Naturalized gardens

Plant a woodland, wetland, meadow or prairie habitat

Naturalized gardens use less water, need less maintenance and improve Guelph’s urban forest

Using many different native and non-invasive exotic plant species that grow and thrive together, you can create natural habitat in your own yard. Creatures may build nests or lay eggs, hibernate for the winter or just enjoy the shelter and safety of the garden.

  • There will be some weeding
  • You may need some pest control
  • You may need to add compost or other natural soil enrichment each year
  • Let plants grow as they would in nature—leave them through the winter to provide shelter for beneficial insects and seeds for other wildlife

How to replace grass with a garden

Woodland habitat

To create a natural woodland in your garden you need three main layers:

  • Tall tree canopy
  • Smaller trees, shrubs and vines
  • Ground layer of wildflowers and plants

Woodland plants prefer some shade and rich soil.

  • Layer organic matter (compost or leaves) on top of the soil each fall to maintain a rich layer of humus
  • Avoid disturbing or compacting soil
  • Leave dead twigs and leaves on the ground to provide shelter and food for various wildlife

Woodland plants

  • Actaea rubra, red baneberry
  • Asarum canadense, wild ginger
  • Dicentra cucullaria, dutchman’s breeches
  • Fragaria virginiana, wild strawberry
  • Geranium maculatum, wild geranium
  • Helianthus divaricatus, woodland sunflower
  • Hepatica spp., hepatica
  • Lobelia siphilitica, great lobelia
  • Mertensia virginica , Virginia bluebells
  • Podophyllum peltatum, mayapple
  • Polygonatum biflorum, Solomon’s seal
  • Sanguinaria Canadensis, bloodroot
  • Smilacina racemose, false Solomon’s seal
  • Tiarella cordifolia, foamflower
  • Waldsteinia fragarioides, barren strawberry

Wetland habitat

If you already have a wet area, or an area with poor drainage, consider planting some moisture-loving wetland species. Add a water feature to attract toads, insects and birds.

Wetland plants

  • Asclepias incarnate, swamp milkweed
  • Anemone Canadensis, Canada anemone
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum, boneset
  • Eupatorium maculatum, spotted Joe-pye weed
  • Gentiana andrewsii, bottle gentian
  • Impatiens capensis, jewelweed
  • Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal flower
  • Symplocarpus foetidus, skunk cabbage
  • Verbena hastata, blue vervain

Meadow and prairie habitats

In nature, meadows typically grow after a wind storm, fire or flood creates a gap in the forest canopy cover. More sun reaches the soil allowing a whole new plant community to grow as the trees slowly return.

You can create a meadow habitat using a mix of 70 per cent wildflowers and 30 per cent grasses.

  • Meadow plants will grow in full sun or part shade
  • Meadow plants tolerate moist, dry, or poor soil

Prairie habitats are tricky to establish, and very low maintenance and drought-resistant once they are.

You can create a prairie habitat using 50 percent grasses and 50 percent wildflowers.

  • Prairie plants grow in dry, nutrient-poor soil
  • Do not add nitrogen, topsoil, compost or manure

Meadow plants

  • Chelone glabra, turtlehead
  • Coreopsis lanceolate, coreopsis
  • Desmodium Canadensis, showy tick-trefoil
  • Epilobium angustifolium, fireweed
  • Helianthus annuus, sunflower
  • Lilium superbum, turk’s-cap lily
  • Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal flower
  • Penstemon digitalis, beardtongue