In December, I re-did my front yard with native plants. This process, called xeriscaping, is fun and friendly for the environment. The word originates from the greek for xeros which means dry. Technically, anything you do with your landscaping to eliminate the need for irrigation is xeriscaping, but this is best done with native plants.

I’m fortunate to have met James Jiler, the executive director of Urban Greenworks, through his wife, a pediatrician. James runs a non-profit that “provides environmental programs and green job training to incarcerated men and women, youth remanded by the court to drug rehab and at-risk high-school youth in low-income neighborhoods.” James chronicled his experience with a similar organization in New York City in a book titled Doing Time in the Garden: Life Lessons through Prison Horticulture. Working with James was a pleasure. He came up with a design, selected mostly native plants plus a few, fun, Florida-friendly exotics, and planted it all for an affordable price.

Within 12 hours of planting the new plants, we had numerous butterflies in our yard, within days, we had caterpillars, and within weeks, we had the next generation of butterflies emerging in front of us. Walking out the door into the front yard is a pleasure never knowing which plant will be blooming, what new animal will be attracted, and what new scents we will encounter. Our garden has coonties, a native cycad nearly mined to extinction for arrowroot starch. It’s the only host for the endangered atala butterfly. We’ve added a gumbo limbo, or “tourist tree” as it is called for its red peeling bark. In addition to often seen Simpson stoppers, and native coffee, we have rarer plants such as the catclaw blackbead, darling plum, and red-berry stopper. We have many colored flowers: pink from native lantana, purple from the flowers of the muhly grass, yellow from beach sunflower and necklacepod, and red from firebush and tropical sage, and many white flowers.

In the end, we are happy with our garden because we are providing a little bit of habitat for wildlife. In addition to numerous birds, I’ve seen fox, rabbits, raccoons, snakes, and opossums in my yard. Once the garden is established, I won’t have to drain our aquifer to water. All good things in addition to having supported a local charity.

To see a tour of my garden, click this link