A Self-Sustaining Garden


No watering, no weeding. Here’s how.


Kennett Square landscape architect Margot Taylor has created an ecologically sustaining garden on her estate, called Dancing Tree. It is one of just two private residences in the country certified by the Sustainable SITES Initiative, which offers a comprehensive rating system designed to distinguish sustainable landscapes, measure their performance and elevate their value.

Taylor’s gardens need little-to-no watering, weeding, or supplemental nutrients. If you would like to try creating your own maintenance-free garden, here are her tips:

• She suggests planting by “building communities” in your garden with plants in 3 categories: Bunching, Runners (ground cover) and Accents (splashes of color).  You can also use containers for color accents.

• Capture rain water in a cisterns or rain barrel. They will fill up quickly, and you can use to water plants, clean tools, or fill a birdbath rather than your treated water supply.  Ultimately you are helping slow the rate of stormwater runoff .and conserve freshwater supplies. 

• Seek inspiration! Do you like the look of a meadow or a forest? Do you like an arrangement you see at a gardening center? Ask someone that works there how to recreate it- they will be flattered!

• Re-purpose materials! When digging up your garden- especially in a city- you may find brick stone, and bits of metal. Make it a part of the landscape. Sculpt, play, experiment.

• Have fun designing, planting, and caring for your garden- Let go, there is no right or wrong. Make room for a place to sit, pause, dream, and admire your work.

Here are some plant suggestions for tight spaces- all available commercially- to get started:

Full Sun:

Bunching: Blue-eyed grass, pink muhly grass, dwarf fountain grass

Runners: Plumbago, wild strawberry, golden rod

Accent: Perennial ageratum, asters, butterfly weed, summer annuals or bulb, and why not put them in a colorful upright container!


Bunching: Pennsylvania sedge, cinnamon fern, alum root

Runner: violets, false Solomon’s seal, golden ragwort

Accent: wild geranium, woodland phlox, Indian pink, wood aster, Spanish bluebell and scilla (bulb)

—Bev Zimmermann

So, what do you think? Please comment below.