We are surrounded by many landscapes, but are they living? A house and garage expansion made way for this major site renovation, which includes a large edible garden with multiple raised beds, fire pit, paver walkways, rain gardens, permeable driveway and a huge selection of native plants!

The swampy site dictated the selection of moisture loving plant material — obedient plant, rattlesnake master, swamp milkweed, iris, serviceberry, sweetspire and more! These plants provide bloom and texture all year long, but more importantly provide a variety of ecological functions — a truly living landscape.

Native insects evolve with native plants over millions of years, which is why native plants are truly essential for living landscapes — biodiversity, shelter and food for wildlife. Non-invasive, non-native plants are great to sprinkle in for pops of color or interest, but provide very little ecological function and do not provide a food source for insects and birds.

In addition, the deep native plant roots reduce the need for additional inputs of fertilizers and pesticides, help stabilize the soil and absorb excess nutrients from runoff — all beneficial for habitat and the nearby Elkhorn Creek watershed. To add to the ecological benefit, invasive species are continually removed from the property and low grass prairies in the front and back yards were added for pollinators, birds and general love of the environment.

The native plants, rain gardens, drainage and permeable driveway were critical in managing water on the site in a natural way. The permeable paver driveway is constructed of Techo-Bloc Pure paver and bordered by exposed aggregate to coordinate with the rest of the project.

The paver walkway and custom cedar Davinci arbor invite friends and family to the backyard and lead them to a small paver patio where they can gather around the fire pit. Corrugated Corten and cedar raised edible beds, a coordinating cedar arbor for vining edible plants are surrounded by asparagus, blueberries and other perennial edible favorites.

Home to several dogs, the backyard was reclaimed with another fence to separate dogs and nice landscape area, while the new cedar pergola doubled as a food structure and shade and entrance to the deck for the dogs. Many life forms were considered within the design and function of the land.

This living landscape has it all — a place to relax and create memories, food (for humans and wildlife), discovery, scenic value, native plants and a respect for the land and our natural heritage.

The first year of the front yard prairie brings early species, predominantly black eyed susan. Other species will populate over time. (Photo submitted)
The raised beds provide ample room for a kitchen garden, complete with fruits, vegetables and herbs. (Photo submitted)
Native prairie dropseed, coreopsis, New Jersey team, chokeberry and serviceberry provide a food source for insects and deep root systems. (Photo submitted)
As other gardens tend to fade, this garden pops with color thanks to obedient plant, aromatic aster and prairie dropseed. (Photo submitted)