Ecosystem and Landscaping Integration
From: Wayne Tyson (
Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2012 09:03:27 -0700 (PDT)
Several recent posts related to this subject have indicated that cohousing is on the right track, and I will be happy to assist as much as I can upon request. I started life as a dry-farmer's son, studied landscape architecture in college, practiced landscape design and construction at both small and large scales, was a park construction inspector, supervisor of the maintenance of some very large parks, was a park planner, and an ecosystem restoration consultant for several decades. I specialized in establishing ecosystems without irrigation, fertilizer, or other maintenance, and introduced highly effective techniques that are still practiced today. I wrote papers and gave talks on ecosystem restoration, including one on integrating ecosystems and landscaping. I developed a "decision tree" kind of approach to analysis that began with goals and developed a multi-factorial "critical" path applicable to any project, any place, from deserts to wet places.

I won't blather on endlessly until you're bored to tears, but here are a few principles and ideas that might help and stimulate questions and comments:

Most landscaping is based on whim. That is, most people tend to shop for plants much as they would shop for fashions. This often means that extraordinary measures must be taken if the selected plants are to survive. That means that the landscaping is not self-sustainable.

Gardening can be a pleasure or a burden, depending upon the assemblage of plants that make up the garden.

Ecosystems in their natural state may or may not meet the requirements of the inhabitants. All organisms try to find places to live that are best-suited to them, either by moving to or staying in a habitat that suits them best or altering an environment in ways that suit them, like beavers and humans. Humans, of course, have increasingly altered all kinds of environments most drastically, and the trend remains on the upswing. Much modification, especially in landscaping, tends to wipe out the ecosystem, get out the nursery catalog, look at the pretty pictures, visit the plant nursery, and select the baby plants that appeal to them most (landscaping--it's etymology leads one to what originally meant land-scraping). Ecosystems are, by definition, completely self-sustainable.

This practice is only dominant, not universal. When one preserves, say, a tree that grew there naturally, one is taking the first step toward integration of ecosystems with landscaping, and this is where most integration stops. But it doesn't have to. Some native shrubs, grasses, forbs, and even non-vascular plants can meet the functional and aesthetic requirements of some humans.

I'll stop here, but if you have questions or comments I'll try to respond. I will be away much of the time, as this is the time of year we customarily do our traveling, but when I get home, I do sift through hundreds of emails and reply to all of those addressed to me personally--particularly those which have a subject that indicates the message content.

In any case, good luck with your efforts and moving your cohousing projects toward increasing "sustainability," even on the outside.


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