New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden


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Recreate the wild beauty and thriving ecology of meadows, prairies, woodlands, and streamsides in your own garden.

In New Naturalism, horticulturist and modern plantsman Kelly D. Norris shares his inspiring, ecologically sound vision for home gardens created with stylish yet naturalistic plantings that mimic the wild spaces we covet—far from the contrived, formal, high-maintenance plantings of the past. Through a basic introduction to plant biology and ecology, you’ll learn how to design and grow a lush, thriving home garden by harnessing the power of plant layers and palettes defined by nature, not humans.

The next generation of home landscapes don’t consist of plants in a row, pruned to perfection and reliant on pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides to survive. Instead, today’s stunning landscapes convey nature’s inherent beauty. These gardens are imbued with romance and emotion, yet they have so much more to offer than their gorgeous aesthetics. Naturalistic garden designs, such as those featured in this groundbreaking new book, contribute to positive environmental change by increasing biodiversity, providing a refuge for wildlife, and reconnecting humans to nature.

In the pages of New Naturalism you’ll find: 
  Planting recipes for building meadows, prairies, and other grassland-inspired open plantings even in compact, urban settings Nature-inspired ways to upgrade existing foundation plantings, shrub beds, and flower borders to a wilder aesthetic while still managing the space Inspiration for taking sidewalk and driveway plantings and turning them into visually soft, welcoming spaces for humans and wildlife alike Ideas for turning shady landscapes into canopied retreats that celebrate nature  Creative ways to make an ecologically vibrant garden in even the smallest of spaces
New Naturalism approaches the planting beds around our homes as ecological systems. If properly designed and planted, these areas can support positive environmental change, increase plant and animal diversity, and create a more resilient space that’s less reliant on artificial inputs. And they do it all while looking beautiful and improving property values.

From the Publisher

How Plants Metabolize Indicates Where They Are Best Adapted to GrowHow Plants Metabolize Indicates Where They Are Best Adapted to Grow

How Plants Metabolize Indicates Where They Are Best Adapted to Grow

In the unfolding story of why some plants live where they do, it’s worth looking at how plant metabolism reflects the nature of place. Photosynthesis is the primary process through which plants convert sunlight energy in conjunction with carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen. Over 90 percent of plant species utilize the C3 pathway that is optimized for temperatures between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 21 degrees Celsius). Plants that utilize the C3 pathway tend to exist in temperate climates with moderate light intensity, moderate temperatures, and abundant moisture. In contrast, the 5 percent or so of plant species that utilize the C4 pathway evolved to thrive in areas with intense sunlight, intense temperatures, and often severe seasonal variations in moisture. That many grasses are C4 plants begins to explain their prevalence in midcontinental climates with hot, humid summers.

The remaining handful of plant species, principally succulents, cacti, and some aquatic plants, possess Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) as an adaptive strategy to endure severe eco stress, like that found in deserts.

Gardening in the era of climate change will require us to think about how to bridge and adapt adjacent floras from climatic regions with physiologically relatable floras. Gardening in the era of climate change will require us to think about how to bridge and adapt adjacent floras from climatic regions with physiologically relatable floras.



yellow floweryellow flower

wild flowerswild flowers

golden rod with purple flowersgolden rod with purple flowers

From a gardener’s view, the nearly three-foot-tall (1-metertall) I. setosa, native to wet meadows in Japan, has a totally different habit, phenology, and character than the much-shorter 12-inch-tall (30-cm-tall) forms found in glacial washouts or rocky beaches throughout Canada and the Arctic Circle.

Packera cana (woolly groundsel) superficially resembles its distant cousin Senecio abrotanifolius (orange flowered groundsel) in form and function, despite existing on opposite sides of the world. Both are stress-tolerant perennials with a penchant for growing in crevices or on rocky hillsides.

Around the world, glades and similar communities formed around rock outcrops with minimal soil profiles inspire a New Age approach to making landscapes amid the concrete formations of the built environment. We can use these wild plant palettes to form novel, resilient plantings in cities.

I find as much inspiration for making gardens from roadside wildflowers as I do in the most heralded designed landscapes. These gritty circumstances teem with plants and reveal so much about the value of stress in promoting and managing diversity in gardens.

What Are You Planting?What Are You Planting?

What Are You Planting?

You have a list of plants, but what are you actually planting? Larger, containerized perennials? Bare-root trees and shrubs? What about plants grown as plugs or liners, the sort of product that commercial nurseries use to grow the larger plants you typically buy at retail? Across the world, there’s a quiet shift afoot to more sustainable production systems that consume less peat and plastic, two of horticulture’s biggest sins, and yield smaller plants that establish quite readily. For many gardeners, this reality is still forthcoming. Regardless of the sizes of plants to which you have access, consider this: smaller plants with good root systems actually establish faster than larger plants with extensive root systems that often suffer from greater physiological stress post-transplanting.

Certainly there are exceptions, particularly for plants that don’t transplant easily at small sizes or when you might need instant gratification by using larger plants at the outset. All told, the future is smaller and more economical or, at least, with a better value proposition: gardeners get more plants for their money.

showy hedge of Hydrangea paniculatashowy hedge of Hydrangea paniculata

Perennials for Bioswales and Damp Conditions

Bioswales, colloquially referred to as rain gardens, are practical plantings that mitigate stormwater in urban landscapes. Many municipalities incentivize their creation, attempting to alleviate demands on underground water and sewer infrastructure. While fashionable for those reasons, so often they lack any kind of eco practicality to make them functionally and aesthetically successful. The tritest rain gardens amount to a handful of plants adapted to wet soils with the standard mulch or gravel skirt that does little more than wash away when inundated. Effective rain gardens rely on wild precedents such as ephemeral wetlands and marsh edges, transition zones defined by water flow and floodplains, all examples where water levels fluctuate within a growing season and where plant communities naturally have a range of tolerances to extremes such as flooding in spring and seasonal drought in summer.

The biological density of these communities is often quite high as expected by the abundance of water and can regenerate quickly after disturbance or stress.

Against a legible, showy hedge of Hydrangea paniculata, this roundabout bioswale planting gets away with towering lushness, the plant palette reflecting an ecology of abundant soil moisture: Eutrochium purpureum (sweet Joe Pye weed) with selections of Molinia (moorgrass) and Hibiscus (rose mallow).

Planting Palette for Courtyards with Shady ExposuresPlanting Palette for Courtyards with Shady Exposures

Planting Palette for Wild-Inspired BordersPlanting Palette for Wild-Inspired Borders

Planting Palette for Hellstrips in Open ExposuresPlanting Palette for Hellstrips in Open Exposures

Planting Palette for Ground-covering PerennialsPlanting Palette for Ground-covering Perennials

Planting Palette for Courtyards with Shady Exposures

The shade-tolerant plants listed here represent functional choices for northern temperate zones across a range of soil moisture regimes with manageable tendencies in a small space, including, but not limited to, a combination of plant size, vigor, penchant for reseeding, and floriferousness.

Planting Palette for Wild-Inspired Borders

This rather abbreviated palette is principally herbaceous and presents contemporary choices that thrive in warm, sunny conditions with moderate degrees of fertility and consistent drainage. Further, I favor those that either persist with structural value in most climates for much of the growing season or contribute to the spontaneity of the planting at the discretion of the gardener. Plants marked (*) are likely to be somewhat short-lived but proliferate through reseeding.

Planting Palette for Hellstrips in Open Exposures

Plants listed here thrive in disturbance-prone conditions with well-drained soils and open exposures, including some light shade. Selections require few investments after establishment thriving with good salt tolerance. Many plants on this palette would thrive in green roof applications.

Planting Palette for Ground-covering Perennials

Shade-tolerant plants listed here spread to form colonies with greater sociality due to stolons, rhizomes, or other space-occupying biomass. Species vary in their soil preferences but illustrate plant diversity of this archetype from across the globe.

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Cool Springs Press (February 16, 2021)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0760368198
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0760368190
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2 pounds
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 8.25 x 0.85 x 10.3 inches


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