Landscapes: Natural Plant Succession Considerations

Natural Plant Succession

Plant communities grow and change over time through a natural process called succession.  These patterns occur gradually over long periods of time. When a landscape is disturbed in some way, a general process of plant recolonization occurs.

The first plants to grow tend to be fast growing “pioneer” species that establish quickly on disturbed soils. Many plants humans consider weedy fall into this category. Given enough time, more complex plants such as herbaceous perennials, trees and shrubs …

Designing Around Drainage Areas

Designing around drainage areas can be challenging. Drainage areas are any area where water naturally flows downhill and collects in a basin or catchment area.

Drainage areas can be small areas in a home landscape or they can be the size of a watershed that drains an entire region.

Drainage areas can also be sources of pollution and erosion especially when the flow becomes concentrated as in storm events.

Natural ravines and other topographic features as well as designed water …

Creating a Practical Pleasing Outdoor Space

A practical and pleasing outdoor space is one that satisfies user needs, is aesthetically pleasing, and is relatively easy to maintain.  The space can be a small, quiet, private space, or one that provides expansive views.

1. Satisfies user needs 

Once site inventory, analysis, and family needs are identified, the types, shapes, and sizes of spaces needed can be determined.  Remember to create spaces. Avoid placing objects in space. This is a common mistake of beginning designers.

Fleshingout the space(s)

Microclimates in Water-Wise Landscapes

What is a microclimate?

Microclimates in landscapes are small localized areas that differ in temperature, precipitation, and wind protection from the greater surrounding area.  Structures, topographic features, and plant orientation can create microclimates.  They can be naturally occurring or intentionally designed.

Examples of Existing Features that can Create Microclimates

  • Topographic depressions – influence temperature, water and snow retention, and wind
  •  Hills and berms influence temperature, snow melt, and wind
  •  Slopes influence runoff and temperature depending on orientation to the sun

Using Sustainable Hardscape Materials

Sustainable hardscape materials are those materials that are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate into the ground.

Some hardscapes are more sustainable than others. Some materials may be less sustainable to produce but can be used in a sustainable fashion in the landscape. These include permeable asphalt, permeable concrete, and recycled concrete.  Recycled rubber mulches are not recommended.

Permeable Hardscape

Permeability, or the ability for water to penetrate into the …

Preparing a Planting Plan

A planting plan is a construction document that shows the location, quantity, and other characteristics of vegetation to be planted in the landscape. It should be easy to read and understand.

Preparing the Planting Plan

Once the inventory, analysis , size and shape of use areas, paths and all other features have been determined,  the planting plan can be created. Specific plant species selection is the last element to be determined. Plans can be hand drawn or with simple residential …

Proper Plant Placement

Proper plant placement in the landscape can ensure a healthy low maintenance garden. Common plant placement problems include:

  • Planting too close together
  • Planting too close to a building or other structure
  • Planting plants with different water needs together

Also, in areas prone to forest or wildfires, proper plant placement is critical to saving life and property.

Proper Spacing

Overplanting is a common problem in the garden. Too many plants planted too close together will eventually cause crowding and may increase …

Tips for Using Plants to Reduce Noise in the Landscape

Unwanted noise can lead to a variety of health problems, including anxiety and hearing loss. Using plants, berms, and solid barriers together with water wise plants is an effective way to reduce unwanted sound.

Plants and other soft surfaces absorb and scatter soundwaves. Plants are also aesthetically pleasing. Using plants alone, however, is the least effective method for noise reduction in places with limited space.

Although expensive, if space is not a constraint, creating a natural or forested area might …

Landscape Design: Dream Big, but Start out Small

Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew?  Creating or redesigning a landscape can feel overwhelming, particularly if the yard is large.

One way to avoid feeling overwhelmed when planning a landscape design is to dream big but start small. Think about what is needed right now; perhaps a fresh new entryway or a pleasant entertaining area.






Starting with a small area close to the house is a great way to start small. …

Hardscaping Areas to Minimize Water Use

A hardscape is any area where materials such as concrete, asphalt, gravel, wood, or bark mulch are used. These hardscape areas can be aesthetically pleasing and provide a base surface or outdoor ‘floor’ that defines distinct areas in the landscape.

Using the right materials in the right place in conjunction with appropriate plants can minimize water use.

Materials such as asphalt and concrete, however, do not allow water to penetrate into the soil and can contribute to runoff. Pollution in …