We are taking inquiries for later 2024 and beyond! North By Nature Landscapes is a small design-build company with strong ethics and a commitment to our clients. We serve northwest lower Michigan with landscape and waterfront restoration consulting, design, planning, installation, and maintenance. Our passion is creating beloved landscapes that support wildlife and seasonal recreation, using beautiful plants native to northern Michigan and natural stone. Call Bret at 231-340-0446 or email bhuntman@nbnlandscapes.
The owners of this promising parcel on the Sturgeon River came to us seeking a comfortable, level place to relax by the river with their guests.
Before: Chairs around the fire pit would sit on an awkward slope.
We began talking in 2020 about creating a native, beachfront landscape from the shoreline all the way up to the deck. Planting in sand was easy but convincing everyone that we could skip the irrigation system took a little extra. Just sand. Natural, locally and responsibly harvested from an inland sand dune / quarry replaced old useless turf grass. We then made sure to plant deep-rooted, drought tolerant grasses and a season full of flowers. June Grass, Little Blue Stem, Canada Blue Joint and Prairie Dropseed recreate the dune-like planting framework. Ratibida, Echinacea pallida, Bee Balm, Cylindrical Blazing Star, Butterfly Weed, Swamp Milk Weed, Wild Indigo, Coreopsis and Stiff Goldenrod. The mix is about 50/50 grasses vs. flowers with some aggressive spreaders to help fill in the lakeside buffer zone quickly and for the long term.
Landscape enhancements included the road-side as well. Here we installed a collection of native trees and shrubs to complement the builder’s stone installation and hardscapes. A hardy Redbud cultivar with burgundy leaves, a Rainbow Pillar Serviceberry, and a new species White Pine accompany a multi-stemmed Paper Birch as the centerpiece to the public face of the cottage. Species Fragrant Sumac shrubs sit next to a few of their shorter Gro-Low relatives. Rugged and native, Low Bush Honeysuckle ‘Michigan Sunset’ provide amazing erosion protection and fantastic color changes throughout the season. A private dog-run for August is dotted with a few Little Bluestem and a lot of cedar mulch. Outside the fence, Mountain Mint, Foxglove Beardtongue, Black Eyed Susans, Sky Blue Asters and a few Purple Coneflowers fill in the understory of mature White Pines. Careful observation revealed that the relatively open canopy could support sun-lovers and shade plants alike and provide color and habitat for pollinators from May through October. Shady areas on the hillside were planted with Ivory Sedge, while sunny patches along the stone walkway were treated to a mix of Michigan and Massachusetts Bearberry, Harebell, Prairie Smoke, Spotted Bee Balm, with some locally grown Lavender and Russian Sage. I find adding a couple of well behaved non-native plants that bloom along side the natives add a subtle quality of sophistication in a rather wild landscape. Plus the deer hate the Lavender and Russian Sage.
The after photos were taken in June and the client was thrilled. We will be adding a few more native shrubs to the upper shoreline area this summer as the water on Lake Charlevoix is much lower this season. The focus will be to develop a healthy band of root systems just above the Ordinary High Water Mark to protect the entire shoreline. But that is for another blog. Click or tap the photos below to enlarge.
A watershed is described by the US Geological Survey as a “precipitation collector.” It is, by definition, a geographical area within which all flows to a common point. For example, each of the Great Lakes is the drainage destination of their own watersheds, which in turn combine to form the Great Lakes Basin watershed, draining into the St. Lawrence Seaway and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Essentially, all but the smallest watersheds are connected. Click on the images below for links to examples of NBN’s local watersheds.
Every household within a watershed has the potential to influence the quality of water flowing out of it. Storm-water runoff from roofs, across driveways, and into sewers is often discharged straight into water bodies, carrying pollutants picked up along the way. Small actions such as reducing fertilizer and pesticide use on lawns, installing rain gardens, and planting buffer strips along shorelines can have big impacts on water quality.
Our many inland lakes and rivers are the precipitation collectors and a point of heavy activity throughout the year. Shoreline habitats are critical to the health of the entire lake yet this is where the pollutants concentrate and cause the most harm. What we lakeshore homeowners do while “fixing up” our lakeshore property can add to the end result of destroying one of our states invaluable resources, the fragile habitat along lakeshores.
Some changes we make that may damage the habitat are:
- Trucking in sand used to make a beach may end up covering natural gravel which is used by frogs for laying eggs, fish for spawning and by various insects for hatching.
- Removing aquatic vegetation for boating and swimming can create an unstable habitat that is needed for bass to spawn, loons to nest, waterfowl to eat and insects use to live underwater in! Songbirds use shoreline shrubs for nesting while ducks use shoreline grasses for laying eggs.
- Removal of dead fallen trees along the waters edge where bass and various pan fish love to hide also makes it difficult for the turtles and other wildlife who sit atop the tree to sun themselves and take a break from the water.
Do what you can to minimize use of toxic chemicals and fertilizers on your property. Make the switch from traditional mowed lawn to native grasses and wildflowers that require less maintenance. Avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and limit the use of organic ones.
In fact, your property may have enough space for a lightly developed shoreline and a stunning buffer garden such as the one pictured below. The lush plantings on the right were installed two-three years prior to the plantings on the left. Keep in mind that it will take a few seasons to grow your garden. A skilled gardener experienced in native plants is important to keeping unwanted weeds out while the natives become established. See our previous “Sound Up” post to view pollinators enjoying the late summer Asters and Goldenrod seen here.
This Walloon Lake buffer garden is populated with native perennials, grasses and sedges aiding in the reduction of potential runoff from the lawn.
It may sound counter-intuitive: the idea that a “clean” lawn and shoreline may make a “dirty” lake but complicated things are often that way. The experts at North by Nature Landscapes specialize in natural shorelines and landscapes using native plants and materials to stop erosion and replace lost natural shoreline habitats. Call Bret at 231-340-0446: we would be happy to do our part in helping enhance and preserve your property.
Shoreline Pollinator Garden featuring New England Asters. Seed grown native species are crucial for the health of our landscapes and ecosystems. They are also visually stunning and are the last flowers to bloom – often into October when all others have faded. We have combined them with Stiff Goldenrod, Mountain Mint, Swamp Milkweed, native Hibiscus, Blue Lobelia, Cardinal Flower, and Tussock Sedge in a shoreline buffer garden replacing an unmowable and swampy lawn. Background audio is the real deal so turn it up to enjoy fully.
New England Aster and Stiff Goldenrod, October 2021, Walloon Lake, MI
Water levels of the Great Lakes are at or approaching ALL TIME HIGH RECORDS. Shoreline erosion is a BIG problem. Larger boats and wake boarding recreation are creating bigger waves than mother nature does. Threats to property, near shore structures, and fish habitats are on the rise.
Construction site restoration services focus on cost-effective, ecologically responsible, and successful restoration of impacted habitats. At the location illustrated, plants are establishing well and will be blooming with new growth in time for early summer occupation of the residence.
Lake Shoreline Erosion, Emergency Repair, Natural Shoreline Restoration: Short-rooted turf grass is no match for waves or flowing water. Over 90 cubic yards of soil washed into Black Lake over a 14-year period. Within 4 days we stabilized the bank and created a seedbed for deep rooted plants.