Thomas began speaking about his childhood growing up in Birmingham, AL and roaming through the woods in wild places. He also discussed his career track through Oehme van Sweden and now at Rhodeside & Harwell. He has realized that the way we design our gardens is quite different from the way nature creates plant communities. Wild places have many stresses yet plants still thrive. An example is the hell strip that Thomas found in his Arlington neighborhood, pictured below, where all variety of plants have established themselves. Mulch is not found in the wild, instead all types of plants cover the soil, especially low growing plants. Also in the wild the plant color palette is very harmonious, while we try to sometimes use very drastic colors against each other. Natural plant communities are complex adaptive systems and have very deep roots that allow them to survive some harsh conditions. He is recommending to design our own plant communities using these same principals.
May Apples under and Oak tree
The Seasonal layer are those plants that provide the blooms or textures of the season. These are the popular plants that most people want in their garden as they provide the showy flowers and attractive foliage. The Structural layer consists of the woody plants plus the larger perennials. Examples would be Panicum, Joe Pye Weed, Rudbekia, Hosta, and Indian grass. The suggested mix is 5-15% Structural, 30-40% Seasonal, and 50% Ground covers. Thomas also suggested mixing cool season plants with warm season plants along with evergreens perennials that have basal leaf foliage so that there are different plants showing at different times.