Elisa Meara, CBLP-D
Native plants garden designer
Landscape designer Elisa Meara tells us,how she came to be excited about working with Northern Virginia native plants.
I grew up in the Dominican Republic. Nature—especially plants—always played a big role in my life. Living in a country where the weather allows people to enjoy the outdoors all-year-round, I became very interested in the beautiful array of textures, colors, forms, fragrances and shades of the Dominican flora. This was the beginning of my passion for beauty and design.
During the last fifteen years I have lived in five different countries. In each place, I faced the challenges that come with new and different kinds of plants, soils, and weather. But the difficulties and hardships were always more than compensated for by the joy of learning, and the adventure of working with things new and exotic.
While living in England, I trained at the Inchbald School of Design, successfully completing one of the most demanding garden design programs in the world. There I fell in love with the contemporary naturalistic style of designers like Piet Oudolf from the Netherlands. These designs resemble very much the way plants grow in nature; many of the plants he uses are native to North America.
I moved back to Virginia on July 2010 but was very surprised to see so many plants of Asian or European origin around our neighborhood. I joined the Master Gardeners of Green Springs program to learn more about the the flora of this area and how best to garden in the local conditions. My eyes were opened to the wonderful world of plants native to the Mid-Atlantic region. Many of these American native plants were the same ones I recognized from the most beautiful gardens in Europe. Another big influence on my career path was the research of Dr. Douglas Tallamy on the role of indigenous plants in a healthy ecosystem.
It was with these influences that my company, Native Plants Landscape Design, was born. I wanted to use my design skills to create gardens that are not only pleasing to people but also functional to the ecosystem. One of my goal as a designer is to show my clients that by selecting the right plants, they can have a garden that not only is beautiful, but that has a positive impact in the environment. Gardens composed of native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife, help control erosion, attract pollinators, use less water than the traditional suburban gardens and have no need for fertilizers or any other artificial chemicals.
Creating gardens that play a role supporting our ecosystem has been very rewarding. Every year these gardens come alive with butterflies, birds, bees and all sorts of flying pollinators. It is so fun to watch the movement of the grasses on a windy day or to discover beautiful hues of pinks, yellows, oranges, and deep purple that only nature can produce. I feel so lucky that I get to do the work I do. It has been a path of discovery and constant learning. My hope is that more people in our area start considering how their own gardens, no matter the size, can contribute to a healthier ecosystem and a more beautiful world.