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Home grown: Mary Pellerito

Landscaping protects, restores

April 06, 2011 - Many of us with lakefront property want to spend our time enjoying the water and not doing landscaping chores. So, we chose to plant a lawn like our land-locked neighbors.

However, the ecosystem of a lakeshore is much different from the ecosystem of a home built in a former farm field or on a city lot.

Traditional lawns have few of the benefits of a more natural shoreline. Lawns are shallow rooted, provide little wildlife habitat, need frequent maintenance, and are often over-fertilized.

If you look at a natural shoreline, you will notice a variety of plants growing to the water's edge. Some of these plants are non-native and invasive and make the unmanaged shoreline look unsightly.

The unmanaged plants may block the view of the water and provide no easy access to the lake. Lakeshore property owners often consider the vegetation along the shoreline to be weeds.

Yet this lakeshore vegetation serves to protect water quality, the quality of your beach, and the fish and wildlife habitat. Lakeshore vegetation can be managed in a way that allows recreational activities and a beautiful view.

I do not propose to allow the shoreline to go 'au natural' but to think of creating a buffer area between your lawn and the water where native plants can do their job of preventing shoreline erosion by absorbing wave action; filtering out pollutants and runoff that degrade water quality; increase native wildlife habitat; and decrease nuisance animals, such as Canadian geese and muskrats.

Lakescaping, in short, is the process of restoring the shorelines of lakes with native grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs to help to prevent the erosion of the shoreline.

James Brueck, owner of Native Lakescapes, LLC, likes to use cardinal flower, blue lobelia, joe pye weed, blue vervain, marsh blazing star, swamp milkweed, iron weed, and blue flag iris along a waterfront. Creation of a buffer zone is the essence of the lakescaping concepts. A buffer zone is an unmowed strip of native vegetation that extends both lakeward and landward from the water's edge.

A buffer zone that extends 25-50 feet from shore is preferable, but even 10-15 feet provides benefits. Installing a buffer zone can restore many functions critical to the health of the lake and may have been eliminated previously by sod, hard structures, or mowing.

Creating and maintaining natural buffer zones along the shore does not mean your property has to look unkempt and requires less maintenance than you may think.

"Nothing is really maintenance free," says Mr. Brueck. "However, once established, the native plants do a good job of defending their territory. As they grow larger and fill in the garden, it is harder for the weeds and other uninvited plants to take seed and germinate. But like any other garden project, you need to enjoy working in the garden to maximize effectiveness and beauty of native plants."

For assistance in lakescape design, contact Native Lakescapes, LLC; James Brueck P.O.Box 271 Clarkston, MI 48346.

Call 248-736-3014 or check www.nativelakescapes.com/

Mary Pellerito is a garden writer living in Brandon Township, Michigan. She is a Master Gardener and a member of Wild Ones. You can contact Mary at mary.pellerito@gmail.com

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