Plan Example 2 – NS-Restoration

The NS-Restoration example is for a front lawn that is approximately 25′ wide x 20′ deep that is bordered by a house to the west, a front walk to the south, a sidewalk to the east and a neighbor’s front yard to the north. For design purposes (and note that this is merely an example of one approach), the area may be divided into a couple of sections or "zones." These include a "house front" zone; a central zone; a southeast zone; a northeast zone; and a bio-swale zone. Criteria can be set for each zone and then each zone can be designed. This makes the design process less overwhelming, though care should be taken to assure
that the design of the zone has some common thread and transition plants are provided that "connect" one zone to another. Design consideration for the zones listed here might be as follow:

House front zone: Select trees/large shrubs that provide desired properties, e.g., permitting light passage, providing privacy, etc. Assure that plants are sufficiently spaced from the house to prevent rot.

Southeast zone: Select a principal deciduous tree or trees for summer shade, but winter sun, and then "design down" by selecting corresponding shrubs and smaller plants. An appropriately place shade tree can significantly reduce air cooling bills (or simply provide a cooler house for those without air conditioning or other air cooling systems).

Northeast zone: Place your principal conifer tree or trees in this zone (i.e., to the north) so they do not block sun in the winter months. Conifers and other evergreen plants are also good for blocking unwanted views such as power lines and poles, unsightly neighbor’ yards, providing privacy, etc. Select corresponding shrubs and smaller plants.

Central zone: Select grasses, meadow wildflowers, low shrubs, or smaller plants, to give this zone an "open" feel. Maybe put a bench here. The original grass of the lawn can provide a foot path to or through this zone.

Bio-swale zone: This zone is provided to accommodate stormwater run-off during rains. The zone is configured to receive water from one or more down spouts, is often formed in a depression and typically contains a variety of wetland plants. The bio-swale acts as a sponge, absorbing rain water and slowly releasing it, thus more closely approximating pre-human disturbance conditions and minimizing stormwater run-off into streams and rivers.

In the present example, the homeowner selected a house front zone that included vine maple associated with Indian plum, red osier dogwood, snow berry, and nootka rose. Cascara or black hawthorn could be substituted for the vine maple because it has similar
properties. Several smaller plants were selected for use under these small trees/shrubs. The vine maple and associated shrubs were selected as a compromise between light and privacy, and because they are sufficiently small that they may be placed close to the house with minimal risk to the house from rot or a falling branch.

A Big Leaf Maple (BLM) was selected as a predominant tree of the southeast zone. This is a wonderful tree that once grown-in has a graceful, sweeping canopy and a warm character. It tends to become the center piece of any yard it adorns. It is also a very valuable wildlife tree, for food and shelter purposes, and seems to have been created with a chair swing in mind. BLM are also advantageous in that they grow quickly, hence giving some "form" to your naturescape while other slower growing plants grow-in. Corresponding shrubs, including Evergreen Huckleberry, Red Huckleberry, Red Elderberry and others, are provided under or around the BLM.

A Hemlock or Hemlocks were selected for planting in the northeast corner. Note that other conifers or conifer deciduous mixes may be provided with or in place of the hemlock. Conifers are important trees for "air cleaning" and wildlife purposes (they are particularly important to migrating song birds). They can also be quite beautiful. In the present example the conifer(s) were located as shown to (1) block a utility pole and (2) provide a desired conifer north of the house where it would not shade the house in winter. Understory shrubs for a hemlock are similar to those for a BLM.

The central zone was configured to provide space between the plantings. It is important to recognize that a newly planted naturescape may resemble a clear cut grow out, i.e., a bunch of newer plants battling amongst one another for resources. As these plants "grow out" your yard can become a "shrubby mess." This can be avoided by designing in some open space and culling (i.e., removing) plants that become undesirably over grown or "thicket-ish." The open meadow of the central zone also provides an opportunity for added color and different types of plants.

The bio-swale was configured to receive downspout run off. It begins a minimum of 10′ from the foundation of the nearest structure with a basement (and more if there are concerns about basement leakage) and runs away from the structure. A 6′ minimum is often adequate of a structure has no basement. A plurality of wetland plants are provided and these are listed in the diagrams. To learn more about wetland plants please examine the list of native plant Nurseries provided here for those which specializes in wetland plants. Some wetland trees may be added to a bio-swale to provide color or ambiance, but may have to be culled later if space is limited. Several "wet-liking" shrubs such as Douglas Spirea, Salmonberry and Pacific Ninebark could also be provided.

Notes for Example 2 – Naturescaping-restoration:

  • Implementation may be staggered, trees first, then shrubs, then smaller plants. This staggering could take place over years. Grass or other pre-existing plants could similarly be removed in stages.
  • Some plants such as red elderberry and ocean spray would do well planted on opposite side of a path because their arching branches would form a natural archway.
  • The basic design can be repeated with the following or other substitutions (though efforts should be made to "mix and match" trees, shrubs and smaller plants that grow under similar conditions).
    • Substitute for Big Leaf Maple: Any other mid-to-large native deciduous tree or trees. White Oak, although slow growing, is good for drier locations.
    • Substitute for Hemlock: Douglas-Fir, Western Red or Incense Cedar. Sitka Spruce if close to Pacific Ocean.
    • Countless smaller plant combinations are possible. Treed zones (SE and NE) are good for shade liking smaller plants and the open zone (central) is good for sun liking smaller plants (until the trees of SE and NE grow up – in 20-30 years).

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