What is ecological landscaping?

Ecological landscaping is an approach that emphasizes an understanding of the environmental consequences of plant choices and management procedures used in creating a landscape, whether it is in a residential, commercial or public setting. Some key concepts are:

  • Planting mostly native species, preferably propagated from local or regional populations. Not planting known invasive and potentially invasive exotic species and working to eradicate invasive species.
  • Understanding the environmental conditions at the planting site in some detail. Rather than changing those conditions through various soil amendments, irrigation and other means, choose plant species that are well adapted to the existing conditions.
  • Landscapes are not static pictures created solely for our viewing pleasure, but rather growing, evolving, and changing communities. Change is due both to the growth of individuals (young saplings become large trees, low blueberry shrubs form spreading patches) and natural species replacement processes (often called succession). When these processes are understood and anticipated, management or maintenance becomes a way of guiding the evolving landscape to retain both aesthetic and ecological value over the long term.
  • Landscapes are the part of a living community that are foundations supporting complex food webs including all the local creatures, from microbes and insects, to birds, reptiles and mammals – and humans.
  • It means gardening and landscaping isn’t mostly about human enjoyment anymore, although it is still enjoyable and beautiful. Gardening and landscaping in the 21st century is really about becoming stewards of the living organisms and environmental processes that sustain our planet.

For more about why ecological landscaping isn’t just an interesting alternative, but a necessary shift in our perceptions and activities, please see Professor Doug Tallamy’s great essay: Gardening for Life.