Arlington Regional Master Naturalists who are engaged in the Audubon at Home Program found real inspiration in a visit to the home of member Kasha Helget. The Audubon at Home certified property is beautifully landscaped almost completely with native plants in both formal and informal styles around the house. The tour included a plant list and Kasha’s narration of the techniques for turning several challenges such as steep slopes, stormwater issues and a large stand of bamboo into attractive assets for the home.
In the front, the property uses a permeable paver driveway with a channel drain and a six foot deep dry well to capture and infiltrate runoff from the adjacent street.
Along the driveway, a shrub and perennial border contains large sweeps of native plants for a variety of seasonal interest including American Beautyberry, Wild Blue Indigo, Threadleaf Tickseed, and several varieties of both Asters and Mountain Mint.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum frondosum) is sheared as a low formal hedge surrounding a paved area.
Unlike many traditionally landscaped local homes, most of the foundation plantings (against the base of the house) are deciduous – Clethra, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Coralberry – which is quite freeing from a design standpoint and one that allows the textural interest of the plants and the design of the patios and walks to shine in the winter months.
Evergreen plants – Junipers, Hollies, Wax Myrtle – are concentrated along the edges of the property for screening of neighboring property views and from weather.
Rainwater is directed around the foundation of the home using a sinuous system of dry creek beds lined with attractive stone. A small pond set into the dry creek bed along the side of the house is a beautiful accent and reminds one of the function of the creek stones. The existing (invasive but beautiful and functional) bamboo clump that serves a s screening between properties is kept from spreading further by a poured concrete border several feet deep. As the property slopes steeply downward along the side of the house, pervious steps, terracing and edging manage the grade change.
Numerous species of often little-used native plants are used in a variety of ways with very attractive results: Hog Peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata) is used as a ground cover below other perennials and on a deeply shaded slope; Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is used in containers on the shaded deck; Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) is used as a foundation planting in front of a low window; and both Blue Wood Sedge (Carex flaccosperma var. glaucodea) and Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) were used as bed edging plants in shade and sun, respectively.
Overall, the Helget property is a testament to good landscape design using appropriate native plants. Over 115 species of trees, shrubs, perennials and vines flower and produce fruit and seeds throughout the season. These large sweeps of perennials and shrubs provide cover and food for numerous species of wildlife and four-season landscape interest for the owners and visitors. The large variety of species vastly increases the biodiversity of the site and, during our short visit, we saw and heard many birds and species of pollinating insects visiting the garden.