Over 20 people attended the kickoff of LWI’s annual “Habitat Thursdays” outdoor event. This year, at the suggestion of Shawn McKnight, we decided to make it a tour of residential landscapes that have been naturalized with native plants. We would actually be visiting “Habitat Gardens”.

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On July 7th, we started at Shawns own home and from the very beginning, right at the front sidewalk, we were shown examples of habitats starting with a small coastal dune. This was basically a sand pile planted with beach grass which has done extremely well. It is very unique and realistic even in a small space. There was also a rain garden catch basin at the sidewalk. Shawn explained that the sidewalk flooded there in the past but now there are water loving plants growing there and the sidewalk no longer floods. The remainder of the front yard is a showy example of a prairie meadow with everything from little bluestem to butterflyweed.

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Then Shawn lead us into the backyard where we escaped the sun and entered a shady, green woodland garden/landscape. The entire backyard is a woodland garden and you feel like you just entered a patch of Pinery Provincial Park. There was even a tent set up for pinery style camping. Ferns, mayapples, false solomons seals, trilliums, wild ginger and geraniums grow in garden areas sectioned of by mulched paths. There are hop trees for giant swallowtails and serviceberries for cedar waxwings and other songbirds. There was also a rain garden at the back of the house filled with thriving wetland species. Shawn pointed out a wood duck nesting box where a dozen baby wood ducks had fledged from and then followed their mother out the driveway, west on Cathcart, across Christina st and into Canatara park to Lake Chipican. They all made it safely past all that traffic.

Many questions were asked and answered and everyone enjoyed the first garden tour of the series.

Three more garden tours were very well attended, especially the 3rd Thursday evening, where about 40 people toured 3 home gardens situated together and backing right on the beach/lake. These naturalized landscapes had large plantings of beach grass creating very functional coastal dunes which actually keeps the sand at the beach and eliminates blowing sand from piling/drifting around the house. This saved these homeowners a lot of grief and work when hurricane Sandy hit a few years ago.

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The last garden was at the country home of Kathy and Kirk Mitchell where a decommissioned pool area was turned into a wonderful example of how you could naturalize a complete backyard landscape. This garden includes a water feature (bubbling rock), bog/wet meadow habitat, mini woodland garden (under 1 tree), fruiting native shrubs for the songbirds and a tallgrass prairie meadow full of blooming wildflowers. LWI provided refreshments and Kathy and Kirk had potted native plants as gifts for people to take home.

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Everyone really enjoyed all the tours and, from all the great comments we’ve had, we are encouraged to offer this outdoor event again next year with different gardens. You won’t want to miss it.

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