|The entrance to Robin's sustainable garden|
|Beds of bird- and pollinator-friendly shrubs and perennials lead to fruit trees in the background|
Unlike me, she’s resisted planting tall trees that would shade sunny areas. Her flowers enjoy full sun. There’s also a shady woodland section.
I had attended a workshop Robin taught at New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods on native shrubs for garden use. Her enthusiasm for these plants was contagious and reinforced by a tour of the garden on a lovely June day. Afterward, though, second thoughts set in.
Many of the plants she’d showcased had medium-green, medium-sized leaves. They might have pretty fruits and bright fall foliage, but their flowers were often small, off-white, and not very eye-catching. I thought that a garden of these shrubs would look like a typical New England woodland edge, generally pleasing but not particularly striking or ornamental.
Seeing Robin’s garden, though, I suddenly got it.
|A peach tree, ornamental banana, and hanging basket of calibrachoa blend with native honeysuckle and phlox|
While supporting biodiversity and welcoming wildlife, she’s combined natives and nonnatives in a harmonious blend of flowering plants from New England and around the world. The natives she’s planted are shown at their best through thoughtful combinations of shapes, sizes, and leaf colors and textures.
|It's all in the design|
She has large, thriving patches of a long list of pollinator-friendly plants. Plentiful fruit beckons to both humans and birds.
She’s lined the lowest point in the lot, the back border, with a barrier made from pruned twigs and branches;
|This homemade fence provides shelter for insects and other animals|
in addition to demarcating the lot line and preventing erosion, this provides a home for insects and other animals. For birds, she keeps several dead trees topped at around 20 feet standing behind the garage. These snags are valuable to woodpeckers and others that feed on insects beneath the bark and build their nests in tree cavities.
|Dead trees offer food and habitat for birds|
Insects were everywhere. In addition to the many bees working flowering perennials, butterflies were wafting all over the yard,
|Black swallowtail nectaring on a tithonia flower|
and I spotted a hummingbird moth. That was just while strolling around gawking at the flowers; I’m sure closer observation would find that this garden hosts a full range of insects in dynamic balance.
Robin’s is the kind of garden I aspire to. The visit immediately got me thinking about how to emulate her dense plantings and thoughtful combinations of natives and exotics. Next, the front yard!