Annually for the past four years, we’ve celebrated Earth Day (April 22) with our Green Awards. This time, we decided to move away from our traditional format to spotlight one particular project that we feel is deserving of special attention.
Margot Taylor’s Dancing Tree estate is nothing less than a sustainable marvel. As part of a worldwide initiative, the Chester County-based landscape architect has transformed her Kennett Square property into its own sort of national treasure. We showcase Taylor’s organic work of art in “Green Acres”, with senior writer J.F. Pirro acting as both reporter and tour guide.
Taylor’s two-acre landscape is one of just two private homes in the country certified by the Sustainable SITES Initiative, demonstrating enviro-friendly land-use practices for water, soil and vegetation conservation and management. It’s the only private three-star SITES residence in the world.
What exactly is SITES, you ask? It’s a voluntary program in which compliance with sustainable practices is awarded on a 250-point scale. Taylor’s certification came in 2013, after a two-year pilot program that involved Dancing Tree and 149 other selectees across the globe—mostly botanical gardens, museums, academic and corporate campuses, public parks, and transportation corridors in the United States, Canada, Iceland and Spain. To her credit, Taylor earned 166 points.
Since 1993, Taylor has worked to restore the tenant-farmer house that’s now her residence. She’s reestablished native species, managed water and wildlife, removed, shifted or repurposed barn debris, and created garden rooms for various uses. “The big thing is: Does it evolve?” she posed to Pirro.
Apparently, it does.
“She has experimental beds with wood chips and mushroom spores for her hives of honeybees, which consume the secreted juice from mycelium in mushrooms as a nutrient source,” says Pirro. “She collects and inoculates logs with oyster and turkey-tail mushroom spores to build soil health. Of her five rain gardens, she lets whatever’s there grow in three of them—the other two are managed.”
Logs are everywhere. “And there are rain barrels hidden in storage sheds,” Pirro says. “Three feet of soil was excavated on the property, and every stone was repurposed as resource material. As a management tool, she plants 25 tree seedlings a year to build vertical forest structure and supplement diversity.”
Who does all of the work? Put it this way: When she makes calls to SITES, they often ask why she doesn’t get help from her staff. Her response: “Which one? Me, myself or I?”