It's been a real challenge to balance the clean cut look with the natural look. As my lawn transforms to open space, unexpected weeds, tree seedlings, and itinerant natives fill in the gaps between the natives I planted last year. That's called succession by ecologists, and must be incorporated into the new look as much as the plantings of prior years.
I've found it useful to bunch natives together sometimes, to make a dramatic effect in an otherwise uneventful lawn. In other areas, I'm experimenting with tall native grasses interspersed wth more aggressive native flowers that won't be outcompeted. In low areas, I'm planting natives that prefer wetter soils, adding some peat moss in to retain moisture.
Creating paths to interesting features, begins with taking notice of high points or low points, sun or shade, back wooded areas or privacy gaps. Are there some interesting trees you would like to highlight? I have added an old fashioned picnic table tucked away from the main path. Trails, traveled in the woods or at home, get you from here to there, and enable you to explore and observe the changing seasons. Keep paths wide enough with a lawn mower.
Tactically, the natives have their own preferences. They spread out into disturbed areas, by root or by seed. To set them back, I mow them flat in early spring. This sounds crazy, but as lawn yields to open space, you can either burn it (not recommended) or mow it. Spotty field mowing has improved the overall look and feel of the open space I'm creating.
Don't forget about transplanting in early spring. I've moved birch trees from the back to the front, so as to shade out street lamps and improve privacy. And am learning the ways of deer: what they will eat, and how to deter them from eating too much.
Quality Parks is at the 2018 Port Jefferson Farmers Market on Sundays from 9am -2 pm. We will teach you how to be a more mindful conservation practitioner. Learn about what native plants Quality Parks is selling at: CSA for Native Plants.