GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2013 show23
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Show #23/3210
Two Native Gardens In North Carolina

Summary of Show

Wilmington
WILMINGTON, North Carolina is a port city located on the Cape Fear River and is only a short drive to 3 beautiful beaches. As well, it is home to some of the states most amazing gardens, many of which have a special focus on preserving and creating natural habitats.
For More Information Click here

Native Plants
Sandy feels that SELECTING NATIVE PLANTS brings a lot of diversity to the landscape. Native plants generally attract a lot of wildlife and native plants are often disease resistant and often don't need additional water. She doesn't use irrigation in her yards and she refrains from using chemicals.
For More Information Click here

 

1st Home

Non-Traditional Backyard
They are visiting a wonderful example of Sandy's work. It is a very NON-TRADITIONAL BACKYARD. Eric certainly hasn't seen many that look like a woodland paradise. It has high shade, almost a park like appearance. Sandy tells us how this came to be. The homeowner called in 1992 and referred to the space as bland and uninspiring. It was comprised of solid grass from the walkway and porch all the way to the back border. It had very few trees and was uninspiring.
For More Information Click here

Flexibility And Mobility In The Yard
It was based on the homeowners desire for FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY IN THE YARD. So after taking away the sod she put in some paths, created island beds to highlight different habitats so they could have a butterfly garden and a bird orientated garden - places for them to feed and nest. The objective was to bring some wildlife into the yard.
For More Information Click here

Landscape Maintenance
With a conventional LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE is in some ways a lot simpler. For example, it is more apparent where to mow the lawn or to make little meatballs out of shrubs. You know where you will clip them into long expanses of manicured green. With this kind of landscape it is not necessarily immediately apparent how to maintain this space or what the process might look like. Sandy has several things she does to keep this landscape in check.
For More Information Click here

Front Yard
Sandy and Eric move from the backyard to the FRONT YARD. It looks somewhat similar to the backyard, the lawn has been removed for the most part which, again, makes the area less maintenance intensive for the homeowner. The primary objective here was to provide a screen from the road for the homeowner, to give the homeowner some privacy.
For More Information Click here

Criteria For A Wildlife Habitat
Eric wants to know about the CRITERIA OF A WILDLIFE HABITAT. The 4 measures that are most commonly used - food, water, shelter and essentially space to live are the key elements in a home landscape. One of the key elements is structure, habitat structure. Here we have a tree canopy, then ground cover and then mulch, all of those combine to provide the things we're looking for - food, water and shelter.
For More Information Click here

Animals In The Landscape
Andy gets to quantify what animals are using Sandy's gardens and has seen quite a few ANIMALS move into this property because of the landscaping. The birds are the most rewarding group. There are plenty of native plants, plus the azaleas in this landscape. A wildlife habitat doesn't have to be strictly native. Shrubs provide a nesting habitat for Blue Jays, Brown Thrashers and Northern Cardinals.
For More Information Click here

 

2nd Home

A Restoration
Eric and the crew go to another landscape Sandy has designed and installed. And, it is very different from the 1st. What makes it different is the scope of the project. This project was a RESTORATION, the property was badly damaged in Hurricane Fran. Although there were some trees remaining much else was lost. The homeowner wanted to get a woodland habitat going.
For More Information Click here

Natural Landscapes Are Unique
Eric likes the fact that natural LANDSCAPES ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT because everyone is working with material that is available on that site plus the fact that that the property owners personality is infused into the site. One is working with nature as opposed to trying to impose a static design on a square plot of dirt. They talk about the plant selection process for this site and how it went from what it was, which was a fairly open lot, to beautiful wooded area.
For More Information Click here

Erosion Concerns
This property has a bit of slope and of course when removing lawn that can create an EROSION ISSUE. Sandy used hardscapes to help. They installed walkways and little walls and in the back there is a dry streambed. In the back they did put in some lawn. While Sandy typically takes lawn out there she went with lawn because that area did have an erosion issue. The St. Augustine lawn has been successful.
For More Information Click here

Andy's Advice For Maintenance
They have designed a native habitat and over the years as it started growing in, it become a nice, dense, diverse environment. What kind of advice does he have for MAINTAINING this on a day to day basis. When one builds a backyard habitat for wildlife, wildlife will bring things in. Sure squirrels and Blue Jays will bring in acorns, then suddenly one will have oaks. It's important to remember that a weed is a plant where you don't want it and that can include an Oak. So you may find yourself pulling Oaks out of the ground, thus there is some maintenance required.
For More Information Click here

 

LINKS:

Cape Fear Garden Club
Cape Fear Garden Club, Inc.

Wilmington And Beaches CVB
Wilmington And Beaches | Cape Fear Coast | Pleasure Island | Wilmington & Island Beaches

Andy Wood
Andy Wood

Beau Rivage Golf & Resort
North Carolina Golf - Beau Rivage Golf and Resort - (800) 628-7080

Plant List

 

 

Show #23/3210. Two Native Gardens In North Carolina

Complete Write Up

In this Episode GardenSMART travels to Wilmington, North Carolina to visit with 2 very interesting and capable individuals who provide insight into building low maintenance gardens that reflect their homeowners personalities. Some think it's too good to be true, they show us how.

WILMINGTON, North Carolina is a port city located on the Cape Fear River and is only a short drive to 3 beautiful beaches. As well, it is home to some of the states most amazing gardens, many of which have a special focus on preserving and creating natural habitats. Designing natural habitats requires a keen understanding of specific plant life that works well together to create an environment that encourages wildlife and can be maintained in a minimally invasive way. Natural habitats are often much lower in maintenance, use less water and also invite birds and other animals into the garden. In this Episode we have the pleasure of spending time with Sandy and Andy Wood who are pioneers in the field. This husband and wife team bring years of valuable experience to the projects that they build and manage and provide valuable insight into how these ecosystems are maintained. Sandy worked for the North Carolina Division of Soil Conservation before she founded her design company, Habitats, in 1992. She specializes in habitat gardening that benefits birds, bees, butterflies as well as her many clients. Andy is a 4th generation biologist, a coastal ecologist as well as a decorated author and conservation educator. His job is to study Sandy's projects to determine the effectiveness of the habitat and how they can be optimized to attract surrounding wildlife. Together they are responsible for some of the most biodynamic sites in the area and provide a glimpse into the art and science of habitat gardening.

Eric welcomes Sandy and Andy and thanks them for joining GardenSMART. Both have interesting jobs and Eric wants to know a little more about each. He asks Sandy - What is it you do? Sandy tells us she designs gardens for wildlife, habitat gardening basically, bringing in birds, bees and butterflies through a diverse collection of plants, both native and ornamental, and old fashioned things that are near and dear to the homeowner. And, she provides an opportunity to broaden the landscape options from what is often the norm.

Andy's background is in ecology. How does that marry with what Sandy does? Andy feels it's interesting in many ways because what Sandy is doing in a very real sense is replicating a lot of what nature is trying to do on its own but she is crafting, she is a habitat artist. She is crafting habitats for property owners and he then gets to come in and see the results of those efforts. And that includes observing toads or box turtles or the invertebrates that are in the leaf litter, putting together some of the elements of what is going on in the yard and then sharing that information with the homeowner so that they have a greater appreciation for what they are actually contributing to the entire community.
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Eric wants to know why Sandy thinks that native or natural gardening is important and how might one do that? Sandy feels that SELECTING NATIVE PLANTS brings a lot of diversity to the landscape. Native plants generally attract a lot of wildlife and native plants are often disease resistant and often don't need additional water. She doesn't use irrigation in her yards and she refrains from using chemicals. Most of her yards are chemical free and irrigation free yet survive quite well on the amounts of water they typically receive annually. Native plants are well adapted to the area and create diversity. One plant alone might bring in 47 different species of birds. So when one uses that as a base they can build from that.

Andy feels his role is to reinforce what Sandy does as far as plant diversity because plant diversity will encourage wildlife diversity. And when we say wildlife diversity in a backyard setting we're not talking black bears, things like that, rather things like box turtles, toads, even obscure wildlife that may be in decline. And the box turtle is in decline.

Sandy in many cases is replacing sod with a selection of diverse plants which will eventually bring in a diversity of birds, insects and a whole host of other things that are in need of a place to live. This is something near and dear to her heart.
Top

They are visiting a wonderful example of Sandy's work. It is a very NON-TRADITIONAL BACKYARD. Eric certainly hasn't seen many that look like a woodland paradise. It has high shade, almost a park like appearance. Sandy tells us how this came to be. The homeowner called in 1992 and referred to the space as bland and uninspiring. It was comprised of solid grass from the walkway and porch all the way to the back border. It had very few trees and was uninspiring. As well, the homeowner was sensitive to chemicals and the yard had an uncertain history as far as what had been applied. The goal was to remove all of the sod and create island beds. They started in 1992 and removed the sod with sod cutters, they then started the process of bringing in soil, then amended it, created paths and islands and brought in plants. By 1993 they had it planted and it did grow.
Top

Eric wonders about Sandy's approach to the design of this space. It was based on the homeowners desire for FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY IN THE YARD. So after taking away the sod she put in some paths, created island beds to highlight different habitats so they could have a butterfly garden and a bird orientated garden - places for them to feed and nest. The objective was to bring some wildlife into the yard. Eric finds the space to be diverse and natural in many ways, a wild kind of landscape. It looks like an overgrown forest that has new emergent species. A lot of things were planted and some things volunteered. Sandy did incorporate a few of her favorite plants and honored some of the homeowner's favorites. They wanted native trees and shrubs, so Sandy brought in some berry producing bushes like Winter Berry. For butterflies she has Clethra. She incorporated some old fashioned plants, like gardenia, for fragrance which makes it a pleasure to walk down the path and have fragrance wafting up. Over time things have surprised them. Oaks and Tulip Poplars have been pleasant surprises. They are beautiful, stately trees although now a little overgrown. Sometimes that needs to be checked because this is a naturalized space and they do want it to go its own way. There is a give and take, a push and pull of working with what nature gives you. And they have had storms and that can be challenging, they often provide a very quick change to a habitat. But as a result of several hurricanes they were able to utilize some new, interesting things, which keeps it exciting.
Top

With a conventional LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE is in some ways a lot simpler. For example, it is more apparent where to mow the lawn or to make little meatballs out of shrubs. You know where you will clip them into long expanses of manicured green. With this kind of landscape it is not necessarily immediately apparent how to maintain this space or what the process might look like. Sandy has several things she does to keep this landscape in check. One of the critical things for maintenance is to keep exuberant growth in check. But growth can occur in phases, when they're dry for awhile there isn't as much growth, but this year they've had a lot of rain and things sprout. But typically with this type yard Sandy finds that quarterly or semi-annually they have to come in and do a little work. They come in and take out some of the aggressive seedlings and rarely a little weeding. But basically they let nature take its course. Some things will shade out, some perform well or not. Maintenance is a nice thing, you don't need a steady beat of maintenance, you're not coming in every week to do something, it self maintains. But late winter, possibly spring and summer they do come in and tidy up, but otherwise she lets it do its thing.
Top

Sandy and Eric move from the backyard to the FRONT YARD. It looks somewhat similar to the backyard, the lawn has been removed for the most part which, again, makes the area less maintenance intensive for the homeowner. The primary objective here was to provide a screen from the road for the homeowner, to give the homeowner some privacy. A new development was going in and she wanted to buffer the noise of the traffic as well as some of the pollution that goes along with increased traffic. So Sandy took about half the lawn away, brought in a sod cutter and removed the section of lawn in the middle, then brought in about 20 yards of soil mix that she likes to use and then started planting, she made it happen. There is a lot of activity in this area now. Again they used native plants, but the homeowner liked azaleas, they had one left over from the back and used it. She put in traditional formosa which Sandy loves and added forsythia. They created a base, Sandy wanted to create layers. They searched the backyard for volunteer trees and found oaks, a dogwood and a magnolia and brought them to the front yard. The trees 10 years ago were tiny but during this time they have become the main canopy trees for the island in the front. Many people are surprised when told how young the trees are and where they came from. Eric feels relocating plants makes a lot of sense, we don't always need to go to the garden center, especially when we have a more natural landscape. And Sandy reminds us that birds are great at spreading seeds, so if you have a lot of birds and have plants like beauty berry you will fairly quickly have beauty berry popping up in random places. She finds it fun to see how they grow and where they grow and oftentimes find new spots for plants, one can always move them around. It's a great way to garden and reduces costs.
Top

Eric next talks with Andy about this yard. Eric wants to know about the CRITERIA OF A WILDLIFE HABITAT. The 4 measures that are most commonly used - food, water, shelter and essentially space to live are the key elements in a home landscape. One of the key elements is structure, habitat structure. Here we have a tree canopy, then ground cover and then mulch, all of those combine to provide the things we're looking for - food, water and shelter. The water for insects can be on the leaves, the mulch can't be under emphasized. The importance of leaf litter for earth worm production, isopods, amphipods, all these little things with legs are food for Blue Jays and Cardinals, especially during spring time. Snails are unsung heroes in our gardens because the shells of snails are an essential source of calcium. Female nesting birds need to replace their calcium and snails provide that source.
Top

Andy gets to quantify what animals are using Sandy's gardens and has seen quite a few ANIMALS move into this property because of the landscaping. The birds are the most rewarding group. There are plenty of native plants, plus the azaleas in this landscape. A wildlife habitat doesn't have to be strictly native. Shrubs provide a nesting habitat for Blue Jays, Brown Thrashers and Northern Cardinals. In fact there is a Cardinal building a new nest in a shrub in the side yard. Birds have quickly come to this yard. They may feed in other yards because of bird feeders but they nest here meaning their life cycle is completed in this yard. Box Turtles are another group of animals present in this yard. They are an obscure little reptile group of animals and there are different species found around North America. Here they have the Eastern Box Turtle which is an animal in decline throughout its range. This yard is supporting no less than 4. Andy knows them individually. There is a male and a female up front and a male and female in the back, plus there is a juvenile he hasn't seen yet this spring. These turtles have unique shell patterns. This is their territory, this is where they live and they don't wander far. Identifying these animals is extremely gratifying for Andy.
Top

Eric and the crew go to another landscape Sandy has designed and installed. And, it is very different from the 1st. What makes it different is the scope of the project. This project was a RESTORATION, the property was badly damaged in Hurricane Fran. Although there were some trees remaining much else was lost. The homeowner wanted to get a woodland habitat going. So that was their main goal to regenerate the woodland that had been lost. Eric wants to know what was the design plan and how did Sandy approach it. The approach was somewhat haphazard, it actually doesn't have a design. The time frame was short because the property had been devastated so they started with small trees, then did perimeter plantings. The homeowner was busy but wanted to see some real effects so they started to move in big trees. So it was really a matter of being engaged with the homeowner, together they would go plant hunting so the homeowners had their hands in the process of selection. They would see something or Sandy would see something and try, it just seemed to evolve. And nicely.
Top

Eric likes the fact that natural LANDSCAPES ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT because everyone is working with material that is available on that site plus the fact that that the property owners personality is infused into the site. One is working with nature as opposed to trying to impose a static design on a square plot of dirt. They talk about the plant selection process for this site and how it went from what it was, which was a fairly open lot, to beautiful wooded area. The key to this yard was the dogwood tree they are standing under. It is what drew the homeowners to the property. At one time there was lawn here and much of that was eliminated and bigger beds installed. Since the dogwood was aging they wanted to make sure they had replacement dogwoods. That dogwood collection grew to many other selections. So more trees were added, as were more beds. The couple was getting married, they didn't really need anything so friends started to give trees and plants. They have American Beech, Burr Oak and a bed of blueberries on the side under shade. And they produced. It became a flood of loving gifts for the wedding in the form of trees and plants. Another interesting thing happened. The homeowner grew up in New York and she discovered a book with the design and list of plants used in her parents home, her growing up home in New York. They went through the list and found they had already planted some of those plants. Several on the list meant a lot and brought back memories.

This property has a bit of slope and of course when removing lawn that can create an EROSION ISSUE. Sandy used hardscapes to help. They installed walkways and little walls and in the back there is a dry streambed. In the back they did put in some lawn. While Sandy typically takes lawn out there she went with lawn because that area did have an erosion issue. The St. Augustine lawn has been successful. It's been in almost 17 years and has kept the erosion at bay which is very helpful because they are very close to the marsh and wanted to protect it. The grass is successful in that regard, a good way to slow the flow.

Eric talks with Andy about this yard. They have designed a native habitat and over the years as it started growing in, it become a nice, dense, diverse environment. What kind of advice does he have for MAINTAINING this on a day to day basis. When one builds a backyard habitat for wildlife, wildlife will bring things in. Sure squirrels and Blue Jays will bring in acorns, then suddenly one will have oaks. It's important to remember that a weed is a plant where you don't want it and that can include an Oak. So you may find yourself pulling Oaks out of the ground, thus there is some maintenance required. But it doesn't have to be heavy handed maintenance, it may be nothing more than a branch hanging low in an area where people pass through. If you're having a party instead of cutting off that branch use a prop to lift it out of the way temporarily or just leave it. Pruning is something else to consider. Andy shows a branch that's not particularly attractive. One reason is it has caterpillars feeding on it. This is a host plant for butterflies larvae. So don't go out and hit it with pesticide, those are your butterflies. They aren't hurting the plant in any way. Azaleas provide another lesson. Many prune azaleas right after they bloom in the spring but that is when birds (Brown Thrashers, Northern Cardinals and others) are nesting in the azaleas so before you do heavy pruning go in and evaluate the property, see who is there, check the bush to see if somebody is nesting before you go in and prune. And Andy prefers pruning with with hand shears rather than gas powered saws and things like that. The noise can be very disturbing to wildlife. Andy wants everyone to know that a natural habitat isn't something you can install then walk away. You still need to get engaged with your yard but you can really have fun with it.

Eric thanks Sandy and Andy for joining us on GardenSMART. We've learned a lot about how practical and in some ways how easy it is to create a natural landscape. Beginning and building a garden that is in harmony with its surroundings does a wonderful job of attracting wildlife right to your back door. And it can be much easier than one might think. Sandy appreciates the opportunity to share this great natural habitat concept. Sandy believes it's important to take that 1st step, get out in your yard, get engaged, bring in some wildlife and you'll find a lifetime of enjoyment from doing these few things. Eric is inspired and hopes others in the audience will as well.

 

LINKS:

Cape Fear Garden Club
Cape Fear Garden Club, Inc.

Wilmington And Beaches CVB
Wilmington And Beaches | Cape Fear Coast | Pleasure Island | Wilmington & Island Beaches

Andy Wood
Andy Wood

Beau Rivage Golf & Resort
North Carolina Golf - Beau Rivage Golf and Resort - (800) 628-7080

Plant List

 

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