Client Stories – Specialty Garden

Native Plant Welcoming Garden

Specialty entry garden for natural burial ground to provide continual appeal for visitors while meeting the organization’s environmental objectives.

Entry area with gabion wall and sign feature just after planting

Burial ground entry area – After

Goals and Challenges

Ed leads the board of a non-profit cemetery that features a “natural burial ground” complemented by an integrated native plant meadow embodying the natural cycle of life. Ed contacted CNLD to discuss a need to increase the visual appeal of the burial area’s entrance and to consult on its early-stage meadow. The entry already had a sign and a unique gabion wall (a heavy wire box filled with large rocks) that had been donated by a prominent architectural firm.

The goal was to provide a welcoming garden for visitors using native plants to meet the “natural” vision of the organization. Design challenges included integrating the garden with the meadow, providing visual interest for visitors any time of year, and complementing the unusual esthetic of the gabion wall. Site conditions of a steep slope, thin soil and mix of shade and sun contributed to the challenge. The tight budget of the non-profit necessitates the use of volunteers for installation and maintenance adding a challenging element for successful execution.

Entry area with gabion wall and sign feature Before

Burial ground entry area – Before

Entry area before with gabion wall and sign feature and meadow in background

Burial ground entry area – Before


The project started with an on-site visit to understand the mission of Green Meadow and provide consultation and recommendation on meadow management strategies and plant identification. Gary followed up the visit with research on the design intent of the gabion wall feature to ensure his concept would meet the vision of its designer. CNLD submitted a concept entry design in competition with other designers. Upon selection, Gary finalized the design and planting documentation to meet the needs of the client. The entire process was streamlined since the goals were well understood, helping to meet a limited total installation budget for the non-profit organization.


The design features a garden with continual transition of colorful bloom and foliage and a designed path through the entry space and past the gabion wall and sign. Evergreen woody plants are incorporated into the design to provide structure, path definition and visual interest throughout winter months. Visitors will find solace in the beauty of the garden that provides visual transition from adjacent mowed turf areas to the meadow area beyond.

Site appropriate native perennial and woody plants integrate with and mimic the meadow, while meeting the challenges of light and soil conditions. Plants with extensive and varying root systems will provide long-lasting slope stabilization. The plantings also create valuable wildlife services to further enhance Green Meadow’s mission and vision. Once established, the garden design will migrate and interlock as a more complex perennial plant community that emulates the meadow.

Since maintenance during the critical establishment stages is being done by volunteers, the garden is designed incorporating structurally legible perennial plant masses organized by contrasting form and texture for easier weeding.

Entry area with gabion wall and sign feature just after planting

Burial ground entry area – After

Silver-spotted Skipper nectaring on Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa)

Skipper nectaring on Sundrops

Entry ares with gabion wall and sign feature just after planting

Burial ground entry area – After

Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' (Threadleaf Coreopsis) in flower

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’

Bumblebee (Bombus sp.) nectaring on Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' flower

Bumblebee on Coreopsis verticillata

Nessus Sphinx Moth nectaring on Amsonia x 'Blue Ice' flower

Clearwing Moth and Amsonia x ‘Blue Ice’


The design drawings and documentation provided all the needed information for accurate procurement of the plants and layout by this crew of volunteers. With only a minimal amount of additional guidance from Gary, the volunteer group executed the entire project including preparation of the planting beds, obtaining plants, layout and planting.

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