Ecology + Design

Wetland Restoration – Native Riverbank Planting – South Salem NY

This naturally beautiful landscape was the setting for a very interesting wetland restoration. The large pond pictured is actually part of the Mill River system. To improve the water quality, stabilize the soil, increase the habitat value and bio-diversity a planting plan was produced.

Care was taken not to disturb the existing soil surface and riverbank. No significant grading or ‘cut and fill’ was employed. The property already had extensive ornamental landscaping and was very well maintained by a gardening group. The homeowner was very receptive to implementing a native plant plan. The challenge was to seamlessly integrate the existing more formal gardens and traditional landscape with the ‘new’ native plant communities. The area involved was quite large affording the opportunity to introduce large sweeps, drifts and masses of plants.

By staggering the plant groups crosspollination and movement was encouraged. An already varied and active bird population was present. It was very easy to increase to variety and species. Plants were planted from seed, plugs (tubelings or eco-plugs) as well as containers and balled and burlapped. A healthy mix of perennials, grasses shrubs and small trees made up what was to become a lovely composition. There are several approaches to planting trees and shrubs in a natural, native landscape. They revolve primarily around whether trees and shrubs act as bird perches, which contribute to an increase in invasive species as a result of bird droppings.

My feeling is that restoration is hard to define. If we accept that all landscapes have been altered and manipulated by both man and nature (fire, flood events etc.) than what are we returning to what? The East coast was primarily forest. Stop mowing your lawn and find out how quickly it will revert to a sylvan setting! I had a cartoon on my desk, which reminded me of how we must muster our own resources and energy to create positive change in our environment for our health as well as artistic and spiritual enrichment. The image was of a minister with a white banded collar looking over a garden wall at a gardener on his knees (sic) while commenting: “Isn’t it amazing what the hand of God can do my son?”, the gardeners response was: “Yea father you should have seen it when God had it all to himself”.

Working with nature is rewarding in so many ways. Aside from the obvious aesthetic advantages of improving the appearance, the tangible physical benefits even short term are many. From a human and public health perspective the increase in insect-eaters aided in control of mosquito and tick populations, thereby reducing or even eliminating the threat of infectious diseases such as Lyme and West Nile. When designing natural landscape or using bio-mimicry as a model it can be useful to resource government agencies such as National Resource Conservation Service, National Wildlife Federation, or the NY Westchester County Native Plant Center. In nature we find serenity and salvation. Celebrate life!

Live the Life You Love

Jay Archer, President


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