Just the right combination of native trees and shrubs can add serious curb appeal, support wildlife and add year-round interest with spring blooms, vibrant summer greens, and striking displays of fall color. We've put together a few design tips to help you get started.
Use trees and shrubs as focal plants - Think of your focal plants, or anchor plants, as the backdrop to your landscaping. You want your anchor plants to fill the space, but not overwhelm it in a few years. There are many beautiful native trees and shrubs you can choose from whether you are looking to add flowering plants, fall color, or pollinator hotspots to your foundation plantings. A great way to find plants that meet your gardening criteria is to use Possibility Place Nursery’s Plant Finder Tool.
Pay attention to scale – If you have a large home in the country or township with ample space, you have limitless possibilities when it comes to using native trees and shrubs. Generally, the larger the home and surrounding acreage, the greater the scale and size of trees and shrubs you can use. However, if you’re in a neighborhood within city or village limits, you don’t have that kind of space. Look for trees that grow to be around 20 feet tall rather than ones that will grow to be 40 or 50 feet, plus. The same is true of shrubs. Some of the larger native shrubs grow to be over 15 feet tall and equally as wide! If you have a smaller house and yard, think smaller, more compact. Select shrubs that are in the 3 to 7 foot range with similar spread.
Pick carefully – Regardless of the size of your yard, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is selecting a tree or shrub that will outgrow its space once it matures. Do some research ahead of time and pay close attention to the mature size of the tree or shrub especially when you are using them in your foundation plantings. You don’t want to plant something that will eventually grow to block windows, overwhelm paths, or crowd your entryway. Do your research using Possibility Place Nursery's Plant Finder Tool.
Think in layers – Once you’ve selected your focal plants, you can add other native plants in layers. When designing a foundation planting, it’s important to layer the heights of the plants. You want the tallest ones (your anchor plants) in back next to the house, and then layer each row down so that the shortest plants are in the front. The smaller plants in front can be a selection of native perennials that attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. We'll be hosting our Bringing Nature Home Native Plant Sale again in the spring and you'll be able to select from over 100 native plants to compliment your foundation plantings and provide critical habitat for our pollinators.
Enhance what you have - If you don't have any native plants right now, don't worry. One of the best ways to begin using native plants is to slowly transition them into your existing gardens or foundation plantings. Add a few things each year and see what works best for your growing situation. You don't have to get rid of everything just because its not native and many gardeners that use native plants still keep some of their favorite hybrids.
A few other tips –
Possibility Place Nursery Plant Finder Tool
National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder
The Nature Foundation of Will County
17540 W. Laraway Rd.
Joliet, IL 60433
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