Less is More - Gardening in Madison, WI


Because simplicity is such an important consideration these days I thought I'd highlight a few situations where "less is more."


- Smaller Plants, or "Rather than planting enormous trees and shrubs, try to be content with smaller materials"  

A few benefits:

  1. more varieties are available
  2. less costly
  3. less fuel used in transportation
  4. smaller plants are more easily established and often catch up the the size of larger transplants that suffer from transplant shock


- Less Plants, or "Providing Proper Spacing for Plants"

Rather than overcrowding a planting, a better long-term solution is installing the appropriate number of plants, and providing space for them to grow.  This is especially true of trees and shrubs - they are often planted without the final size in mind.   Beyond the greater initial investment for the excess plants, this leads to more pruning needs and often the premature removal and replacement of the landscape. 

Please keep in mind that natural communities like prairies have much higher densities and diversity of plants than the typical residential garden so these statements aren't applicable to all planting types


- Simple, Clean Design  

For some reason, planting beds are often laid out with a a great deal of arbitrary curvature. Don't get me wrong, I love curves, but think that many designers and home gardeners often overdo it.  My goal is always a composition that flows well together and looks unified.  This is often accomplished through simple (but thoughtfully conceived) bed layouts, repetition of plants, and a harmonious color palette.  Simple, sophisticated design is often seen inside the home, but for some reason, in the landscape the focus is on more curves, and more species of plants, and more stunning colors.   

Unnecessary curves and variety add detail that often detracts from the beauty of the site and plants - the curves and individual plant specimens draw attention to themselves rather than allowing the composition to shine.


- Less input of water, fertilizer, and chemicals (and hopefully maintenance)

It's a 'no brainer' that less pruning, watering, fertilizing, and pesticide use is better.  This is possible only if the proper plants are selected for site conditions, plants are installed with proper room to grow, and they are maintained properly.  Let's focus on designing it right and having the proper maintenance plan in place so we can save energy, money, and time.

Often-times native plants are a great solution as they are well adapted to our climate and soils. Some natives can be "too well adapted" though and can become weedy in the wrong place.  It's all about trying to find the right plants and plant combinations for the space and it takes a lot of thought (and learning from mistakes).  We focus on native and non-invasive plants that are suited to the site and the client's tastes and goals.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?