Lawns are homogeneous by design. A homeowner with a sandy site in the desert Southwest, and a homeowner with a shady slope in New England, will both strive to have a perfect green expanse. In contrast, a natural gardener seeks to design a landscape that suits their site conditions.
Site conditions include regional temperature ranges and precipitation patterns, as well as local soils and the amount of sun or shade in a particular location. A natural gardener spends time learning about their site, then tries to find a happy medium between the plants they would like to grow and the plants that will thrive in the available conditions.
Natural gardeners typically include a lot of native plants in their designs. A homeowner in Wisconsin may establish a prairie in their yard, while a homeowner in Arizona would choose plants adapted to tolerate hot, dry conditions. Besides contributing to local ecosystems, designs incorporating native plants evoke a sense of place, rather than looking like “Anytown, USA”.
Natural yards also vary according to the specific set of principles followed by the homeowner. A wildlife gardener may use exclusively native plants, alongside habitat features such as a pond or brush pile, in order to attract and support local birds and butterflies. A permaculture practitioner, on the other hand, may assemble fruits and vegetables from around the world to maximize food production for themselves.
By working with nature instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all design, a gardener can create a beautiful, unique space that performs many functions and connects them to the place where they live.