First Steps With Irrigation

The Johnson Service Corps chose to contribute to the irrigation plan at the Piedmont Patch as their end-of-year Praxis Project, and held a workday onsite on June 15. The nine corps members dug a trench, laid pvc pipe, hooked up a repaired well, installed a new spigot, and built and stained a new well house. Many thanks to Episcopal Church of the Advocate member Zac Hackney for coordinating the project, which will facilitate watering the vegetable garden and other areas of the property. Do you lead a group that wants to do an environmentally sustainable project? We would love to hear from you!

Bluebirds and Brown-headed nuthatches rejoice!

Many thanks to our Piedmont Patch partners, the New Hope Audubon Society! On June 5, two volunteers from the New Hope Audubon Society installed that organization’s generous donation of ten bird boxes at the Piedmont Patch site at The Episcopal Church of the Advocate. Five bluebird boxes were installed on poles and five brown-headed nuthatch boxes were installed on pine trees. Because it is early in the growing season, it is possible that birds may create nests in the new boxes this year. But even if that doesn’t happen, all the local birds will learn the locations of the boxes and use them as shelter from winter weather before the new nesting season next spring.

Church of the Advocate Vicar Lisa Fischbeck listens as New Hope Audubon Society volunteers Tom and Vern explain the bird boxes before installation began.
New Hope Audubon Society volunteers install a pole for a bluebird box. The baffle lying on the ground fits around the pole to deter snakes.
A newly installed bluebird box awaits its first occupants. The New Hope Audubon Society volunteers deliberately installed the boxes at a height convenient for humans to peek at active nests. We were told that short, quiet, and infrequent views of nests and nestlings will not disrupt the bluebirds.
Volunteers from the New Hope Audubon Society install a brown-headed nuthatch box.
An installed brown-headed nuthatch box. These birds live and feed in pine forests, which is why the boxes were installed on pines. Because this bird species nests in February and March, when snakes are usually not active and feeding, these boxes do not require snake defenses.

What’s Blooming Summer ’18

Our Planting Day efforts are bearing flowers! And the bees are all abuzz. Here are some photos taken by a recent visitor to The Patch.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): This annual and/or short-lived perennial wildflower is a prairie ecosystem native and often pops up in meadows without any help from humans. It is beloved by pollinators of all persuasions, and seed-eating birds happily devour its ripe seed heads. When you visit, look carefully at the dark center of the plant. Often you’ll spot a spider laying in wait for unsuspecting pollinators. Everybody’s gotta eat.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Annual Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella): These native annuals were planted by volunteers on the April 14 Planting Day held this year. They will bloom all growing season, which is appreciated by all pollinators, and their abundant seeds will provide food for hungry birds while leaving enough to sow themselves on the site for next year.

Annual Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare): This is a non-native species introduced from Europe that, according to ecologists, is causing problems in some areas by out-competing native wildflowers. We admit that it is pretty, so we’re watching its behavior on our site. If it begins to appear aggressive, we will remove these interlopers and replace them with suitably adapted native flowers.

Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

New Native Plant Donations

The Piedmont Patch was fortunate to receive donations of native plants from two different sources in late May. Come visit the site to see the beauty and resilience of the native plants that are thriving there!


Barbara Driscoll, a member of the New Hope Audubon Society and native plant enthusiast, transplanted about 20 Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) onto the dam. Read about Barbara’s scheduled education event for the Piedmont Patch here.

Donations were also received from Plant Delights Nursery: Louisiana Irises were planted in a muddy edge of the pond, and many Golden Ragworts (Packera aurea) were planted on the earthen dam. 

Golden Ragwort

Many thanks to Barbara Driscoll, and to Lauri Lawson and Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery, for their support of the Piedmont Patch Collaborative.

Horticulture as Therapy

Amy Brightwood gave a fascinating talk on the therapeutic value of horticulture for a variety of client populations, especially including her work with elementary school-aged children. The event was the second quarterly educational event of the Piedmont Patch Collaborative; read about future events here.

After the talk, participants enjoyed a demonstration of potting herbs and wildflowers that are suitable for decks and patios, and that will attract pollinators throughout the growing season. Everyone was given a handful of free native wildflower plants to use at home.


Spring Planting Day

Over thirty volunteers gathered on Saturday, April 14 to plant over 1,000 native grasses and wildflowers. Attendees included local garden club members, NC Botanical Garden staff and volunteers, local native landscapers, faculty members from the environmental schools of Duke and UNC, and members of the Church of the Advocate. Signage was also installed around the pond, which identifies by photo and description the plants that are growing. The signs are currently featured in the “Field Guide” section of this website.

Tips for a Successful Pollinator Garden

One of the easiest and most beautiful ways to invite native wildlife to your property is to add a pollinator garden. Any part of your landscape that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight (more is better) is ideal for these flower-filled informal gardens. Get started by planning your pollinator garden with these tips in mind:

Ensure blooms for the entire growing season.

Because the goal of such gardens is to feed pollinators – both native bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies as well as non-native honeybees – at least one kind of plant should be blooming throughout the growing season. Pollinator gardens don’t need to be large. If you have a relatively small space, choose at least one kind of plant that blooms in early spring, one for mid-season blooms, and one for late-season flowers.

Plant groups of the same species of plant.

Because pollinators prefer to work a single species of flower at a time, successful pollinator gardens contain at least three specimens of each species planted. Visually, odd-numbered groups work best in such informal gardens, so think threes, fives, sevens, and so on, depending on the size of your garden.

Choose plants with differing flower shapes.

Pollinators range in size from very large carpenter bees to solitary bees so tiny they are hard to spot as they zip from flower to flower. Larger pollinators usually prefer flowers with larger “landing pads,” such as daisies and coneflowers. Hummingbirds and butterflies prefer to use their long tongues to drink nectar from tubular-shaped flowers, such as native honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) and Cardinal Flower. Tiny pollinators often prefer smaller flowers, such as those of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Choose plants with differing shapes.

As with flower shape, the overall form of a plant can affect which pollinators visit it. Low-growing sprawling forms will tend to attract smaller pollinators. Tall forms, such as those of Joe Pye Weed or Ironweed, tend to attract larger pollinators, including butterflies such as Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

When space allows, add some larval food plants.

Many people know that Monarch butterfly populations are diminishing across North America. One suggested explanation is that these beautiful pollinators are finding it increasingly difficult to find the species of plant their larval forms (caterpillars) require. Monarch caterpillars only eat species of milkweed. The adult butterflies will happily visit any flower for nectar, but they only lay eggs on milkweeds. Milkweed plants have beautiful flowers, so it is no hardship to add them to your pollinator garden, and if you are willing to allow the caterpillars to eat the plants, you will be helping to ensure the continued survival of that species.

Whenever possible, use plant species native to your area.

The native insects and birds of our area evolved to eat native species of plants. As with the Monarchs, many pollinators need specific species of native plants to feed their larvae. We are lucky here in central North Carolina, because it is home to many beautiful native species of wildflowers beloved by pollinators and birds. Whenever possible, choose plant varieties that closely resemble the species. Avoid varieties with fancy double flowers, because most of these no longer produce the pollen and/or nectar pollinators need.

By keeping in mind these few tips as you plan and plant your pollinator garden, you will be rewarded with visits from a diversity of native pollinators and honeybees. Beautiful butterflies will dance between blossoms. Hummingbirds will stop by to sip nectar and perhaps snag a small bug (yes, they eat insects!). As your pollinator garden matures, more species of native wildlife will be attracted to your habitat garden. Expect American Toads to move in, as well as native lizards, such as Five-lined Skinks. Goldfinches may stop by to dine on coneflower seeds, and beneficial predatory insects, such as Praying Mantises, may well visit. Pollinator gardens are win-win landscape additions. Every day in your pollinator garden will be beautiful and different as diverse native wildlife species use the garden you created for them to survive and thrive.