Grand Rapids - Native Garden Designs

Grand Rapids - Native Garden Designs

Printing note: This design was created to be 8.5″ x 14″ and the design pdf will print best on legal size paper.

The Great Lakes of the United States hold 20% of the fresh water found on planet earth. The entire state of Michigan includes watersheds for four of the five Great Lakes (Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior). See graphic from the Nature Conservancy below.

The thousands of inland lakes that exist within Michigan’s borders are valued for fishing, recreation, and habitat for wildlife. Housing development surrounding many lakes continues to grow at a steady pace, creating issues with flooding, erosion, sedimentation, the spread of invasive species and fragmentation of habitat.

Climate change is projected to lead to a 5-fold increase in heat wave days by 2050 and widespread drought is expected to triple during the summers and fall months. Inland lake temperatures may warm by 3-7 degrees. Increased temperatures allow warm air to capture more moisture, which means winters and springs will bring heavier snows and rains leading to widespread flooding. These are dire predictions but there are steps that can be taken by property owners to mitigate some of these issues.

The designers envisioned this home site to be situated on land that slopes down to the south side of an inland lake. Soil types around the property range from clay to sandy loam to peaty, wet soil along the shoreline. Some areas are dry and quickly draining while other areas retain water at times. The home is part of a development along a paved street. The potential for erosion along the lake’s shore is high due to runoff. Heat pockets from hard surfaces along the street side create very dry growing conditions. Anticipated watering restrictions warrant wise plant selection. This landscape plan depicts some solutions to these common problems which will intensify with climate change. Key elements of this design aiding in the adaption to climate change problems include:

This plan considered the existing soil types, hydrology, degrees of sun/shade occurring around the property and utilized plant species that are often found together in natural plant communities that exist under similar conditions around the Great Lakes region. Dry Prairie – The front of the property has southern and western exposure and is adjacent to pavement and the walls of the home. These elements reflect heat and increase soil temperature and dryness. A variety of sedges and grasses create a dense groundcover to help cool the soil and decrease weed competition. A combination of perennials, shrubs and trees that have low moisture requirements and tolerance to heat were used. Wet/Mesic – Soil conditions along the north side of the home are a combinations of sandy loam and clay loam. More trees were added here to offer structure, habitat, and winter interest. The viburnums help screen the composting area from view. Clay pockets within the bioswale hold water as it travels from the downspout. Sedges were used in the lowest portions of the bioswale to slow the flow of water and aid in absorption. A diversity of colorful forbs will provide nectar, pollen, seeds and cover for insects and birds. Wet Meadow – The lake’s shoreline is comprised of sand, silty loams, and peaty muck. Dominant plant species are sedges and tall, moisture loving forbs that can withstand the fluctuating water levels. This network of plants requires little maintenance beyond removal of occasional woody species that may arrive. Vegetation is left in place from year to year, allowing for buildup of organic material which works as an absorbent sponge and protective barrier to erosion.

Amy Heilman is a certified landscape designer and has been planning and implementing sustainable gardens for over 20 years, initially in California where water restrictions drive most planned landscapes and currently in her home state of Michigan. Her business, The Living Garden, refers to the ecologic life that can be brought to any garden space with the presence of appropriate native plant species. Amy has worked in various areas of natural resource management, landscape restoration and native plant nursery operations. She is a frequent educator and speaker. Her goal is to encourage property owners to take an active role in the planning and care of their gardens and to use these spaces to learn about the natural world and the web of life they support. Rebecca Marquardt is a licensed landscape architect with over 25 years experience working with native plants and urban environments and is an accredited professional with the Sustainable Sites Initiative. She is the owner of Revery, a landscape architecture design studio with an ecological restoration influence and core values that hold every site within the built landscape as one that has the potential to protect, improve, and regenerate the ecosystem services that may have been displaced over time. Rebecca’s leadership focus with Revery is in developing a narrative and design for residential and commercial sites that addresses the important topics of water quality and infiltration, soil health, pollination services, habitat regeneration, climate regulation, while also carefully considering the human experience within these landscapes. Wild Ones is a non-profit organization that promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities. Some of the ways Wild Ones strives to accomplish our mission is by providing educational resources and online learning opportunities with respected experts like Wild Ones Honorary Directors Doug Tallamy, Neil Diboll, Heather Holm and Larry Weaner, publishing an award-winning journal and awarding Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Program grants to engage youth in caring for native gardens. Wild Ones depends on membership fees, donations and gifts from individuals like you to carry out our mission of healing the Earth, one landscape at a time. Become a Wild Ones Member Now!

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