Native Landscaping: A Mosaic of Colors

May 1, 2023
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Article by Peter Wimberg of Wimberg Landscaping, presenting sponsor of the 2023 Garden Tour: Noteworthy Natives.

A few years ago, Peter Wimberg’s home was featured on our garden tour, and this year it’s his Milford-based company HQ that’s open to visitors. Like many of the home gardens on our annual tour, this business site’s garden is expanding and growing each year, under the skilled hands of landscape designer Natalie Selker and plant selector Jennifer Smith.

The Wimberg Landscaping garden is native-oriented, with wandering paths among plant beds, punctuated by stones, boulders, and Corten steel (which features a handsomely aged somewhat bronzed look) as hardscaping details.

The garden aims to be of visual interest and of benefit to nature year-round; its native plants pull in a variety of bees, goldfinches, hummingbirds, and killdeer (which like to nest among the rocks), and many varieties of butterflies and moths. Tree frogs and crickets provide a soothing soundtrack.

Grouped for maximum visual enjoyment, plants are arranged “to create unity and continuity,” Peter says.

Plants on display will include Rudbeckia maxima, rattlesnake master, asclepias, little bluestem, prairie dropseed, side-oats grama, compass plant, prickly pear, mountain mint, and Hamamelis virginiana.

Various example images of Wimberg Landscapes colorful native gardens.

Peter Wimberg and his team chose to incorporate natives and pollinators in the landscape of their Milford headquarters to show clients, and potential clients, the possibilities for amazing landscapes when using plants that are not the norm in landscaping.

"Initially, we started using these plants just to be different. We were tired of the usual evergreen foundation plantings with a tree on the corner. We wanted to use something other than the usual perennials like daylilies and sedum and so on." Peter says. "We were also inspired by the natural landscapes of the meadows in our region, the southern Appalachian mountains, and Northern Michigan.

What started out as mere curiosity and creative exploration, lead to a better understanding of how they could provide an important micro-environment, even in the middle of highly developed neighborhoods or primarily concrete landscapes.

Why should others care about incorporating native plants into their home gardens?

Peter Wimberg: Having spent almost 1000 hours working in our local and regional woodlands, for city and national parks, I know firsthand that our native plants are under attack from so many invasive plants including honeysuckle, euonymus, ivy, privet, pear trees, garlic mustard, Japanese chafe, and many other detrimental introduced species. We need to preserve our native plants for the sake of preserving our local ecosystem. If we lack the diversity that a healthy and thriving ecosystem needs, it leads to the possibility of disease, insects, or pathogens wiping out many landscapes. Boxwood blight is just one example.

Natives and pollinators provide much-needed resources for our native insects and wildlife. How amazing would it be if our neighborhoods were full of native meadows and woodlands with our homes simply blending in? I really believe that it is a matter of changing the mindset of the public. We have a very narrow view of what a residential landscape should look like—we need to expand that vision and think outside the box. We need to stop trying to control our landscapes through over-pruning and heavy use of chemicals. 

Any tips on selecting the right native plants for your space?

Peter Wimberg: When selecting plants, we have to take into account the sun pattern during the growing season. We can always improve the soil but how the sun tracks over the property is critical to plant selection. We need to spend time studying this. Where is the sun in the morning, mid-day, or early evening?

Is there a particular native plant that is your favorite and why?

Peter Wimberg: One of my favorite native species is little bluestem grass. I love how it adapts along our highways and works so well in our gardens. The color, form, and texture add so much to the garden! Its winter interest is also worth noting with its shades of brown, copper, and even crimson. 

What emotions or reactions would like to evoke when visitors tour your garden?

Peter Wimberg: When people tour our garden, I'd like them to see it not only as a mosaic of colors, forms, and textures but as a whole—to see the plants for their unique qualities. It's kind of like looking at a painting from across the room versus looking at the colors and brush strokes that make up the image. Both are worth admiring but try to view the garden as one tapestry. On your journey, get to know its many working pieces. See that this type of garden is fun; it should make you feel joyful with the activity of the bees, butterflies, and birds. It should make you feel like you want to spend time there. It should remind you that yes, we can co-exist with the native world and it can be beautiful! 

Click here to learn more about this year's Garden Tour: Noteworthy Natives and tour Wimberg Landscaping on Saturday, June 24.