Wild values and the beauty of nature can be found anywhere, from a weed struggling to survive in the cracked concrete of a sidewalk, to the grandeur of Yosemite. An understanding of ecological processes makes it possible to greatly enhance the beauty and productivity of any ecosystem, whether it be a backyard or a vast wilderness area.

Landscape designs can be as sterile and hard to maintain as a suburban lawn, or they can be as diverse and ever changing as nature itself. We can invite wild creatures to share our lives, or we can shut them out. The decision is ours.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, located within the city limits of Gainesville, Florida, has become a haven for wildlife. Tertiary effluent is discharged into the large water feature. The nutrients contained therein have created an explosion of life. Fish have multiplied by the thousands, and with them have come innumerable frogs, snakes, turtles, alligators, and birds. Guests at the Gardens can sit in a comfortable pavilion and watch the drama of life being played out. Stately egrets and herons stalk the shoreline in search of fish. Migrating sandhill cranes find a bonanza of frogs to sustain them for the long flight north. Eagles and ospreys vie for fishing rights. All keep an eye out for the alligator. All this is possible within the city limits because the landscape design works with the processes of nature, and encourages interaction between people and wildlife.

The highest art of all is ecosystem restoration. Almost every ecosystem in America has been degraded to some degree. By understanding how nature works it is possible to improve even the most abused property. To do so will invite wildflowers and wildlife to move back in and share our lives. Ecosystem restoration may involve removing invasive exotics, creating habitat, and planting native species. It may involve thinning an existing forest to simulate old growth characteristics. It may be a matter of reintroducing wildlife. On a larger scale, the most important consideration may be the restoration of natural processes such as fire. Every site is unique, and requires careful evaluation.

It is good to design a beautiful garden, but it is far better to attempt to restore the beauty and complexity of the original ecosystem.

< Ecosystem restoration: 

This magnificent old growth forest had been degraded by the previous owner's bad land management practices. Now it has been restored by the removal of redundant vegetation and the addition of azaleas and other non invasive shrubs for spring color. Who would guess that hundreds of trees had to be cut down to achieve this? Now the forest is thriving and visitors can enjoy the miles of trails and abundant wildlife.

Ecosystem restoration >

Not so many years ago this was a worn out pasture on a private estate that had been invaded by thousands of little trees, all of which were competing such that none could thrive.  By artfully thinning the young forest this previously tangled thicket has become a beautiful wildflower meadow with properly spaced trees which will quickly grow to full size. Human beings evolved on the savanna, and as such are "hard wired" by nature to appreciate the beauty of the forest/meadow interface and the abundant wildlife that it supports.

< Habitat design for wildlife enhancement

These are fall colors Florida style. The waterfalls, streams, and artificial wetlands at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville are now eight years old. The ecosystem has matured, and hosts an incredible diversity of life from alligators to eagles, all within the City limits!

Habitat design for wildlife enhancement >

This sculptural stone water feature is located adjacent to Bruce J. Morgan’s design studio. It is filled with native fish and turtles. It attracts a wide variety of wildlife such as reptiles, amphibians, deer, fox, bobcats, hawks, owls, and countless songbirds.