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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Beyond regenerative landscapes: rewilded landscapes

Beyond regenerative agriculture and landscape practices, rewilding land restores the natural ecosystem that evolved over thousands of years. Regenerative practices focus on building and maintaining a vibrant, healthy soil ecosystem yet does not address native foliage. Rewilding land requires the restoration of native plants and cultivates food for indigenous insects. Strong insect populations are the foundation for restoring wildlife-predator/prey hierarchies that once thrived prior to human intrusion.

The RiA Magazine article, Ei Rewilding Urban Landscape Pilots, explains the importance of rewilding landscapes and introduces the Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots (Ei Pilots.) 

Food Forest in the backyard POL Pilot
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
When she returned to her hometown, Sarasota, Florida, after residing in Atlanta for four decades, Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder & CEO Holly Elmore dedicated her spacious approximately 8,500-square-foot yard to two rewilding pilots. While the front-yard landscape is dedicated to native plants, the backyard pilot follows permaculture-oriented landscape (POL) practices with an emphasis on human-food-producing plants. 

Thus, the general rule for the backyard landscape: any non-native plants must produce human food and/or provide direct soil-ecosystem benefit.

The Holly Elmore Images (HEI) Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes album documents the pilots' progress in a series of photo galleries.

Urban Wildlife
A major thrust for the rewilding pilots was creating and providing food and habitat for local urban wildlife. With the front-yard pilot nearing its two-year anniversary and the backyard POL pilot months past its one-year anniversary, urban wildlife thrives within the Ei Pilots; the various animal kingdoms are represented in the diverse wildlife.

Red-bellied woodpecker
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
Mammals - though rarely seen, evidence of mammal activity is common including scat, rummaged plants, deep holes and surface scratching, soft areas above underground lodging, and prey remnants. A partially consumed mouse and an intact dead mole were discovered. A scurry of bossy, noisy squirrels reside within the four magnificent oak trees on the property. 

Feathered Friends - a plethora of bird species call the oak trees home. A murder of crows live in the neighborhood and often raise havoc in the yard; the bird feeder is used to clean their predatorial kills with remnants left behind for discovery.

Reptiles - a variety of lizard species are ever present in the yard and serve as prey for Holly's cats as well other wildlife. A black snake resides in the backyard and occasionally makes its presence known. Once a partially consumed young red-eared slider turtle from the nearby park pond was left behind in a bird bath as a crow's gift.

Insects - the yard is a haven for pollinators and other insects. With ample native host plants, multiple generations of butterflies reside in the yard and caterpillars devour the plants. The Gulf fritillary caterpillars are ravenous and killed numerous passion vine plants. A milkweed vine replaced the milkweed plants as a sturdy host for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Lady bug larvae keep the aphids in check and seem to also consume small caterpillars as well as their eggs.

Three stages of the Atala butterfly's
transformation from a caterpillar to butterfly.
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images

Once thought extinct, the Atala butterfly population is rebounding thanks to native-plant landscapes; the native-to-Florida coontie palm is the Atala butterfly host plant and popular in residential and commercial landscape designs. 

Holly witnessed an Atala butterfly lay eggs one on the food forest coontie bushes, the Atala caterpillars feast on the coontie leaves, transform into the chrysalis stage, and emerge as magnificent butterflies. 

The HEI album, Atala butterflies return from near extinction, gives a pictorial recount of the magical experience; the RiA Magazine article, Atala Butterflies Return from Near Extinction, celebrates the Atala butterfly and coontie palm return from near extinction with a historical recount of contributing events.

Pollinators, including an array of bees, wasps, flies, and more, inhabit the yard. The variety of lettuce, herb, and vegetables plants were permitted to bolt and to go to seed in the Vegetable, Herb, and Edible Flower Garden. While in the flower stage, the plants were a refuge for the pollinators and segued into bird food with the seed stage. Added benefit: the garden reseeded itself for many of the species.

Between the Food Forest and the Vegetable, Herb, and Edible Flower Garden, the Backyard POL Pilot produced abundant harvests of diverse vegetables, lettuces, fruit, edible flowers, and leaves. When the magnificent fennel bulbs were harvested, the fronds were the foundation for a delicious pesto. Later in the summer, carrot tops were used for several pestos, including a lovely green olive, pistachio, and carrot-top pesto.

Summer carrot harvest
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
Sweet potato and African potato mint ground cover in the Food Forest produced ample vegetables for sharing with neighbors and friends. The first Meyer lemons harvested made superb preserved lemons. Herbs including parsley, sage, basil, thyme, and oregano were a delight to gather for various culinary escapades. Spicy peppers added color and heat to select dishes.

Edible flowers served a variety of culinary purposes, including simple garnish, basis for house-made tea blends, and fermentation. Daily harvests of the beautiful purple butterfly pea blossoms were pressed for baking garnish, dried for tea blends, fermented for salad dressings, and used fresh to add color in a multitude of photo shoots. Yellow cosmos, orange marigold, bright pink ground sorrel, basil, and arugula blossoms were colorful, tasty accents for a variety of food-photo shoots.

Moringa, cranberry hibiscus, lemongrass, lobster bush, and pennyroyal leaves were harvested, dehydrated, and stored for eclectic, creative tea blends.

With the fall growing season around the corner, sorghum and sun hemp are cover crops that add nutrients to the soil, protect the remaining crops and soil from the harsh summer sun, and retain moisture. In late September, the garden's second season will be planted from seeds and seedlings nurtured in the backyard.

Zach Zildjian of ZZ Design Services is the mastermind of the Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots. Under Zach's tutelage, Holly maintains the yard via watering during drought times, constant weeding, pruning bushes and trees, harvesting the garden bounty, gifting the abundant volunteer seedlings, planting new species, and replenishing mulch to prevent weeds and retain moisture.

Protected from public viewing, the backyard retains a "wild," abundant energy and is sacred space.

As they mature, the Ei Pilots showcase how rewilding urban landscapes provide a plethora of benefits and environmental services to the property owner, the community, the environment, and urban wildlife.


Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 


About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 |

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