Red Bearberry for Bellport Resilience : Design Challenge

Photo © Four Corners School of Outdoor

Design Challenge takes photos of tricky spots in people’s yards and puts them out there for advice from the professionals at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and from our broad audience of participants, some of whom have some serious wildlife gardening credentials (just check out our Featured Sites for proof).

The Details

Location: Bellport, NY
Eco-Region:Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Oceanic) Province Guide
Planting Zone: 7a
Learn more about this place by reading it’s Local Resources Page.


Photo ©

This Long Island home in Bellport Bay is located right near the shore and is looking for ways to make the barren lawn a bit more bird friendly. The area is the large plot on the far side of the driveway which is about one third of an acre.


Photo ©

It has the dry, well drained, sandy soil that is typical for many coastal areas and is shaded most of the year by large trees. Currently, the area is mowed as a lawn but is not watered. The owners reside in England for much of the year and would like vegetation that is self maintaining and, after enduring Hurricane Sandy, resilient to large storms.


Photo ©

Cornell Says:
Living by the coast provides a plethora of opportunity to provide much-needed habitat to a unique range of species from plants and insects to the birds that depend on them. Coastal habitats, like this one, are very susceptible to a constant barrage of environmental pressures like high winds, erosion, salt, and flooding. Habitat provided for wildlife must be hardy enough to withstand those forces and also resilient enough to fully recover afterword. Moving from the current lawn to a more interesting and productive selection of native species could be as large of an undertaking as you would like. The turf could be removed from the entire area and replaced with a single ground cover such as Red bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) or a selection of native shrubs, grasses, and forbes. If that project scale is too large, then several smaller sections could be transformed into native garden beds. Either approach should include species that are drought and salt tolerant, have extensive roots to hold the soil in place, and provide resources to attract wildlife. Native ornamental grasses like Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), can offer soil stability while Bluebell bellflower (Campanula rotundifolia), and Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) or Shrubby St. Johnswort (Hypericum prolificum) can bring color and attract birds and pollinators to the site. New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus) is a fairly salt tolerant shrub that may be another option to add structure and pollinator habitat.

To our readers: Do you live near the coast or somewhere else with regularly intense weather regimes? How have you changed the plant life to ensure success? Or, have you removed your lawn in favor of native diversity? Which species have you had luck with?

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