Designing from nature

You could tell from my last, hurried post that we were going to the Galapagos, right? The trip was a lifetime dream, and it didn’t disappoint. Of course you go to the Galapagos to walk in the footsteps of Darwin and the other great early naturalists whose work began to show us how the natural world works; you certainly go to see the amazing wildlife (see today’s NY Times for one of the most fascinating examples). But I go to look at plants.

Whenever I hike, I draw design inspiration from nature. I look at the way nature arranges plant communities and use what I see to help me design landscapes for my clients. Depending on the location, the species I see differ wildly, but the design principles are constant: nature abhors a vacuum and loves diversity. Here are just three examples, from two completely different locales. But think about what they have in common.


Inspiration for a  rock garden on Sombrero Chino (“Chinese Hat”), a tiny island in the Galapagos. Note the absence of empty space and the diversity of plant colors and forms.

IMG_20160927_105720 (1)

A blueberry barren in midcoast Maine, another dry, sunny site with a similar diversity of plant forms.


A shady site in midcoast Maine that exhibits the same two key traits of diversity and abundance.

No empty space, and no need for yards of mulch, in these beautiful environments.


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