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In the Shadow of Destruction: A Border of Native Plants

by | Dec 5, 2016

The view from my farm of the neighboring farm being developed.

The day has arrived. The destruction of the neighboring farm has begun.

In the fall of 2015 we installed a 550 foot border of native plants on the west side of our cut-flower farm. It’s intention was to screen the coming housing development that would soon surround us and to welcome displaced wildlife and provide what they needed to survive.

We gather bagged leaves from curbside to use as mulch.

The border is beginning to take shape as we mulched with leaves collected from neighbors.

The Ziegler Homestead Changed Forever

We are the third generation of Ziegler’s to have loved and enjoyed the neighboring 38 acres of pastures, hedgerows, and woodlands. We love the view and all it represents, giving it up has been painfully. But it’s the destruction of the native habitat that is displacing wildlife that has proven the most difficult to try to swallow.

Little did Steve and I know that this border and the life it has brought to our side of the fence would come to sustain us as much as the wildlife. During the active destruction of the neighboring farm landscape and development process, the life in the border and the hope that more will come has made it easier to bear. While our concerns are still a reality, we know we have done what we can in a very bad situation.  

The native trees and shrubs were planned by a professional landscape designer with long term goals in mind.

The border of native trees and shrubs before mulching.

Going Native

After reading Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy I knew exactly what we needed to add to our organic flower farm. A permanent planting area that used native plants that will provide food to feed our native birds and the insects they eat.  A garden where creatures can take up residence and live, raise babies, and overwinter.

The budget for the project was set keeping in mind that I wanted professional help in the plant selection and placement. We also wanted to purchase the largest plants possible for the quickest screening potential. We planted 159 native trees and shrubs and 36 perennials.

What we Planted:

12 Common Milkweed   Asclepias syriaca 
12 Brown-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia Triloba 
12 Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum sp. 
6 Eastern Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana 
4 Loblolly Pine Pinus taeda 
6 Sweetbay Magnolia Magnolia virginiana 
2 Red Maple Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’  
5 Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica 
1 Willow Oak Quercus phellos 
5 Serviceberry Amelanchier ‘Autumn Brilliance’ 
3 Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum 
12 Arrowwood Viburnum dentatum 
10 Blackhaw Viburnum Viburnum prunifolium 
18 Red Chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia 
12 Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera  

75 Pussy Willows Salix  bare root

We save hundreds of bags of leaves from going to the landfill.

The distant view from my office of the border with bagged leaves waiting to be put down. Beyond those bags is where the housing development is coming.

The Border

The border is located on what had previously been a cow and horse pasture for the past 120 years, so no amendments or fertilizers were used. After the plantings were completed we began collecting bags of leaves to provide mulch. The mulch layer of leaves is 10-12 inches deep. No irrigation was installed.

We added two features to the border that also encourage creatures; a tall pole with a wooden bar that encourages perching (eastern bluebirds on it every morning) and a rock pile with a old dead tree trunk stuck in the ground.

We added many dead trees to host insects for the birds to eat.

In December of 2016 the border has really come alive with wildlife and growth.


Now a little over a year later, our border is growing and beaming with life. The Eastern Bluebirds have now taken up year round residence here. Our tall perch is used at dusk by the Red-Tailed Hawk and at night by a Great Horned Owl. The activity in the border is surprising and welcomed.

We feel like our little native border has made a difference for our community of wildlife. 

Lisa Z.


Lisa Ziegler

Founder of The Gardener’s Workshop and Flower Farming School Online and the publisher of Farmer-Florist School Online and Florist School Online.  Award-winning Author of Vegetables Love Flowers and Cool Flowers. Watch Lisa’s Story and view her blog Field & Garden. Connect with Lisa on Facebook and Instagram!