Nature lifts the spirit and feeds the soul

Story and Photography by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. – Eleanora Duse

On a country road, not far from Covington, is the peaceful wildlife garden of Margaret and Terry Breaud. Color, sound, and motion fills the senses as you gaze upon the fluttering butterflies and trilling songbirds among the brilliant flowers that attract them.

A mass of black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.) in the bed beside the driveway attracts butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

Since August 2003, in true “earth-mother” fashion, Margaret continually shaped and tended 1½ acres of their property, leaving an additional 4½ acres as natural woodland to provide native habitat for the local creatures. Here she communes with nature, photographs the flora and fauna, and the plants thrive. Because she also firmly believes that land is precious and should be protected for future generations, their property became a registered NWF Backyard Habitat in 2004. 

A visit to the Breauds’ serene garden never fails to lift the spirits.

The Breauds plant many sustainable plants, including natives, various vegetables, fruits, herbs, and low maintenance old-fashioned flowering plants that attract and feed wildlife (especially birds, bees and butterflies). To provide focal points in the huge lawn, she has added several island beds, which contain shrubs, trees, and perennials including native azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), plums (Prunus spp.), and numerous Salvia. 

A healthy monarch butterfly caterpillar on tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) will soon form a chrysalis.

Some of her favorite plants are fall-blooming candy corn plant (Cuphea micropetala), a favorite of hummingbirds, and heirloom roses (Rosa spp.), which add fragrance and beauty to the landscape. Seeds of annual cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) have been sprinkled around trees and trellises, which are soon covered with frilly foliage and red star-shaped blooms that attract scores of butterflies and hummingbirds in fall.

An old pink heirloom rose, blue and pink varieties of native woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), purple ‘Homestead’ verbena, Dianthus, and lyre-leaf sage (Salvia lyrata) bloom in spring.
Later in summer, the sustainable garden is filled with fruiting eggplants, pole beans, French marigolds (Tagetes patula), ‘Homestead’ verbena, clasping coneflower, tomatoes, and squash. Gardenia and daylilies bloom in the background.

Margaret enjoys the peace and solitude of their sanctuary, which features skillfully placed seating with inviting views. She says that her garden and grandkids make life worth living and she continually shares her appreciation of nature with them. 

Dark pink beebalm (Monarda spp.) is being visited by a native bee laden with pollen.

Because of the recent decline in monarch butterfly numbers, Margaret expanded her beds of native and tropical milkweed (Asclepias spp.). These lovely flowers add color and texture to the garden while providing monarch caterpillars with food.

A hot-pink cultivar of Hibiscus moscheutos and magenta Curcuma hybrid stand out among the vegetables and add biodiversity to the garden.

She uses the “lasagna” method of layering cardboard, worm castings, chicken manure, hay mulch, and other organic matter to improve the soil and normally keeps her garden mulched to prevent weeds. To keep insect pests at bay, Margaret opts for organic pest control methods – using no synthetic pesticides or herbicides. She knocks off problem insects with streams of water or uses neem oil spray.

Purple Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) and red pineapple sage (S. elegans) blossoms invite hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators to feed from the attractive flowers.

The lush plantings attract wildlife, especially during migration when numerous songbirds, including indigo buntings and rose-breasted grosbeaks, spend time there. Bald eagles have been seen flying overhead and great blue herons often visit the small creek that runs through the yard. Deer, which sometimes munch on her shrubs, as well as red foxes, raccoons, and rabbits often stop by.

Native deciduous flame azaleas (R. austrinum) burst into bloom in spring at the same time as St. Joseph’s lily (Hippeastrum x johnsonii).

Eastern bluebirds nest in a box designed especially for them that sports a stovepipe predator guard that keeps the young safe from snakes, raccoons, and cats. One summer, the parents brought two different broods to the birdbath at the same time. It is not uncommon for the first brood of young to help feed and care for the second. The large, chemical-free lawn provides plenty of insects to eat and the birds help rid the garden of pests.

A visit to the Breauds’ serene garden never fails to lift the spirits. As I sit on the broad front porch, sipping a cool drink and enjoying the view of the lovingly created landscape, it brings back pleasant thoughts of times gone by.

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