Meet Ben Hook
We usually highlight plants rather than people, but this year one customer has really engaged us all in his journey with native plants. Ben Hook began working in his condo yard this year due to a work-related injury. Unable to continue his normal hobbies he knew that he needed something to keep him busy and entertained. Several of the Watermark employees remember Ben’s first trip in mid-May. He had lots of engaging questions and his enthusiasm and genuine care for nature really made him very memorable.
His dedication was evident over the next months as he visited us several times each week. He always came with new questions about plants he had researched. Ben’s experience at Watermark Woods can be summed up, “The selection of native plants which I cannot find anyplace else keeps me coming back. The friendly staff often have plants from Watermark in their own gardens. So, learning from their experiences is very helpful. The website which has all the plants listed with descriptions and caretaking is a lot of fun to use and helps me narrow down my selections.” So far, his favorite plant is Baptisia australis-Blue False Indigo, but we have a feeling that like so many of us it may change with each season.
To help us understand his planting needs Ben is the perfect customer armed with the layout of his yard: ‘
“My space is small. I have 4 beds that total approximately 60 sq ft. But I’m also adding native plants in random locations because I want to draw in as much wildlife as possible. The lighting varies from dense shade to full sun. Sun mapping has been very helpful in my space. I have average to dry soil but in a couple heavily shaded spots there is certainly more moisture. I can see most of my garden from my window.”
A challenge for Ben has been working within the requirements of an HOA. One of the challenges Ben faced was “having the courage to remove invasive Nandina in my common area bed of this HOA community. Fortunately, my neighbors are pretty awesome. I replaced the Nandina with Sweet Pepper Bush(Clethra alnifolia) and Strawberry Bush(Euyonomous americanus).”
Even though Ben’s project is fairly young, he has already had some learning experiences. “I wish I had not purchased so many annuals and other plants that were not beneficial to the environment. I have a very limited amount of space so making responsible selections became very important to me.” As with any of us drawn to planting for wildlife he has also had some big payoffs: ‘When I add a new plant and not even a few minutes later a bug I’ve never seen before is hovering over that plant and landing on it for some purpose. This was when I realized I was contributing to the environment.”
Species he has already observed include:
Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Goldfinch, Purple Finch, Carolina Wren, Titmouse, Catbirds! Crow, House Sparrows, Squirrels, Chipmunks, Syrphid Flies, Cuckoo Bee, Phantom Crane Fly (so awesome!) Green Bottle Flies, Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Orange Mint Moth, Citrus Flatid Planthopper, Bumble Bees, Ladybugs, Firefly! Wolf Spiders, June bugs, Green Lacewings, One Caterpillar so far (don’t know
what kind), Earthworms, Roly Poly! So many more bees that I haven’t even identified yet.”
Ben’s advice to anyone starting a new garden:
· Have fun.
· Think about your goals. My goal was to create an environment where I have beneficial plants that I would see as if I were hiking in the different regions of Virginia.
· Do not be concerned of aphids and mites. They will bring in some really cool predatory insects and the birds will feed on them also.
· Bring nature into your garden and often it will take care of itself.
Wise words Ben. Thanks for being such a wonderful customer and new friend. Ben’s enthusiasm and success has re-energized us here at Watermark Woods and we hope his story helps you to find new magic in nature as well.