Corporate habitat garden project

Corporate Habitat Garden Project
In Clifton Park, NY (southern Saratoga county) on Route 9, a savvy financial advisor has been watching trends in landscaping. Deborah Christopher, whose Edward Jones office is located in a strip mall on State Route 9, heard about prominent entomologist Douglas Tallamy’s research and ecological trend-setting for redefining curb appeal to be more sustainable and habitat restorative. Deb reached out to me for a habitat garden landscape renovation outside her office space; she loved the idea of a design that was both, beautiful and low maintenance, as native plant landscapes naturally are.

20130813-171404.jpg The space at the front of Debbie’s office is shady, sandy soil and dry, located on the west side of the building and under a mature Ash tree that has a monopoly on the bed’s excess moisture. The native plant choices had to be able to flourish in dry, woodland garden conditions.

Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair Fern was a shoo-in choice for the niche conditions, as its elegance is unparalleled and given its druthers the plant would grow in the dry shade of a woodland garden anyways.

Thalictrum dioicum, native Meadowrue was another miniature showcase species that thrives on the neglect of dry shade.

20130814-110630.jpg Other species used include Polystichum acrostichoides</em, Christmas Fern, Hepatica nobilis, Hepatica, Cimicifuga racemosa, Black Cohosh for some height and Asarum canadense, A. arifolium Wild Ginger.

20130814-111748.jpg Viola triloba, Three-Lobed Violet is another plant in the woodland garden scheme we chose, and the Violas are larval host for the marginalized Fritillary butterfly family, so including them in a landscape improves the habitat.

Given the dry, desert like conditions it seemed apropos to have a water feature, even one this rustic (this is simply a terra cotta pot base, with a rock for a perch) brings the element of water into the landscape and provides a drinking space for birds and butterflies.

20130814-143227.jpg The south side of the building is in the sun all day but has the same dry, sandy soil conditions. Asclepias tuberosa, orange Butterflyweed seemed the natural plant choice as it thrives in dry sand.

We don’t typically see corporate America as a warm audience for our subversive message of creating habitat garden spaces and thoughtfulness for wildlife. I was fortunate enough to come in contact with a future-minded corporate investment specialist, who coolly evaluated the current trends in run-of-the-mill landscaping practices, and saw the value in redefining curb appeal to include habitat garden projects and native plants. Though Debbie Christopher is a trend setter sweetheart and one of a kind, I feel like all of us wildlife gardening zealots might do well to expand our rolodexes to include people who work in other facets of society than the green industries as friends. “When people like each other, the rules change.” (Ira Glass said that once on This American Life). People generally become more receptive to new ideas when they’re introduced from a friendly, familiar person. Civilians? (I’m unsure what to call people who don’t love nature to the same degree I’m used to) just lack information about native plants and habitat restoration: it’s not their fault, they inherited this system just like we did. In my experience, decimation of ecological research and anecdotes is often well received…over lunch. Or coffee. If it ends up that the banker, architect, real estate agent or lawyer I’m eating with is not especially interested in native plant gardening for habitat restoration, that’s okay, maybe I made a new friend. And if my new, previously disinterested friend does now care about cooperating with nature, well… I think maybe that’s how any positive changes actually happen.

© 2013, Jesse Elwert. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    This is the first thing I read this morning with my coffee, and how encouraging it is that there are people like you out there, as well as people receptive to your work. This is something that’s right with the world. How happy and proud you must be to be right in the middle of fostering this change. Great job, well done.

    • says

      Thank you for the kind words, Ruth! We all have something unique and life-giving to share with our respective communities; there is a huge gaping need for the information we, collectively and individually possess.

  2. says

    What a fantastic opportunity! I hope that others follow this wonderful example of living in balance with nature. I am certain that a strict scientific study would illustrate that habitat gardens in corporate environments increase productivity and reduce stress. That would start a wonderful trend! And you and your wonderful client are at the forefront! I would love to see a follow up of this project.

  3. says

    Thanks Kathy. What a great idea, research into habitat gardens and corporate settings. If visiting clients feel relaxed, it could certainly improve business for the location.

  4. brenda clements jones says

    Jesse, this new garden space you have designed is a place where I would feel right at home, though “right at home” for me is hiking in the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Most of the plants that you have put into this space are ones that I see every day as I hike. Well done!

    • says

      I had to look up the Blue Ridge Mountains, I didn’t know where they were. North Carolina is not so far away really. Thanks for the impetus to do research, the sunrise/sunset photos were lovely! We’re in the foothills of the Adirondacks here. Thanks for your kind words.

    • says

      Thanks Loret!!
      I sure hope so. My major business goal is to partner up with builders, so I can restore (as much as possible) the ecosystems their bulldozers ripped through, with native plants that will actually support life. So much of my work consists of fixing landscaper’s boneheaded mistakes- ripping out Japanese Barberry and nasty Burning Bush Euynamus. I’ve physically displaced more of those poor plants choices than you could shake a stick at. I’d much rather be there at the beginning of the disturbance, adding native plants as quickly as possible. I see and indentify with my colleagues who, like, chain themselves to old growth forests or whatever. Boy do I get that sentiment. But I feel like the other people have won, development is not going to stop; the people who own the bulldozers are actually angry when they’re not engaged in a project ripping stuff up; they feel like they’re losing money if the machines aren’t running. I’m not kidding and I lack the imagination to fabricate this stuff- I talk to builders and they say stuff like this. So, it seems the healthiest- personal and ecosystemic health- position I can take is to just run behind all those bulldozers with native plants and shrubbery, replant as soon as possible and just hope it helps. Count on the co-evolutionary history the native plants purportedly share with this biosphere; do my best to tap into the magic I barely understand. And get paid for it, geez.

  5. says

    Thanks so much, Carole!
    I agree with you; there’s so much potential for inroads to habitat restoration through public spaces in our communities. It’s overwhelming. As I mentioned in a post on my personal site awhile back, I head south on the highway frequently for my work, and when I get to around I-87 exit 13 and on, I just spaz out. The rich potential for habitat revitalization to cooperate with the delicious, vibrant existing habitat is staggering. Wetlands and forests as far as the eye can see. Seems the easiest way for these results to come about is just being a community member, getting known to the people, developing an elevator pitch not for ego purposes but because who else will do this stuff?


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