By Mary Reid Barrow
When Terri Gorman moved into her condo on Atlantic Avenue two and half years ago, her small backyard was as far from a native plant garden as it could be.
It was not a garden, not even a yard. It was all deck, save three wax myrtle trees adjacent to the deck edge. Terri, LRNow’s Pearl Home Coordinator, went right to work and removed almost 1000 square feet of decking. She replaced it with a garden, full of native flowers and shrubs.
“I had learned so much in my job about the importance of native plants to pollinators and also how grass and hard surfaces are bad for water quality,” Terri said. “I really wanted to try to do this in a small space.”
This spring, the garden was already doing so well that it was chosen as an example of small-space gardening on LRNow’s Native Plant Garden Tour in June. A suburban yard and a waterfront garden also were on the tour.
“That my little garden grew so well in a little over a year is a great example of how native plants thrive in the environment where they belong,” Terri said.
Landscape designer Meg French, and her friend, Nancy Knewstep from Williamsburg, were among the 30 or so participants on the tour. Gorman’s garden stood out as a “delightful niche garden,” Nancy said.
“When Meg and I walked up to the unit, we looked at each other and said what could possibly be here? Boy, were we surprised,” she added.
A gravel covered path with steppingstones curves through the garden with beds on either side of the path. Native plants, like yellow coreopsis, red and yellow blanket flower, and deep blue spiderwort, along with a great pollinator magnet, mountain mint, were blooming the day of the tour. And busy bees and other insects were dining on their nectar.
“It is a true native oasis,” Nancy added. “And it just goes to prove something like that could be done with a little imagination that benefits the homeowner and nature!”
Meg agreed, saying it was a great example of a small native garden, “so doable for homeowners.”
The garden already has qualified as a Homegrown National Park, a program that recognizes small native gardens for adding to the spaces that provide natural habitat for pollinators and other critters. Terri photographed a bumblebee with its pollen baskets full from nectaring on her mountain mint.
Terri created her garden with the help of native plant landscape designer Trista Imrich, whose garden was also on the tour. Terri also got funding from the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program. The program provides financial aid for homeowners to create conservation gardens to reduce stormwater run-off.
Now that Terri’s garden is full of natives, she says there is the “snowball effect.” She spends time not only looking for new blooms, but now she also searches for what new insects have come to nectar on the blooms!