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Natural Beauty . . . what do we value?

I believe most of us know that inner beauty and the value of our soul is more important than physical appearance. I also believe that we know that someone’s inner beauty affects our perception of their outer beauty. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good and taking time and effort into creating a pleasing outward appearance, but it is always important to remember what’s truly important.

These thoughts are coming to mind as I contemplate the value and beauty of our landscapes. My values have changed over the years. I have degrees in horticulture and landscape architecture. I concentrated in ecological design and have always wanted to contribute to the planet in a positive way. When I first started designing, I had a more traditional horticultural influence. Over time, and with a deeper immersion into ecological landscaping, I have come to appreciate and prefer a more wild sense of planting. Or more accurately put, something more closely resembling what nature intended. Many would not prefer a wild landscape, it sounds unkept, messy, and not impressive. What would the neighbors think? For me, the sense of wild has become more and more desirable. Wild places in my mind mean birds, butterflies, and insects have all they need to survive, pollinate, and thrive. I know that native plants and insects are the base for a healthy ecology. We cannot thrive on this planet without a healthy balance of species. So now, I smile when I see insects, I love to see leaves left on the ground under trees so those insects have a place to over winter. I love to see brown stalks of perennials left up all winter so that birds can nibble on seeds and insects can live in the stems. I love to see plants growing together out competing invasive weeds. My perception of beauty has changed based on my values. I see the beauty in life and the cycles of nature. It makes me happy to add more and more native plants. My lawn is shrinking and my insect populations are growing. More bird sightings are happening. It’s beautiful. Truly.

All of that being said, I think you can have all of that natural beauty and still have a beautiful appearance as well. I have found that neat borders help define a space and make it more desirable. Adding accent elements and using principles of design can make a space more pleasing to the general public while still allowing the wild and natural beauty to shine. Native plants have so much ornamental value to offer with flowers, color, fruits, and texture. So, how do you define beauty? What do you value in a landscape?

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