Ahimsa Garden

A private residential native plant garden

Come learn, plant and grow with me

Creating viable habitat one yard at a time

The Vision.

This property was purchased in 2003, at the time it was completely overrun by English Ivy (Hedera helix L.), and Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica Thunb.) to the point where structures were hidden from view, and not discovered until several weeks after closing.  However, I knew enough to know, with time, I could “fix” it. I did not imagine it would take me 17 years to arrive at the point where I could finally start restoring this section of the yard, but here I am! My journey started small, with purchasing the bare root native plant bundles sold by Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, trips to Hyla Brook Farm in Louisa, VA, and years later frequenting local native plant sales hosted by non-profits. Not forgetting the unfathomable number of hours spent clearing brush, pulling, and cutting back vines. I share all this to inform, encourage and remind everyone that trying to restore a “traditional” yard to offer habitat for the natural world is not a one season process. It is a lifetime adventure. So, do not get discouraged, some plants may not like where you choose to plant them and that is okay. Try again next spring or fall and ask yourself what does this plant “like”.

And do not forget to sit down, lean back, and ENJOY your hard work!

Why Native Plants in the residential landscape?

There is a plethora of information on the internet written by people that have much higher credentials than me explaining the importance of native plants. Much of which can be found on my resources page. That said let me give a simple quick explanation in my own words.

Plants create their own energy, stored as starch by converting sunlight into energy via photosynthesis. Plants can be thought of as the foundation of a food pyramid. In simple terms, plants are the big gear that makes everything “work”. Think in terms of ecology. Now, not all plants are created equal, especially when considering the geography of where the plant evolved and where it is currently growing. Native plants provide food/energy to insects (moths, bees, flies, caterpillars, beetles, etc.) which in turn convert the plant energy into energy that is available to birds, snakes, salamanders … and so we go up the food chain and around the food web.  Native plants have evolved in close relationship with other creatures, and these creatures rely on these specific plants to thrive.

Plant native plants, get more insects, get more insects get healthy bird, amphibian, mammal populations. Get it?

Visit the resources page for all sorts of great information.

The Design Process.

In 2018 I worked with native plant landscape designer Elisa Meara to develop a design plan for my entire yard, which is .66 acres. My primary focus was the wooded area at the end of my property that often stayed wet after rains. I also have been battling non-native invasive plants on a quarterly basis, and never got to the exceptionally large task of replanting what I cleared, allowing for more non-natives to take hold of the disturbed habitat. Once the design was done, and after I had a better understanding of costs, I applied for the VCAP grant in 2019, which I was awarded. The application was for just the one “garden” section of the full .66-acre design, that I refer to as the wooded lowland garden. The installation was done on 4/18/2020. This is the first garden at Ahimsa Garden.


“The Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP) is an urban cost-share program that provides financial incentives and technical and educational assistance to property owners installing eligible Best Management Practices (BMPs) in Virginia’s participating Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs).

These practices can be installed in areas of your yard where problems like erosion, poor drainage, or poor vegetation occur. Qualified sites shall be used for residential, commercial, or recreational purposes with a proposed practice that addresses a need.” See the resources section for a link to further information.

The Design.

Habitat Type being Restored.

This restoration site is in a residential neighborhood that is considered an “established” neighborhood. Meaning it’s older, built in 1979 with mature trees, and lawn comprising most yards. This restoration site abuts a swim club property which is approximately 15 acres of unmanaged early secondary succession forest, which appears to have been a feral field. In broad terms this is disturbed edge habitat where the homeowner is trying to restore the forest layers on the private residential lot.