A Sustainable Sanctuary Flourishes in
Frankfort By Kirsten E. Silven Photography by Walt Roycraft
hen Dr. Stephen Sutley and his wife Maree Barney-Sutley made the decision to move from their longtime home in Fairbanks, Alaska, to a small plot of land just outside of Frankfort, the couple already had a clear vision: To make their new Kentucky home a sanctuary for area wildlife, complete with ample support for essential pollinators and other native species. Situated on about eight acres near Benson Creek, the property has evolved throughout the implementation of several carefully-planned phases over the last six years, thanks to a close collaboration with Andrea Mueller, APLD, of Inside Out Design. “We wanted to be in the country but still have access to all the amenities that city life provides,” shared Dr. Sutley. “We knew that we wanted to create an area that would be conducive to supporting local wildlife, including a variety of native trees and other plantings.” Mueller worked closely with the Sutleys, their son and his wife (who grew up in the area), which helped them oversee the project from afar. Since starting out, more than 7,000 plants, over 80 species, have been introduced, including at least 100 native trees and 6,000 plugs, which were used to create one of two natural prairies in the property’s bucolic meadows. The expansive outdoor areas have also evolved to include an oversized patio that is complete with a fireplace, outdoor kitchen and seat wall, as well as a unique water feature where water comes through the wall.
“We provided turnkey master planning and installation services throughout the phased project,” Mueller shared. “Some trees were introduced to provide screening, while others helped define the perimeter.” Removing existing invasive plants like Japanese honeysuckle, garlic mustard and winter creeper was another essential part of the project, replacing them with native plants instead to support a wide variety of pollinators and other area wildlife. The property is surrounded by Benson Creek, so replacing invasive species with native plants also helps improve the water quality and protects the watershed, because invasive plants overtake native species and decrease the soil’s capacity to store water. “Although we use primarily native plants, it’s fine to incorporate some non-native varieties to provide pops of color or texture, as long as they are not invasive,” Mueller revealed. “Native plants and natural prairies also require far less care and resources than more traditional gardens, which can cut down on maintenance.” Now fully settled in Kentucky, the Sutleys have definitely begun to enjoy the fruits of their efforts. This remarkable native garden is now buzzing with activity all year round, attracting everything from bees, birds and butterflies, to wild turkeys and deer, who all come to drink and dine on the buffet they have provided.
14 • March/April 2020 • Kentucky Homes & Gardens