Lawns across the country are coming into their own. With many new features available and the desire to bring down maintenance costs and save on water, a lot is happening with hardscaping features, recycled water features, and general re-imagining of how your front and back yards function. Marrying the concept of function and form in the garden is a challenge we love to accept. However, as more people lean towards hardscaping features – while a beautiful and water conscious decision – there’s an unfortunate drawback: biodiversity.
Biodiversity is the variety of animal life on all levels within an area. The ocean has incredibly high biodiversity, for example. This, including oxygen production and carbon sequestering, is one of the reasons preservationists strongly oppose deforestation. It doesn’t just threaten oxygen supply, but it wipes out whole colonies of animal life as their homes disappear with the trees. It’s one of the negative consequences of installing fake grass, no more biodome for soil-dwelling critters.
While hardscape features, such as a patio, are wonderful for creating an easier-to-maintain and added dining/entertaining space, they wipe out life in the areas they cover. While we don’t want you to shy away from creating the front or back yard of your dreams, when it comes down to decisions, we encourage you to think creatively on how to blend hardscape with landscape to achieve your vision and enhance the biodiversity of your home.
If you’re considering installing a patio, think about retaining walls and how they might serve you. Whether you build bench seating against the retaining wall, or leave seating to the outdoor furniture department, lining the perimeter of your yard with retaining walls adds height and dimension to your view, as well as providing a glorious flower bed for lavender, roses, or whatever plants pique your interest.
If you have a fence in place already, add some honeysuckle or vines to grow upon it. If you don’t want to unkempt and wild look of a vine, you can instead install some hanging plants along the panels. Similarly, with a pergola, you can grow lush, flowering vines like Trumpet Vine or Bougainvillea. They not only add a pop of color and texture, but as they grow over the thatched roof, they provide heavenly shade during those hot summer months when you feel like dining outdoors. It won’t be just you benefiting from these blooms, either. Adding flowering plants to your yard gives the bees more plants to pollinate. If you’ve paid attention to the news and environment at all in the past five to ten years, you know how important bees are to the world.
Of course, you can always utilize raised flower beds to grow herbs, vegetables, or shrubbery. Again, you have the chance to add levels to your yard, and some extra character with your chosen flower bed base. This could be sleek ceramic pots, rustic wooden constructs, or repurposed tin trash cans or wheel barrels.
If drought proofing is your M.O. choosing your ground cover affords a lot of options, as well. Mulch is a wonderful alternative to rocks and pebbles, coming in a variety of shades and types. Some herbs make beautiful ground cover, such as creeping thyme. You can also take the more traditional route of planting a native grass or fescue. Fescue grows in mounds and produces thin, hair-like blades that look like the grass in a Dr. Seuss book, but needs significantly less water than regular bermuda grass.
In the end, you can marry your vision for stunning design, reduce your maintenance and water consumption, and keep an actively biodiverse neighborhood in perfect harmony with a little extra thought and care into your future yard plans.