“In nature’s cyclical rhythms, there are no grounds for the discriminatory view that underlies Darwin’s view of superiority and inferiority that deems single-celled organisms as lower, and more complicated life forms as higher. It would be more appropriate to say we are all one continuous life-form.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka,
Perception is often at the forefront of our society’s struggles and greatest efforts. The way in which we see ourselves, our world, different cultures, different religions, and other species dictates many of our values. That is why so much effort goes into instilling a sense of values and beliefs in children when they are young and so impressionable. He or she who controls the perceptions of others will most likely hold the key to their actions.
In landscape design and management, we are often taught to isolate subjects and use so called “accent” species that will create some sort of visual appeal but may not actually serve any kind of purpose or belong in that location. The concept of “whole systems” thinking, whereby each element serves a purpose that benefits the vitality of the whole, is still somewhat of a novelty within the commercial landscape industry. And why wouldn’t it be? We humans tend to gravitate toward open spaces with minimal diversity – a tree here, a few hostas there, and you have a finished yard. Take new housing developments, for instance. The default (at least within the Midwest) is to level the preexisting landscape, build several houses, plant a few shrubs and trees, then fill in the rest of the open space with sod (turf grass). You will see this time and time again if you range through the Twin Cities suburbs and explore those large tracts of land with new homes built on them.
So what’s the problem here? Let’s look around. Any time you visit a state park, farm country, a national park, a vacant lot that has sat abandoned for years and years, or a garden that doesn’t receive much weeding or maintenance, you’ll notice that there are a lot of species occupying that space! Moss, so-called weeds, tree seedlings, fully-grown trees and shrubs, ground covers, plus critters large and small, all living in the same area, are Nature’s default most of the time. Even deserts can surprise us with their array of plant and animal life. So if the default is diversity and complexity, what does it take to remove that from a space? Time, money, and effort, to name a few. Does it always have to be this way? Well, not if our perceptions were to shift a little.
Located in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, Jackson Meadow is a recently unveiled conceptual community. This old-meets-new development has taken a unique approach to land management that appeals to its human and non-human residents alike (https://www.jacksonmeadow.com). Found in the uplands of the St. Croix River Valley, Jackson Meadow’s designers opted to take a restorative approach to the landscape their homes were built upon. Rather than level and demolish the preexisting grounds, they worked to re-seed and replant what had been lost! In the case of this particular location, a tall-grass prairie with occasional ponds and drought tolerant trees was the natural habitat -so they allowed it to remain that way.
Shortly after construction was completed on the roads and structures comprising the Jackson Meadow development, hired contractors and habitat restoration experts set out to plant trees and spread seeds across the entire community. The result? A stunning, picturesque landscape that requires virtually no maintenance throughout the seasons. In addition, this landscape provides habitat for birds, insects, foxes, ducks, and many other creatures.
Admittedly, Nate’s Living Landscapes does not always follow the “whole systems” way of thinking in our designs, but we are working to make this our default, rather than the exception. It gives us something to aim for. Because when you leave the landscape open to Nature’s surprises and amazing diversity, you allow the surprises to come to you and create more free time to spend doing whatever you like to do! All it takes is a small shift in perception. As we begin to perceive the natural world as a more desirable place and look for ways to bring it closer to our cities, opportunities for new and innovate open space designs arise.
If Nate’s Living Landscapes can help you find more time to do whatever it is that you enjoy (rather than yard work), give us a call or send us an email today! We look forward to seeing how we can help. And remember to check “News and Promos” regularly throughout the summer for other blog posts and promotional offers found only here.