An Organic Garden And Tips For Attracting Wildlife

David Nelson’s organic M Streets garden and tips for attracting all manner of wildlife.

BACK TO NATURE: A brick path slowly meanders through David Nelson’s backyard, where nature is firmly in control. (Below) David Nelson and his British bull terrier Isabel often lounge in the garden, watching the wildlife. His outdoor space is a symbiotic relationship of flora and fauna. (Below left) Ginger lily is only one of the more than 4,000 plants in this organic garden.

All Natural
David Nelson’s M Streets garden is an organic free-for-all and a tranquil respite from his normal frenetic pace.

David Nelson’s love for the beauty of natural things is palpable. It resonates through his home, his studio, and especially his garden. His interior spaces reflect his work as a designer and photo stylist for such clients as Horchow, Neiman Marcus, and Liberty Noodle, but his garden reflects a sort of aesthetic abandon, where nature clearly is in charge.

In contrast to the house, the garden isn’t designed. Plants are placed where there is space and they have the best chance to flourish. My garden is totally organic, David says. And that means being at peace with the occasional loss of a plant because it was somebods supper. More than at peace, David is fascinated by the s

Castor Bean

ymbiotic relationships between plants, insects, and other garden dwellers and encourages them with careful planting selections and welcoming habitats. For instance, fennel and passion vine bring butterflies, butterflies produce caterpillars, and caterpillars bring predatory wasps. Each spring David releases ladybugs and praying mantises. He has supplemented his anole population, added geckoes, and introduced turtles, gambusia, and bullfrog tadpoles to his pond. He even added a bat house recently.

Asked to characterize his gardening style, David says, I’m extremely patient. Some people find natures pace frustrating, but I find it relaxing after working all day in the wild, demanding, gotta-have-it-now design world. I enjoy the process of gardening.


FLORA AND FAUNA: David mixes herbs and flowering plants with abandon; a casual inventory reveals castor bean, dwarf palmetto, canna, and dark opal basil, just to name a few. David loves canaries; he scattered 15 cages throughout the garden. A spanish Timbrata canary (top) lives in this ornate cage from Ceylon et Cie (above).

David Nelson’s Tips for a Beautiful Organic Garden

 Prepare beds with a 1/2 organic compost, 1/4 native soil, 1/4 topsoil mix.

Mulch and top dress with pecan-shell mulch.

Feed twice a year with fish emulsion.

 Set sprinklers for every other day on a predawn schedule so leaves can dry in the morning, reducing the chance of mildew and fungal growth. Supplement sprinkler irrigation with soaker hoses in beds, and hand water special-needs plants.

Assist natural pest control by releasing ladybugs and praying mantises in the spring.

Dwarf Palmetto

Get a good gardening encyclopedia, and refer to it often. David’s favorite is Native Texas Plants by Sally and Andy Wasowski.

David buys his organic supplies, fish emulsion, pecan mulch, ladybugs, and preying mantises at Redentas.

Gambusia are available at Creative Water Gardens.

Anoles and geckoes are available at Boutique Pet Shop and Aquarium.

Bat houses are available at Wild Birds.

Natural Garden Companions and Warriors
A healthy organic garden will draw beautiful and beneficial creatures as if by magic, but you can help it along by creating an environment that is attractive to them.


Attract swallowtail butterflies of all kinds with fennel, dill, and parsley.  As if their outrageous flowers arent enough,  passion vine will draw bright orange fritillary butterflies (often confused with monarchs) in abundance. Migrating monarch butterflies will stop by for nectar from abelia, lantana, and other flowering plants, but will only lay their eggs on milkweed.  Sweetgum, persimmon, and walnut trees draw the extraordinary luna moth.

Dark Opal Basil

Anoles (lovely, little, lime-green lizards) eat  small worms as well as caterpillars, spiders, small moths, and other insects. Help control the population of larger insects, such as moths, bees, horseflies, and beetles, with praying mantises.  Harmless garter snakes are the best organic control (short of a duck) for snails, slugs, centipedes, and other insects.  Predatory wasps aggressively pursue aphids and caterpillars.  Ladybugs and their scary-looking but harmless larvae are famous for consuming many times their weight in aphids, mites, and whiteflies.

Graceful, iridescent dragonflies eat other flying insects, particularly flies and mosquitoes.  Gambusia are small, unintimidating fish that thrive on mosquito larvae. Frogs and toads delight in slugs, snails, and insects”and add charming sound effects to summer evenings.  Red-eared Slider turtles love to eat everything you want to get rid of: crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, snails, and slugs.


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