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« Tulip solution: species in the ground, hybrids in pots | Main | Thomas Rainer's 5 Myths about Native Plants »


Daryl Morrison was doing this decades ago via University of Georgia ornamental horticulture program.

Italians have been doing this stuff for centuries.

Natives are problematic in Atlanta metro subdivisions. All the native soil, micro habitat, has been scraped away to build the homes. The macro native habitat has been destroyed. The native temperatures no longer exist.

Alas, this message still isn't reaching the broader public.

Happily, landscaping this way for decades is keeping me employed during the worst economy since the Great Depression. Having my best years, EVER.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

Love the scholarly approach to garden design with natives. Well done.

I'm interested in reading what else Mr. Rainer has to say. I must find a way to incorporate a bit of the wild in my suburban yard--but not with the neighborhood squirrels.

I like the Peirce's Woods' feel: very curvy, in contrast to the "abstract" gardens of Andrea Cochran and Tom Stuart-Smith. Yes, the Chelsea Flower Show garden's *plants* soften the stark right angles, but I've always wanted a meandering garden. I have a hard time with the European Formal Garden style--way too regimented for me--but the monastic knot gardens make me happy. Could be the tendency toward monoculture in the former, and a variety of shapes within the knotwork in the latter.

I really like this interesting design approach and will look to incorporate elements of it in my own work. Peirce's Woods at Longwood Gardens looks stunning, I must visit there this summer!

Thomas' email refers to design by "repetition ... not massing"--what is an easy way to understand the difference?

Oh my MIL was way more Natural than me. Maybe I should visualize her saying, "It is so Neat?"

A bit of a plant nerd myself. Worried about types of leaves to use as Mulch. Oak Vs MapleVs Kousa. Bagged them differently even..

I see here a more fundamental issue--that in our culture we see nature as one thing, and humanity as another; as if they were opposite forces. I see this a lot in my student writing about the natural world--these college kids have been raised in a system that believe nature does exist (it doesn't any more), and that it is something other, something we consume for pleasure but don't need. So when I push natives, I'm also pushing how we ARE nature, that we aren't divorced from the pain and suffering of animals or trees, that they are reflections of our pain and suffering, and in tending to one you tend the other.

PL--I see massing as massing of one plant--a huge swath of 10x10' feet of bluestem. In my 1500' I use repetition, clumps of coneflowers in three or four places, or mountain mint in several places, or a stand of switchgrass here and there. Repetition in color and texture, too.

Fascinating. Great advice. Some native plant lovers forget that a native plant garden is still a garden, and I like that advice.

One of the reasons I use native plants is to provide food to native birds and insects which are short of habitat these days. Massed plantings in a small space don't really do it. Native bees need nectar from spring to fall so a range of flowers. Birds need safe places to nest and food so I need a conifer and berries that hang on the trees over winter. Water needs to soak in not run off. How does Thomas Rainer factor in these things?

This is the first time to this website, its great to get imput from people in the same field

One of my favorite stories told by Felder Rushing is of a front yard that didn't match the typical award winning standards yet had this sign out front: Area Yard of the Season. Being Felder he knocked on the door and asked about the sign. The fellow told him he made the sign himself! I'm considering making such a sign for me atypical front yard :)

People in Austin have embraced native plants for quite a while, thanks in part to the efforts and inspiration of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. But I do wish they'd add more contemporary native gardens to their display gardens. It would go a long way to converting those who still see natives as messy. Austin's inner neighborhoods are largely being renovated in a clean, contemporary style, and homeowners want gardens that reflect that aesthetic.

"Americans treat nature like Victorians treated women - as either virgins or whores"

Such a great quote. This may be one of my favorite Garden Rant posts ever. Really interesting design ideas that move beyond the native vs exotic stuff we've all heard before.

I've been waiting for someone to stand up for order in the garden. Bravo, Thomas!!

I'll tell you how I factor those things, Sarah. Fauna doesn't recognize property lines. Each property doesn't have to provide the panoply of features required by all the local fauna. I would highly doubt that a single yard would have a major impact, depending on size of course. It would seem that illustrating to neighbors that desire a well ordered landscape that their desire is possible using natives would help get far more habitat plants planted than any one person could plant on their plot. Simply showing them that there are tidy, dumb, green, native shrubs that provide food for insects and birds alike could vastly increase the numbers of native shrubs in a neighborhood.

Wish i could have seen his talk, thanks for the writeup. His advice would help more people embrace less lawn. If front yard native gardens had less of a tendency to look 'too natural', then skeptical neighbors might be more likely to embrace them. When i have heard of people who had neighbors complain about their attempt to go either lawnless or native or both in the front lawn, it typically tuns out it was because the intended garden was just a mess with no structure. Admittedly, my back yard is one of those structureless messes, which i adore. But i keep it simple and strucured in the front, because as the adage goes, you catch more flies with honey.

Thomas Ranier is inspirational! He is bringing new insights and funny and creative language into the narrative of landscape architects and garden enthusiasts. I would love to see a book of his thoughts and ideas -- and in particular more visuals of the type of balance that he preaches.

Great article and even better subject!

We are students from the University of St. Thomas and are working on a project concerning a spray-on mulch colorant. The product is Hippie Mulch and we would appreciate your insights on mulching, spray- on mulch colorants, and social media. All of your answers will remain confidential. The survey should take you no longer than 5 minutes. Thank you for participating.

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