A green and sustainable landscaping doesn’t mean you have to eliminate the plants you love: “It’s about letting things in.”
The crimson leaves from Eastern beebalm (Monarda bradburiana) contrasts with the golden yellow flowers of golden the ragwort (Packera aurea).Credit…Rob Cardillo
A garden can be most effectiveit is characterized by biophilic as well as ecological measures, as the Phyto team believes that the best time to be “immersive.”
He. Rainer remembers having that idea in his head that his partner, Melissa Rainer, would take their son on a trip to botanical gardens.
“When we’d go to a border or something very cerebral, you could just see his body go limp, and we’re dragging him through,” Mr. Rainer recalled. “And after we’d come to a small meadows with trails carved into it and he’d just begin running. The body would simply respond to an intriguing space.”
“Instinctively, we all gravitate toward these really rich plantings,” Ms. West said. “The garden styles that are cottage-style that have plants mingling are social. It’s evident how happy they are. and full of joy.”
In the most beautiful landscapes, “plants are the mulch,” said Claudia West, of Phyto Studio, a landscape design firm based in Arlington, Va. No ever-lasting mulch can be seen in the design of the firm for the pollinator garden in Penn State University’s arboretum which is viewed from a small water feature.Credit…Rob Cardillo
The most averse of those gardens are what she describes as “under-vegetated plantings” — which is a sad and expensive situation that’s not just a reality on the continent of American gardeners, but across the world. A large portion of our property, she argued, is covered in dead mulch.
In order to move beyond that, you must make change in the mindset of her audience. She frequently reminds her clients and lecture audiences, summarizing it quickly: “Plants are the mulch.”
Particularly, the Phyto designers aim to construct with the greatest diversity the thing that is what Ms. West refers to as the “ecological intensification” of a site by utilizing environmentally high-performance, sustainable plants that are in line with their aesthetic requirements.
What can we do to create a garden that is more appealing? Mrs. West and Mr. Rainer summarized some of the thought process behind each garden they design, as well as the selection of the right plants for each.
Eastern beebalm (Monarda bradburiana) is resistant to herbivores from the deer as well as other animal species and also provides mildew resistance the form of a shorter, earlier-blooming variety of beebalm.Credit…Rob Cardillo
Changing Your Mind-Set
Many people are concerned about whether a more ecologically sustainable landscape would mean getting rid of beloved plants — like their peonies perhaps or roses. Mrs. West and Mr. Rainer are quick to provide clarification.
It’s not about throwing things away, since most gardens are under-utilized. “It’s about letting things in,” Mr. Rainer said. Particularly, flowering plants are a great benefit for all ages as well as for wildlife.
First, we need to change the way in which we view our surroundings. When we rethink any aspect of our garden, or beginning with a fresh one, how happens if we rethink our notion of what our landscape appears like?
Instead of imagining a picture in your mind’s eye the area that is filled with grass and paving — which may likely be right nowand then trying to place an area of grass within it, think of something else completely.
“Imagine your site being initially 100 percent covered in planting, at 18 to 24 inches tall,” Mr. Rainer suggested. “And after that, you get in and trim the areas you’d like to, including the pathways, the terraces, and everything else.