Native Plant Demonstration Site at ‘Dreams of Wilmington’ Showcases Coastal Landscapes Initiative Partnership

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DREAMS Center for Arts Education, a non-profit committed to fostering confidence in youth through equitable access to arts education, also features an educational garden space. Situated on the former City of Wilmington transportation depot, the site faces challenges with sandy, compacted soils and limited irrigation access. Additionally, being located in the urbanized Burnt Mill Creek Watershed, DREAMS sought assistance to enhance the site with landscaping to minimize runoff and provide shade for classes.

In collaboration with NC Sea Grant, N.C. Cooperative Extension, NC Coastal Federation, and DREAMS, a drought-tolerant garden was installed using Coastal Landscapes Initiative resources. Amy Mead, N.C. Cooperative Extension Natural Resources Agent, designed the landscape, incorporating Coastal Landscapes Initiative-recommended plants. This initiative aims to create beautiful, functional, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly coastal landscapes, utilizing native plants well-adapted to the climate and resilient against coastal hazards.

Installed on October 24th, the landscape design for DREAMS’ “secret garden” featured resilient grasses like Switchgrass and Muhly grass, evergreen foundation provided by Inkberry Hollies and Dwarf Palmettos, and height from Yaupon Hollies and Sweetbay Magnolias. Flowering perennials, including Spotted Beebalm and Black Eyed Susans, along with an arbor constructed by the Arboretum carpenters and adorned with Coral Honeysuckle, completed the design. These drought-tolerant native plants offer various benefits to insects and wildlife, serving as cover and food for birds, nectar for pollinators, and host plants for moth and butterfly caterpillars.

area planted with native shrubs and grasses

Volunteers from NC Coastal Federation, UNCW, and Camp LeJeune assisted in preparing the site and planting the diverse vegetation. Compost and mulch provided by Wilmington Compost Company and Friends of the New Hanover County Arboretum were applied to alleviate compaction and enhance soil organic content. The DREAMS Coastal Landscapes Initiative Demonstration Garden serves as a visible educational site, showcasing landscaping with low-maintenance, water quality-friendly native plants to educate youth and visitors alike.

volunteers standing beside a native plant bed installation