Transforming a Neighborhood

Pine Brook Neighborhood is a shining example of what one person can do to make an entire neighborhood more beautiful, healthy, and supportive of wildlife. When a prairie pothole was about to be destroyed by neighborhood development, a concerned citizen contacted Houston Audubon to help. What she and her husband managed to save is astounding: a very special wetland area that provides essential habitat for birds and other wildlife. She led volunteer crews to remove invasive species, build trails for the public, and add signs to educate visitors.

After this significant conservation effort, the same citizen began to notice ways that her neighborhood could use traditional planting areas in more diverse ways to support wildlife. She worked with her neighborhood association and created and implemented a plan that has truly transformed Pine Brook. Here is some advice, in her words. This advice will give you a feel for how you might consider approaching a neighborhood of your own:

Everyone asks “What trees to order.” My answer is as many DIFFERENT species of  trees as possible! The more biodiversity you can create, the more variety of birds and butterflies you will have. Also your ecosystems will be healthier if good diversity of trees and plants. I suggest 15 gallon trees if have irrigation system. Trees need sunlight and don’t do well in deep shade. Some shrubs (e.g. beautyberry can handle some light shade).

[If you are on organization that can order Wholesale,] order trees from Doremus Native Nursery  (contact Mark @ Doremus: 1-409-547-3536. Doremus is near Big Thicket) Doremus- wholesale (15 gallon is $45) trees will be good quality and very inexpensive. If you aren’t able to find all the varieties needed from Doremus, check Treesearch, [also Wholesale] (15 gallon trees will be about $125). Then order as many species of shrubs as available to create your “habitat clusters”. The Mexican beautyberry we used in entrances was a Mexican beautyberry from Treesearch, which does not lose it’s leaves in winter. The native beautyberry, which loses its leaves in winter, is from Doremus. Doremus received an award from the Native Plant Association for the diversity of native trees, shrubs , and plants available. There is really no other wholesale nursery that I know of that has such a wide diversity of native trees, shrubs, and plants!

For salvias and other nectar perennials go to Treesearch- you can go there and pick everything out or just order via telephone- they do have a delivery charge. Both nurseries can load up a semi- truck  and bring it to your swimming pool (makeshift nursery) to store until planting.  You will need a few volunteers  if available and need to purchase a landscape cart) to unload the Doremus truck. I just call a small group of volunteers (male and female) when Ted Doremus gets close to Pine Brook!) When unloading the truck create a “line” for each different species (as done in nurseries) . Call Mark (Doremus 1-409-547-3536) for an availability list. Call Treesearch (713-937-9811) for an availability list. These lists will have size, species  and price. You need a wholesale tax exempt form from your civic association to purchase w/o sales tax. Fall is peak time and trees and shrubs can sell fast- so try to be first before everything is sold out!  Best time to plant is fall. You do need volunteers to water plants and trees daily in the “nursery”.

For laying out, I just loaded up a U-Haul and then laid out everything myself (great ab workout!!)  with the help of my husband and/or Nunez Landscape staff the day before  (and sometimes the day of ) planting. Nunez crew dug all the holes, planted, mulched, and staked.  I was there during planting to insure that everything was planted optimally. There was several yards of soil and mulch in Nunez truck. Nunez Landscape charged $25 per man per hour for labor. (Nunez Landscape 281-935-1229)

Pollinator Garden

Cedar Waxwings on Yaupon

Interpretive sign for the pothole trail, a model of conservation.