Design with Natives – Maine Roadside Inspiration

This past August I had the good fortune to visit family in Maine for a week.  They live at the end of a half-mile road that was carved into the woods.  The edges of the road are mowed periodically, but native species are allowed free rein between the mowed areas and the woods.
One day I took my camera and went to see what kinds of design inspirations I could find from a roadside woodland edge. And there was plenty! Here are four interesting design patterns I found.
Masses
When a simple modest plant arranges itself in a large colony, design magic happens.  Look at this array of ferns below, for instance. They create a lovely textural line that they eye can dwell on, a distinct transition layer between the trees and the roadside.
 The massing below is one of my favorites.  It’s a bracken fern, which has a long stem before the leaf stems branch out. When they decide to grow in a row, they make a stunning contrast to the dark trees behind and the rough roadside in front.

Up to now, my gardening style has mostly been combining single plants in interesting combinations.  I’m just getting used to the idea of using multiple plants in a tight grouping – line or drift or mass – to create a new and different shape. This really showed the design power of massing plants!

Mixed Textures
Several spots had multiple kinds of plants growing adjacent to each other, providing a nice set of mixed textures.  The first one below is a mix of ferns, a young white pine, and sweet fern.  The second is white pine with birch – I guess white pine goes with everything, right?  As I do new plantings with shrubs and foliage predominating, these will be a great examples to remember.
Ground Covers – Plus
A common grouping I observed was a ground cover or two with a taller plant growing out and through the ground cover.  They were all sizes – the lowest, shown below, started with moss as the ground cover, allowing wintergreens and other small plants to poke through.
In a few places, wild strawberry was trying to establish itself as a ground cover, shown below with grasses.

Ground covers aren’t always low to the ground.  In this spot, the ground cover was a combination of moss and low-bush blueberries, with ferns as the accent plant.

I have been trying to use more and more ground covers throughout my garden.  In these examples I love the contrast between the ground cover and the accent plant, including the height variations.  Now to go look for some places in the garden where I can do this.

Eye-Catchers
In this mid-August walk I saw many late-summer flowers in bloom.  They were all in what I call the eye-catcher category, which is one or two plants blooming among foliage.  Here are a few that caught my eye: fleabane, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, and black-eyed Susan.

I do have some sections of the garden that are mostly foliage.  What if I tucked just one or two flowering plants there? More to experiment with!

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