Creating an Avian Garden

Three years ago I met Lauri Burns, founder of The Teen Project and new owner of Vera’s Sanctuary, a five-home site in Trabuco Canyon that shelters women who have been subject to homelessness and human trafficking.

The Teen Project acquired 12-acres of canyon land and existing homes after receiving a gift from a donor. The five ranch-style homes had been vandalized and the landscape was barren and weedy. The Teen Project had their hands full refurbishing the homes and were searching for solutions to help with the landscape.

Home of the The Teen Project in Trabuco Canyon, CA. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

After reading about the project in the LA Times, I contacted The Teen Project and offered to help restore the landscape.

The Teen Project agreed, and since then, my team and I have removed invasive weeds, planted and developed five front yards and three back yards, and created a 5,000-square-foot butterfly garden.

This September 2021, we began work on the east side of the project, where we created an Avian Garden that is interconnected with two large front lawns (see “before” photo below).

The Avian Garden design includes wide decomposed granite pathways that connect the two homes and an existing backyard pool.

Building pathways.
Road base underlies wide paths.

The DG pathways are water permeable, and create a safe passage for the residents and counselors on site. We placed 22 tons of boulders for interest and structure, and installed MP Rotator sprinklers to irrigate the planted areas.

20 yards of DG for pathways.

In October of this year, we received delivery of 350 California native plants and finished the installation in two weeks.

After planting, we installed mulch from Terre Verde Industries in Irvine. We used the “400” series of mulch, spreading it lightly over the raised beds.

The Avian Garden and adjacent front lawn areas are now nearly complete. As part of this 10,000 square-foot project, we enhanced swales in front of the homes to capture and store rainwater.

Counselors on site have told us how happy they are to come to work every day because the setting is so beautiful. The transformation of Vera’s Sanctuary grounds from a compacted, weed-infested site to a flourishing native plant botanical garden is almost complete.

My next post will feature the work we are finishing in Peter’s Park–a 12,000 square-foot park space that also serves as a fire and utility easement for Vera’s Sanctuary. We planted a seasonal meadow using poppy, lupine, and other native seeds. Stay tuned!

3 responses to “Creating an Avian Garden”

  1. Inspiring work, wonderful of you to restore a sense of place and habitat in this space. Hope it helps bring peace and restoration to the residents of the compound.


  2. Over time, the wonderful diversity of life you will have helped create will bring a lot of healing to those fortunate enough to live in this community. Thank you for your beautiful work.


    1. Thank you for your kind comments! It is a joy creating this space with a variety of California native plants. The residents love the natural beauty.


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