Larry Weaner’s photography demonstrating his ideas of designing the landscape to restore ecology while creating beautiful places wowed the Turning a New Leaf audience. He’s the mastermind behind the conference New Directions in the American Landscape now in its 27th year and scheduled for January 7-8 in New London, Connecticut, and January 14-15 in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.
Larry’s approach asks the question, “What happens when I leave it alone?” What ends up being desirable, what undesirable? And how can those outcomes be steered? How do you create gently managed plant communities that evolve into stable systems requiring minimal maintenance?
Precisely using soil disturbance is a key: No tilling that daylights the seed bank. “Stack the cards in favor of the species you want to dominate.” Other non-traditional ideas: Sow seed in the summer, when that would normally occur. “Bypass spring, the season when most weeds begin regrowing.” He also is fond of using “mother patches” that produce seed to spread into adjacent areas. And he adds live plants along with sowing seed. Using plants instead of seed for dominant species in small-scale plantings speeds establishment and allows him to more precisely place plants, even using cultivars if desired.
He looks at plant compositions/communities asking where they’re going—which species will be increasing, which dying out and what may happen if he does nothing to interfere. Remarking on a photo of a three-year meadow, he commented that short-lived Coreposis lanceolata and the biennial Rudbeckia hirta will not last in the planting. Heliopsis helianthoides on the other hand is a large, long-lived aggressive species that may out-compete the asclepias, which is also long-lived, but not an aggressive player.