3 Pros and Cons of Natural Landscaping

What is Natural Landscaping?

With today’s concerns about invasive species, sustainability, and the impact of chemical pesticides, it’s no wonder more and more people are considering a natural or “native plant” landscape design for their yards.

But what do we mean by “natural landscapes?”

Sometimes called “native gardening,” natural landscaping is the practice of using native plants and trees to mimic the wild landscapes found in nature. While there are many variations of this type of landscape design, the significant difference between natural gardening and traditional landscaping is the incorporation of a variety of native plants and trees.

Most landscaping in suburban neighborhoods looks the same, a monoculture of grass with little diversity among plants. This looks tidy, but it lowers local biodiversity. Natural gardening, on the other hand, creates an ecosystem made up of native species and can have positive impacts on local biological communities and your property.

A dense assortment of red, purple, lavender, and orange wildflowers grow in a green meadow.Natural Landscape Does Not Mean “Meadow”

While some people think a natural landscape will transform their property into a meadow, we don’t recommend this extreme strategy. Turning your yard into a meadow will require significant upkeep that most homeowners don’t have the time or energy to invest.

However, when creating natural spaces by incorporating more natural plants and trees on your property, you can still get the advantages of a completely natural landscape.

Elements of a Natural Landscape

Whether considering a monoculture like a lawn or a wilder, natural landscape, it all starts with the plants. Natural landscapes typically consist of the following:

The common thread here is native plant species. Native plants attract native wildlife, including pollinators, birds, seed-eating mammals, and reptiles. This is an important consideration when it comes to natural gardening: Native habitats invite native wildlife.

Advantages of a Natural Landscape

While biodiversity is a major plus for incorporating natural landscapes on your property, there are some practical advantages as well. Here are three advantages you get from a natural landscape design:

  1. Natural landscapes use less water
  2. Natural landscapes generate less green waste
  3. Natural landscapes are more resistant to pests and disease

Natural Landscapes Use Less Water

Since natural landscaping consists of plants that grow naturally in the area, these plants are well-adapted to the environmental conditions. This means we can be less concerned with the irrigation systems and excessive watering needed to keep traditional landscaping elements like lawns thriving.

With native gardens, we can also be confident that the plants are hardy enough to tolerate the local climate.

Natural Landscapes Generate Less Green Waste

Compared to weekly lawn mowing, native plant gardening generates much less biomass than a traditional landscape design. While there will always be some maintenance and weeding associated with any landscape design, a natural garden generates a fraction of the green waste seen in traditional landscaping.

Natural Landscapes are More Resistant to Pests and Disease

The benefit of natural plants for pest control is twofold. Not only are native plants more resistant to pests and diseases in the area, but by including the right mix of native plants, you’ll attract beneficial insects that will help control pest populations naturally.

Disadvantages of a Natural Landscape

Based on the glowing praise we’ve given natural landscaping, you’re probably wondering why anyone would choose a traditional landscape design. Well, though there are advantages to natural landscaping, there are still downsides and challenges.

Here are three downsides to a natural landscape design:

  1. Natural landscaping can look a bit messy
  2. Natural landscaping will attract critters
  3. Natural landscaping still require maintenance

Natural Landscapes Can Look a Bit Messy

Natural landscape designs mimic the natural landscapes of the wild. This means they will not look tidy. While natural gardens can be managed and groomed, they will never look as uniform and neat as a traditionally maintained landscape design.

And depending on who your neighbors are, natural landscaping may not be appreciated. This is a significant consideration for people subject to homeowners’ association (HOA) rules.

A small chipmunk sits in flowery natural landscaping while cautiously eating seeds.Natural Landscapes Will Attract Critters

Natural spaces will attract natural life. Native plants and trees aren’t in the wild just to make the environment look nice; they also provide a habitat and resources for wild animals.

A natural landscape design on your property will draw in the same creatures found in the wild such as rodents, snakes, other reptiles, and new insect species. You may have to implement some new pest management strategies to help control the border between your natural and indoor spaces.

Natural Landscapes Still Require Maintenance

Though you won’t be mowing the lawn weekly, natural landscapes will still require maintenance. Some of this maintenance will be optional, depending on your preferences. Other maintenance, such as weeding, must be done to keep your natural space healthy.

Natural landscaping will generally be pesticide and herbicide free. While this is a positive for the environment in general, it still invites weeds and invasives. Wind, birds, and other wildlife can bring in plant species you don’t want to be included in your natural garden.

There will always be some work involved in maintaining a natural space.

Things to Consider Before Creating Your Natural Landscape

While there are many advantages to implementing a natural landscape design on your property, we’ve summarized the considerations discussed in this article:

  • Is your property subject to HOA rules that limit native plant gardening?
  • Are you comfortable with the additional wildlife a natural landscaping attracts?
  • Are you comfortable with the “wild” appearance of a natural landscaping?
  • Are you prepared to maintain a natural landscape?

Is a Natural Landscape Right for You?

If you’re considering a natural landscape in the Great Lakes Bay Region, Bay Landscaping is the natural place to start. In addition to being experts in all aspects of landscaping, we’re familiar with the zoning requirements for landscaping in the area. In fact, we helped write the rules!

Ready to get the landscape design of your dreams? Contact us and let us help you bring your landscape vision to life. Bay Landscaping has the experience to provide you with installation, maintenance, and nursery services across the entire Great Lakes Bay Region!

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Jerry Somalski

Jerry is a Landscape Designer, Project Manager, and the President of Bay Landscaping. He began learning about plants and landscape design as a young boy, hoeing in the family nursery and tagging along with the landscape crews who taught him the tools and methods of the trade. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Central Michigan University, he returned to the family business. Jerry has an enthusiastic yet practical approach to landscape design, focused on choosing the right plants (ones that thrive in the mid-Michigan climate) for the right place to create sustainable and spectacular landscapes. He loves to share what he knows with gardeners throughout Michigan! Learn more about Jerry >>

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