Like most designed landscapes, the entry garden for the Landscape Architecture Facility at Mississippi State University began with a plan. Specifically, this one:
Most of the plants did well and adapted to the sticky clay soils and persistent summer droughts. Drip irrigation was provided for the first year and then removed. Organic mulch was added periodically and the mineral soils developed a nice thick organic layer. Other than for establishment, no supplemental watering, fertilizing, or pesticides have been used. The perennials blossomed and established a quick cover within a year's time:
The trees and woody shrubs took time to grow and changes were already happening in the herbaceous layer. Some plants died out from drought or accidental weeding while others were planted to replace them. Volunteer herbaceous plants came in from local sources-- including native strawberries, evening primrose, and asters. Volunteers can spread rapidly and take advantage of late winter seasons where there is little competition. The evening primrose gave quite a display such as this:
The garden today, 12 years later after install and shown above, has settled into a comfortable, more stable, plant community. Stable in the sense that vegetative changes will and are allowed to happen but there are no large wholesale changes to the landscape. The student managers allow plants to come in if they fit into the garden niche and offer a role through flowering or by providing other benefits. Plants that grow too large, or competitive, or are not suited-- are pulled out. Gardens are partnerships between the landscape and the people that care for them. By understanding the vegetative trajectories, or seres of a garden; and by allowing complementary plants to enter into that system from birds or wind; the garden co-evolves into a community of plants that exceeds the vision of the original designers or managers. Land managers--gardeners-- are really vegetative artists and allow the colors of plants to wash into the painting/plantings. We need to recognize that gardens are temporal and that all living things change. By listening to the land and allowing living things (plants and animals) to breathe and exist within the garden structure, the landscape renews itself. Gardens should, and need to be-- dynamic, instead of a static system.