Garden Design Ideas
The Trials and Tribulations
of Natural Gardening
Where did I get this urge to use low maintenance landscaping in my
garden design ideas? Natural gardening, utilizing the drought tolerance
of native perennials and shrubs to build the backbone of my garden
came, well, naturally.
Are you a Gardener and Plant Person?
You need these downloadable guides in your library:
When I first moved to this dry climate and found the mountain side
that would become my home, I had grand ideas of a lovely lush perennial
garden, filled with blooming plants, buzzing insects and intoxicating
The first thing I tried was to make a lawn. It was only a small
lawn, but the native soil was rocky and sandy, and packed tighter than a
I ran the shallow well dry.
This is our only source of water, so it could have been a
The lawn was left to its own devices and eventually, despite
no irrigation it did become a green sward, mixed with clover and other
plants that don’t go brown in the summer.
The secret to keeping the grass green and healthy, even growing
in the shade of large Douglas fir trees, is the liberal doses of Dolomite lime in the fall. Timing the application to just prior to a rain fall is the key.
Looking for more ideas? Each picture links to another page with inspiring gardens;
Moss and Lichen
How it all started...
I worked for a wholesale nursery in Grand Forks for several years;
their stock in trade was prairie hardy shrubs and trees, including
I felt that this was a burgeoning industry, ripe for me
to get a tiny piece of, so after building a greenhouse, I tried my hand
at growing plugs of all kinds of nursery stock.
The propagating part was easy, as that’s my forte. Growing the
plugs to a salable size with a lack of available water, well, that was
another thing entirely.
A friend in the industry suggested I grow thyme plugs, and she
said she would purchase off me, so I started assembling as many
different kinds of thyme that would be hardy to Zone 3, and after a few
trials, started to produce them.
The huge sale never happened.
lots of thyme plugs to sell to home owners putting in thyme lawns;
however, it became apparent that thyme really needs to be custom grown.
It hates to be confined in those tiny cells for any length of time.
For my next xeric plants, I thought, Sedum, that’s the ticket! I grew Sedum for green roofs, for xeric gardens, all sold mail order – fantastic! I had a winner.
Then I discovered – or should I say – rediscovered - Sempervivum.
Those ubiquitous hens and chicks that you and I remember from
childhood – they were in every garden, as they’re easy to grow,
impossible to kill.
My light bulb moment was when I became aware of the
thousands of different ones. Small, fuzzy ones; smooth dinner plate
sized ones; red, burgundy, lime green, almost black; the choice was
As an offshoot of my attraction to Sempervivum, I also discovered some similar hardy succulents, Rosularia, Jovibarba and Orostachys. These are hard to find, but well worth the effort to locate them.
My low maintenance landscaping is filled with all kinds of xeric
These are the test gardens, where all manner of perennials are
trialed for their real drought tolerance. There are no wimps here – all
are tough, hardy and resistant to the challenges of growing in an arid
climate. If they don’t survive – and thrive – in the conditions in my
sandy, acid, zone 5 garden they don’t make the list of recommended
plants for xeriscaping.
Natural gardening - even when not actually growing native plants -
could be summed up with that old saw, the right plant in the right
place. Nature knows which plants should go under and beside others of
The beauty of low maintenance landscaping is that the shrubs and
perennials that you grow don’t require water, pruning and constant
The dormancy of late summer ends when the fall rains come. Snow
contributes a warm blanket through the winter, and a good soaking once
it starts to melt.
That lush, blooming perennial garden? I have that too, without any added water, using well adapted drought tolerant plants. Now, that’s my kind of garden design idea!
Grow your own perennial, biennial and annual gardening plants easily
and successfully from seeds, cuttings or simple division. Find out how
to propagate your own favorite Gardening Plants. (This link opens in a new window)
Succulent Plant Propagation