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Natural Landscaping

Natural Landscaping
Designing with Native Plant Communities
by John Diekelmann and Robert M. Schuster
The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003

Wisconsin landscape architect John Diekelmann and writer-educator Robert Schuster collaborated on the first edition of this manual on establishing natural ecosystems 20 years ago. 

The updated edition expands on the importance of weed management early in the planning process and revises much of the species nomenclature to bring the book up-to-date with recent botanical research.

They also added "a concluding chapter that attempts to suggest the deep meaningfulness that can be found in restoring a piece of native landscape" their preface explains.

They profile an ongoing landscape restoration project by a rural historical society in central Wisconsin centered around a 90-year-old schoolhouse.

"Having discovered the nature of the presettlement landscape on which the community school had been located and having learned of the affection of the settlers for the landscape... members of the historical society endorsed the formal development of a design that would be a unique restoration project for the area and a meaningful memorial to the area's settlers."

Emphasizing the natural landscapes of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, Diekelmann and Schuster's book reviews basic landscaping principles,illustrates how to evaluate a site and plan for visual effect and maintenance, offers practical advice on combatting invasive plants without heavy chemical use, and  introduces native plant species for grasslands, forests, edge areas, and small wetlands. 

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Plant Sources

     A major consideration in planting design is the availability of the native plant materials needed in a community approach to naturalizing. There is a concern among some botanists that the integrity of the genetic makeup of local species may be compromised by the introduction of plants from distant areas. While local plants have adapted to their environment over thousands of year, plants of the same species from other areas may have adapted to different conditions.

     The safest and most ethical answer to this problem is to make every attempt to use plants from populations growing with 50 miles of the site to be planted. Not only will they be more likely to thrive, they may help to insure the preservation of locally adpated species.

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