WILMINGTON, N.C. — The Cape Fear Garden Club based in Wilmington was recently recognized as the Governor's Conservation Achievement Award Affiliate of the Year for their work during the pandemic to bring nature into people's homes. 


What You Need To Know

The Cape Fear Garden Club was named the Affiliate of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation

The club is working to turn small spaces into productive wildlife habitats

A wildlife habitat must provide food, water, shelter and places to raise young


Delores Hawes is a member of the garden club and loves spending time outdoors, but says anyone is capable of bringing a little outdoors to their space. 

“One plant is a start. One bowl of water is a good beginning with a rock in it so a butterfly can perch on it,” Hawes said. “Some pots with dirt in it — a frog can bury up in it, that's a start and that's all we're asking folks to do.”

Members of the Cape Fear Garden Club hold signs that will be put up in their wildlife habitat garden

Their idea is that any area can be a wildlife habitat no matter how small. Like other growing cities, apartment complexes dot the landscape of Wilmington and have replaced the nature that was there before. Animals and plants need a place to live just like people, and the club saw no reason they couldn't go hand in hand. 

“We do need to provide for those animals. We are continuing to overtake their habitat and we've got to provide for them in some way,” Hawes said. “It's our bread and butter. Without all of these guys, all of these insects, all of these different layers of the whole ecosystem, none of us are going to survive.”

Gardening drastically picked up during the pandemic, and the club hopes they can keep that momentum rolling and transform the wildlife spaces in Wilmington. 

“We all know that these green leaves are filters. I don't know how we can, in our mind's conscious, continue to cut trees down,” Hawes said. “Everybody, do a little bit and don't be afraid to get dirt under your nails.”

Frances Parnell, a former teacher turned student, works with Hawes to turn her natural landscape into an educational tool for others. She's been a longtime member of the garden club, but while they were searching for a location to demonstrate the possibilities of a wildlife habitat, she volunteered her own nearly four acre backyard. 

The sign in Frances Parnell's yard that designates it as a certified wildlife habitat

“When you're creating a wildlife habitat, really, first you decide who you want to invite,” Parnell said. “It's like a party and you plan your party around the guests you'll be having. We have larger mammals here but on the balcony, we would have the birds the butterflies, frogs, the smaller animals.”

Her backyard garden will be a stop on the Azalea Garden Tour currently scheduled for April 2022. The club is expecting around 4,000 people to come visit the space, and they're hoping they walk away inspired to create a natural area of their own.