A master gardener majestic masterpiece
Story by Susan Jasan
Graceful. Stately. Exquisite. These words define this refined Southern home and its landscape. The landscape is especially unique because the owners, Deb and David Short, believe that if a plant doesn’t provide food for one of nature’s creatures, then it doesn’t have a home in the landscape.
Following the home’s construction, the initial landscape was a well-designed, formal style. In a later phase, the sidewalk to the front door was added. Per the Shorts, “Our house would not have the curb appeal it does if we hadn’t acted on the advice of our very talented landscape designer and installed the front sidewalk and bed. The addition’s significance was that it opened the house up to the street and gave it more of a ‘downtown’ than ‘suburban’ ambiance.”
Following retirement, the owners became master gardeners but were still gardening in a more formal, manicured style. Then they read Dr. Doug Tallamay’s book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Not long after, they attended an event at which Dr. Tallamay was the main speaker and their garden vision was transformed.
Now their focus is on providing food and shelter for all of nature’s creatures. If a plant is eaten by an insect, particularly a pollinator, then it is cause for celebration, not chemicals. When a snake appeared in the grass, it only meant that the chemical-free environment was allowing all creatures to thrive. Turtles, bees, monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, and more abound in this environment.
It’s a delight to hear the enthusiasm of the owners as they share their passion and knowledge about native plants and the pollinators supported by each of the various species. They have great fun sharing their newfound knowledge with their children and grandchildren, enlightening the next generation.
In recent years, the Shorts have created a substantial new garden area devoted solely to native plants and wildlife. Fortunate to live near the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, the couple credits Cody George, horticulturist for Crystal Bridges, for much of their knowledge about native plants. The museum’s 120 acres abounds with native plants and the museum frequently offers educational programs about the grounds and native plantings.
For those readers who have focused on the more “traditional” gardening approach of past years, using non-natives species and chemical management in their landscape, the Shorts’ are outstanding examples of how gardeners – and their gardens – can support nature’s creatures while still maintaining an exquisite landscape.
THE SHORT LIST
Native plants used in the Shorts’ landscape
Arkansas ironweed (Vernonia arkansana)
Fall-blooming aster (Symphyotrichum spp.)
Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
Beebalm (Monarda spp.)
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis)
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)
Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)
Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Clove currant (Ribes odoratum)
Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum)
Pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)
‘Fireworks’ goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’)
American holly (Ilex opaca)
‘Husker Red’ penstemon (Penstemon digitalis)
Dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata)
Little blue stem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Little Henry sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Sprich’)
‘Legacy’ sugar maple (Acer saccharum ‘Legacy’)
‘Mount Airy’ fothergilla (Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’)
New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus)
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
‘Jeana’ garden phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’)
Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum)
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Sassafras (S. albidum)
Autumn Brilliance serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’)
Sideoats grama grass (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Blue Muffin viburnum (V. dentatum ‘Christom’)
Chicago Lustre viburnum (V. dentatum ‘Synnesvedt’)
‘Wildfire’ black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’)