The Piedmont Patch is located in an area of Orange County, NC that is marked by suburban sprawl. When land is cleared for large developments of suburban housing, the trees, bushes, flowers, and grasses that naturally populate the area are also cleared. Then, when the developments are “landscaped,” ornamental plants are often chosen based on cost, low maintenance and popularity rather than function within the native ecosystem. Displacement of native flora directly results in displacement of native fauna – bees, butterflies, and birds, as well as mammals. Restoring native plants restores the health and function of the local ecosystem.
While the area is home to many expert academicians, nurseries, gardeners and interest groups that promote native gardening, there continues to be an educational opportunity for the general population to learn about and experience native gardening. The Piedmont Patch is built on a collaboration of local experts and amateurs, with the twin goals of restoration and invitational, experiential education.
The Piedmont Patch at the Episcopal Church of the Advocate
The initial Piedmont Patch site is on the property of the Episcopal Church of the Advocate in Chapel Hill, whose fifteen acres offer diverse opportunity for native gardening. The people of the Church of the Advocate feel a strong call to serve God by engaging the community around them, and by making the property available as a place of hospitality, worship, and contemplation, and as a regional resource for collaborative social ministry and the arts. Visitors are always welcome to the site.
The Church of the Advocate is also currently engaged in building Pee Wee houses on the property, to provide housing for those who might otherwise be homeless. That project is a collaboration with the town of Chapel Hill, Habitat for Humanity and other community partners with knowledge and expertise to share. Creating a vibrant, healthy native landscape, where humans can appreciate and learn more about God’s creation, is consistent with the mission of the Advocate. Similarly, the project is founded on the belief that it will flourish in collaborative partnership.
Initial Funding and Activity
The Piedmont Patch at the Advocate was launched with a three-year Stewardship of Creation grant from The Episcopal Church, with whom the Advocate is affiliated. That grant provides funds for native plants, grasses and flowers, as well as the development of this website, educational signage for the property, and quarterly educational events for three years.
Other community groups and individuals have joined the collaborative and supported the development of the Piedmont Patch with funding and volunteer work. The project’s lead botanical consultant, Catherine E. Bollinger, has volunteered countless hours in plant selection and acquisition, as well as publicity and recruitment of additional donations and volunteers. The NC Botanical Garden has contributed expertise, greenhouse space and helped with plant acquisition. Skelton’s Landscaping Service has contributed expertise and volunteer hours. The New Hope Audubon Society has provided grant funding for bird boxes and bird-friendly plants and bushes, along with many volunteers and participants in the educational programs. The Johnson Service Corps class of ’18 selected the Piedmont Patch for their end-of-year project and is implementing part of an irrigation system for the property. Additional collaborators are welcome.
Partners in the Piedmont Patch Collaborative envision sharing what is learned from implementing the project at the Church of the Advocate with other interested people and organizations and supporting them in the creation of additional Piedmont Patches. Both through the education and the publicity efforts of the Piedmont Patch Collaborative, we hope to inspire others to restore native flora and fauna displaced by rapid urbanization, one patch of piedmont at a time.