Neighboring Eyes

Doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, your neighbors are going to talk about you anyway. – Felder Rushing

Repurposed old porch railings mark a natural area in the landscape.

Natural areas in the landscape can be made more pleasing to neighboring eyes by adding amendments reflecting purposeful planning. Horticulturist, author, and originator of the Master Gardeners program, Felder Rushing, suggests adding benches, pathways, fences and objects signifying thoughtful processes that set aside habitat for wildlife. Wildlife may include pollinators such as native ground nesting bees. Rethinking the need for the highly manicured monoculture called a lawn, will have a positive effect upon the environment. Fertilizers, pesticides and a myriad of other chemicals used on thousands of lawns, find their toxic way into storm drains through runoff. Whatever goes into storm drains goes into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Natural areas with networks of roots and an abundance of organic matter prevent runoff. As Felder says, your neighbors are going to talk about you anyway, so do the environment a favor – adopt the natural landscape idea.

Hummingbird Haven

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
— Michael Pollan

Hamelia patens, a native of Florida, is known by several names including Mexican Firebush, Scarlet Bush, Hummingbird Bush and Firecracker Shrub. A hardy, long lived perennial, this drought tolerant, pollinator plant can grow to more than 10′ tall, can be propagated by seed, and prefers full sun to partial shade. The orange-red, yellow tipped tubular flowers are perfect nectar sources for hummingbirds and butterflies. So plan and plant this delightful woody shrub in the landscape. The hummingbirds, butterflies and migratory birds will thank you. Learn more about Hamelia patens at the links below.

Florida Native Plant Society

Dave’s Garden

Native Fragrances

“Beyond the harm to local wildlife, any chemicals we used in our garden might end up polluting our well, or run off the property. In a heavy rainstorm, this runoff may end up in nearby Beaver Creek, a tributary to the Brandywine Creek, which runs into the Delaware River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. These kinds of direct connections with the outside world exist in every garden, which is why I think we should always aim, in our gardening practices, to do the least harm and the greatest good.”
David L. Culp, The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage

Florida Anise

Planting native species in the landscape is a win for the homeowner and a win for the environment. Native species, logical choices in avoiding the use of pesticides, are adapted to local climate conditions and require less watering. Illicium floridanum, a broadleaf evergreen shrub, native to the lower southeastern states, requires a shady, moist landscape and rewards the gardener with a rich, spicy fragrance. Learn more about this native at the following sites.

U of A Extension Service

Dave’s Garden

Odorous Weed or Welcome Friend?

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed. ~Walt Whitman

American Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana or American beautyberry, a southern U.S. native, makes frequent appearances in coastal gardens. Many gardeners quickly remove these visitors, equating them to troublesome weeds. However, some welcome these natives, finding their large serrated leaves and unusual odor a benefit to their gardens. The magenta colored berries also add color and provide food for wildlife. Learn more about this odorous native shrub at the following websites. NC Extension Gardener Toolbox


Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Hummingbird Haven

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done. ~Author Unknown

Little Cigar Plant

Cuphea ignea, a smaller relative of Cuphea micropetala or Big Cigar/Candy Corn plant, is a native of Central America. Another easy grow perennial, attracting hummingbirds and butterflies, the Little Cigar cuphea deserves a place in the coastal pollinator garden along with many other cupheas. Learn more about the cuphea genus at the following websites.

Better Homes and Gardens


A Verdant Heart

If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense. ‘Green fingers’ are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.

Russell Page

Cotton can be grown by home gardeners. The beautiful blossoms may remind one of okra, hollyhock and hibiscus blossoms and with good reason; these plants are all members of the mallow family of plants. Click on the link below to learn how to include this plant in the home garden.

Consider making organic cotton choices when shopping for clothing, sheets and towels – an extension of a verdant heart.

Cotton Acres

Nature’s Farming

“The main characteristic of Nature’s farming can therefore be summed up in a few words. Mother earth never attempts to farm without live stock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; ample provision is made to maintain large reserves of fertility; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.” ~  Sir Albert Howard

“The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.”

  Sir Albert Howard


Picture of a compost bin
Compost bin, located at The Lost Garden, Downtown Mobile on Dauphin St. and provided by Keep Mobile Beautiful


Sir Albert Howard, 1873-1947, considered the father of modern organic agriculture, learned about composting through observation of farmers in India. Creating a compost pile or bin should be on the to-do list for all backyard gardeners. The three bin composter, pictured above, is an example of one way to compost kitchen scraps and green waste. Refer to the following sites to determine materials that can be composted, as well as other types of composters.  So quit hauling yard waste to the curb and throwing kitchen scraps, pet hair, and dryer lint  into the garbage can. Compost it!

Composting at Home

Earth Easy

Composting for a Vegetable Garden

How to


Pleasure, Challenge, Joy

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. “– David Hobson



Southern checkerspot butterfly  sipping nectar from flower of basil plant



Newbies, wanting to participate in America’s favorite pastime, should remember to start small. Basil and other herbs are easy to grow from seed and attract butterflies as well as provide table fare.  A 4’x8′ garden plot is ample space to grow a variety of plants and  develop gardening experience. Refer to the  Alabama Extension Service site  for assistance.  Get growing!

Alabama Planting Guide for Home Gardeners



Rachel Carson, An American Heroine


“The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important. ” (1962)
— Rachel Carson

Raised on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, Rachel Carson shared her mother’s love of nature, writing, and learning. The family sacrificed to send Rachel to college. She earned an undergraduate degree in biology in 1929 and a graduate degree in zoology in 1932.

Upon the death of her father, Rachel became the breadwinner of the family. She took a job at the US Bureau of Fisheries, later known as the Fish and Wildlife Service and spent fifteen years with the service, rising to the post of editor in chief of publications. In her spare time, she wrote environmental articles for magazines, as well as books including the award winning , The Sea Around Us. In all her writings, Rachel made the point that human beings are a part of nature and not the masters of nature.

In 1944, she proposed an article to Reader’s Digest, regarding the effects of DDT on the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Reader’s Digest turned it down as being too unpleasant. Nevertheless, her concern for the use of pesticides continued. After World War II, the use of pesticides to control fire ants, mosquitoes, and other insects exploded. She worried and rightfully so, that the chemical industry had not done the research to determine the long term effects of synthetic chemicals. After six years of research her greatest work, Silent Spring, was published in three installments in New Yorker magazine. It was read by President John F. Kennedy. The book, Silent Spring, was published in 1962, and was an instant best seller. In May of 1962, the President’s Science Advisory Committee issued a report on the uses of pesticides, upholding Rachel’s warnings.

1963 was a busy year for Rachel. In April, CBS Reports with Eric Sevareid aired “The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson”, and had 15 million viewers. In June, Senate hearings were held. Rachel testified calling for limits on the number of pesticides in use and expected criticism from the billion dollar chemical industry. However, the shy scientist didn’t expect the personal attacks from the industry as well as from those within the government. She was called a hysterical woman and a communist. Threats of lawsuits followed as well.
In November, 1963, the Mississippi River fish kill validated her concerns, with the cause traced to the pesticide, Endrin. In December, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Clean Air Act , with Rachel witnessing the signing.

More actions to protect the environment followed. In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed, and in 1966, the Endangered Species Act which included the bald eagle, brought to the brink of extinction by DDT.  In 1970, President Richard Nixon founded The Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water was enacted in 1972. And finally, again in 1972, DDT was banned from use in the United States.

Sadly, Rachel wasn’t able to celebrate the sweeping changes brought about by her courageous stand for the protection of the natural environment and public health.  Rachel was  actually fighting two battles, a public one against the chemical industry and degradation of the environment, and a private one against breast cancer. She lost her private battle on April 11, 1964.

According to Rachel Carson, the heart of the problem relating to the preservation of the environment in the twentieth century was human hubris and financial self- interest. She is quoted as saying, “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway, on which we progress with great speed but at its end lies, disaster. The other fork in the road, the one less traveled by, offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

The battle to protect the environment is  still being waged. Please refer to a February, 2019, article relating to chlorpyrifos, a banned pesticide,  allowed to be used by current  EPA officials.  Hubris and financial self-interest should not determine the safety of the American consumer’s diet and  the health of the environment on which all depend.  Address concerns to  elected representatives and make organic consumer choices.  Take the other fork in the road. Be a Rachel!

Learn more about Rachel Carson, an American heroine, by clicking here.