plants fill in more!

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  7. Hi Lee, I think you have one of the nicest jobs in the world! Despite the obvious challenges it must be so much fun to develop a design like this and you did a truly wonderful job! For me it was quite interesting to see that designing an a little bit more formal garden with native plants is possible. Like your clients, I myself also like a more formal organized garden, but for the sake of the pollinators, other wildlife, and water conservation I would like to plant some native drought tolerant plants. Often I think that simply doesn't go together, but seeing your post I feel pretty encouraged that it will also work in my garden. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Christina

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Christina. This is one of the nicest jobs in the world and I do love it. You're right...it does have its challenges at times but it is always so gratifying to see the final results once everything comes together and that is what drives my passion. I think you could certainly create a native garden that is organized and I am glad this gave you some inspiration. I would love to see the final outcome and will look forward to it! If I can be of any assistance let me know. :)

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  8. What a nice garden – such a great result! I like your choice of plants and the colour scheme, it would be great to see how the garden looks in 5 years time :-)

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    1. Hi Helene. That is so wonderful to hear since I was limited with the plants I could use and wanted the garden to have structure and also be as colorful as possible. I would like to see it over time once it is all filled in. Thanks you so much for dropping by and for your nice words!

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  9. What an amazing transformation, Lee.
    It is just gorgeous.
    I hope you've had a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Thank you Lisa. Much of the satisfaction in my job is seeing the before and after and this was an exciting project from start to completion. I hope you have a nice week and thank you for your kind comment!

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  10. Great job, Lee! Garden looks gorgeous. The plants themselves are wonderful but your groupings and design make them extra special.

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    1. Thanks so much Astrid and I appreciate your kind words. It was interesting putting design principles towards a native planting. I just went with my instinct and grouped plantings in mass to achieve a more designed look and get some structure in the garden. This certainly was a fun project!

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  11. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the process you used in designing the garden. Native plantings in a structured garden would be a challenge. How fun to have a bunny for company.

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    1. Thanks for visiting and for your comment Lorrie. The design did take quite a bit of thinking and going back and forth but then it all fell into place. The animal friends did make it fun and it was like a regular wild kingdom with the swans, ducks, deer and bunnies. I felt like it was their home too and I had to make it nice for them!

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  12. Interesting to read about the challenges this garden presented and how you addressed them. That you had the mandate to design using native plants seemed to have worked to your favour. I don't think fussier perennials would have been so adaptable to the site's soil and would never have withstood the local wildlife.

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    1. I think you're right Jennifer. The conditions there are really harsh and the native plants will be more adaptable, especially since we were not permitted to use any kind of mulch or fertilizer. I really went through the list of available plants to choose the ones that were most "deer resistant" so that should help but there are also geese, ducks, rabbits and other wildlife. It really is a wonderful native habitat.

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  13. You are so talented, Lee! I love your choice of plants and have several in my garden. Would be great to see this garden when it is more mature. P. x

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    1. You made my day Pam-thank you so much! I tried to get a good combination of colors and a mix of evergreen and blooming shrubs. I love watching gardens mature and would very much like to get photos once everything fills in.

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  14. Using all natives is more then challenging...it's down right difficult but you have overcome any obstacles.

    Um...lol, have I got a challenge for you, my lovely area where they had to replace the waterline between the Fir trees...no grass grows there. I am looking at putting in a dry stream bed, and using some shade tolerant grasses, and other dry loving plants...this is definitely not a climate for those faint of heart gardeners.

    Jen

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    1. Thanks so much Jen. As I had mentioned...sometimes I am up for a good challenge and I love when it all comes together! A dry stream bed sounds good for that area. I believe you are in either zone 4 or 5? ‘Elijah Blue’ and Oat Grass tolerate some light shade and dryness and Carex is a favorite of mine for shade. You are probably better off with hardy native types of grasses and perennials for your harsh conditions. They would have a better chance for survival.

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Thank you for visiting. I love reading your comments and knowing you have been here, and will try to reciprocate on your blog. If you have any questions I will try my very best to answer them. As always...HAPPY GARDENING!

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