2015 FNPS conference: Native Yard Tour

A conference field trip

by Donna Legare with photos by Lilly Anderson-Messec

On Thursday, May 28th Native Nurseries led a tour of native yards in Tallahassee for the Florida Native Plant Society's 35th Annual Conference. The tour featured three yards.

1) A rain garden and more...

The first illustrated what could be done with a blank slate in a neighborhood that was previously a cow pasture with scattered large live oaks. Landscape designer, David Copps designed the native landscape for Mark and Linda Powell, whose home is certified as LEED Platinum. The native landscape helped them earn this designation. David described how he implemented his design, beginning with very heavy mulching of existing vegetation. He included a rain garden in a natural depression and created a future forest of mixed hardwoods in one section and a small longleaf pine grove in the back yard. Jody Walthall, owner and landscape designer at Native Nurseries talked about what is involved in maintaining this type of landscape.

The group gathers to discuss the creation of this native landscape, just beyond the rain garden of bluestem palmetto, senecio, blue eyed grass, loblolly bay and other native plants that fills a natural depression on the property.

Field trip participants admire one of the largest sweetbays
in the state at Eleanor Dietrich's.

2) A large sweetbay magnolia

The second site visited was the home of long time Magnolia Chapter member Eleanor Dietrich. Eleanor's house is perched above a beautiful ravine with huge sweetbay, American beech, blackgum and other hardwoods. Over the years the woodland had become crowded with invasives - nandina, ligustrum, ardisia to name just a few. Inspired by Doug Tallamy's book, Bringing Nature Home, Eleanor embarked on a long term and intensive project to remove the invasives and replant with natives with the help of two professional gardeners.

3) Invite the birds

The last stop featured a typical in-town house and yard, the home of Native Nurseries' owners, Donna Legare and Jody Walthall. When they purchased the house in the early 1990s, 100% of the landscape plants were non-native, except for the large trees. This landscape illustrates what two busy people, running a business and raising a family, can do over time to convert to mostly native with the goal of increasing diversity for wildlife.

We gather at the the bird-window to watch birds up close among the native plants in the backyard at the Legare/Walthall residence.

And to top it off... 

The tour ended with home-made oatmeal cookies and iced tea at Native Nurseries, where participants had fun shopping for native plants, perusing the nature gift shop and getting a close-up view through a spotting scope of two baby red-shouldered hawks in a nest, high in pine tree over the parking lot.

In addition to the people mentioned above, I would like to thank Lilly Anderson-Messec, manager of Native Nurseries and Vanessa Crisler of Trillium Gardens Nursery for their assistance during the tour.

Posted by Ginny Stibolt


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