Living Landscape Tallamy, Darke book focuses on yards

Living Landscape Tallamy, Darke book focuses on yards

Living Landscape: Tallamy, Darke book focuses on yards

New England aster provides nectar to a female tawny-edged skipper in mid-September in Rick Darke and Melinda Zoehrers Landenberg, Pennsylvania, garden. (Photo: Courtesy of Rick Darke)

Doug Tallamy, entomologist at the University of Delaware and Rick Darke, garden ethicist, photographer, writer and former plant curator at Longwood Gardens, have teamed to explain how to create gardens that sustain wildlife and encourage human interaction.

While Tallamy’s «Bringing Nature Home» made the case that suburbia is the landscape we have at our discretion to help the ecosystems we need to survive, «The Living Landscape» tells us how to do it.

Does your home landscape or garden provide safe surfaces to walk, run, play and sit? Does it provide a cool shelter in summer and a warm spot in winter? Do its color, texture and fragrance provide pleasure to life’s routines? Does your garden reflect the human history of place and local ecological richness? Are there both intimate spaces and expansive views? Is your garden walkable with both practical and sensual paths as well as a variety of routes? Is it watchable, providing something interesting to see and contemplate? It can do all those things and more.

Garden spaces can function as outdoor rooms for living, dining, playing, swimming, etc. Gardens can include workshops, nurseries and places to produce food.

Hard materials can be used to create paths and spaces. They are durable, but expensive and difficult to modify. A softer option involves using plants to create spaces – organic architecture. Mowed turf can be used for paths and multi-layered screens of plants create rooms.

Organic architecture is better able to evolve and respond to the changing environment.

Think of your garden in layers.

The herbaceous layer is first, closest to the ground, and contains the greatest potential for biodiversity. This layer provides interest in various seasons as well as shelter, cover and food for wildlife.

Be careful not to include too much diversity at too small a scale – it will be hard to maintain. Look to natural systems with high biodiversity over all but repetition within a given area. Look for plants whose characteristics match the site.

Clump-forming plants and self-sowing plants provide ground cover in large areas. Less aggressive plants fill in small niches. Leave the herbaceous layer all winter to provide food and shelter for non-migratory birds. In the spring, it will be easier to pull, crumble or chop, providing valuable mulch.

The shrub layer is best at space-making. Cut back aggressive shrubs to the ground when they get too tall or leggy.

Understory trees provide a low canopy or ceiling, but leave gaps in your arrangements for light and views. Multi-stemmed trees create walls through which you can look. Small trees can be used in groves to define spaces.

Canopy trees provide architectural beauty, cooling shade, fall color and frame strategic views. Plant these trees when they are young for better adaptation and survivability. Then limb up the trees to increase light to the ground and shrub layer. Vines can also create a sense of enclosure without taking up too much horizontal space.

Celebrate life in your managed landscape. Enjoy the element of surprise when you see something exciting, memorable or just plain fun.

But, also learn to appreciate the yearly expected occurrences. The hope and dependability of natural cycles is both repetitive and comforting. Designing for diversity and abundance is a collaboration between the homeowner and the natural processes occurring in the landscape.

For much more detailed instructions, pick up a copy of «The Living Landscape» by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy.

If you want to see some of the principles described in this book in a living home landscape, UD will host a fall tour of the Applecross property, a demonstration project that includes a forest corridor, 6,000-square-foot meadow, and diverse planting beds defining livable spaces and pathways.

The tour is from 9-10:30 a.m. Oct. 25. If you are interested in attending, send an email to sbarton@udel.edu. There is no charge, but we’d like to get an idea of how many people would like to come. In response to your email, you will receive a map locating the property.

You can also learn more about how your landscape can become a Delaware Livable Lawn by going to the Livable Lawns website at www.delawarelivablelawns.org. This program is only available to Delaware homeowners who fertilize their lawns.

Delaware Gardener is written by specialists from the Delaware Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Delaware. This week’s writer is Susan Barton, associate professor. Email questions to delawaregardener@udel.edu. Personal replies are not possible.


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