Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening in an Extreme Environment

By: Kim Charles

Cindy Bruno has created a remote garden oasis in North Carolina.

"My home is located in Carova, North Carolina.  There are no paved roads in Carova, the only way to access the region is with a 4WD vehicle.  In trying to embrace the uniqueness of the beach, I incorporate native and other hardy plants with shells and driftwood, found on the beach, to create my sandy sanctuary.  The ropes, seen in several of the photos, are to prevent the wild mustangs from nibbling on the flowers and plants.  After a day at the beach, it is very relaxing to retreat to my backyard oasis."

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 09/22/2017

    Hello Cindy - What a great location and garden you have created! Nice use of shells and stones to mulch the garden beds. Your garden art/ornamentals are very interesting, especially the 'Shell' sign. Is the white bucket used to feed or water the horses and keep them away from your flowers? Cheers from Oz

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      Thx. No actually there is plenty of natural vegetation and water for them in the area. We are surrounded by the Ocean on one side and just a few blocks away the Sound. If you have the opportunity to go out on a boat or airboat in the Sound, you will find them feeding in the marshes. There are plenty of grasses, trees, and fruits (like persimmons) that grow here that they like. They love to eat bird seed. I keep my feeders to a level they cannot reach but I had a little to spare so I did give them a small amount of birdseed. But do not do that on a regular basis as they will quickly become dependent.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/22/2017

    Wow! Creating something that would work with a beach seems to me would be difficult. But you have really done a great job. Very unique & quite pretty.

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      Thanks so much. It does require some research and building of barriers from the horses while still allowing them to roam freely in the yard.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/22/2017

    Were you well aware of the presence of the wild horses before you settled into your Carova lifestyle? And, if so, was that part of the appeal? Has to be pretty amazing to see such large size living "art" strolling about in one's backyard. Love the gradations of aqua blue on your fence...that touch really gives it relaxed seashore feel. You have definitely chosen a very interesting place to live.

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      Yes I was aware of the wild horses and it was part of the appeal and uniqueness. Originally, I had not planned to do a lot of landscaping. But my love for flowers changed that after a couple of years. The challenge was trying to plant those things that they will not eat. Another advantage is they eat the grass and there is not need to mow a lawn.

  4. tennisluv 09/22/2017

    Absolutely unique garden. Hats off to you for creating you own personal oasis in such a difficult environment. Not many plants will grow in sand. I'd heard of the wild mustangs on NC's Outer Banks, but this is the first time I have seen and up close picture of one of them. Living legends from the Spanish explorers. Wow.

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      Thx. Yes the horses are beautiful and roam freely. I have found plants they really don't care to eat but they do love the grass. Which is an advantage for me as there is no mowing required.

  5. mjensen 09/22/2017


  6. LaurelEm 09/22/2017

    Love it! I am a horsewoman and would find that so cool to have horses just walk up. But I can imagine the damage they could do if they actually got in the garden! We've had a neighbors wandering beef steers come into our yard a few years back. Oh My! The damage! Even broken solar lights. Your garden looks wonderful.

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      The horses can be a challenge but love having them. Hence to plant those items they like, i.e, grasses and certain flowers, I have put up a fence and ropes. They are pretty good about staying out of the rest of the planted areas. But I do find a broken solar light at times.

  7. user-6896190 09/22/2017

    very nice.

  8. nancy_royal 09/22/2017

    My two favorite things, horses and gardens. Thank you for sharing.

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017


  9. cheryl_c 09/22/2017

    Hi, Cindy, I love the ruggedness of your gardens, the fact that you didn't try to make a cottage garden or something refined, and instead let the rugged beauty of your surrounding landscape be reflected in your gardens. I want to reflect on each of the photos, because I love each one, but will limit myself to admiring the color shift of the foliage in the first picture (green only in the background, slowing merging into the purple of the foreground), the wonderful mix of colors with your pallet fence photo - very bold of you to put all those coastal colors together! - and the photo of the gailardia, with all the color echos you have achieved! Great job!

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      Thx. The pink/purple flowers were not planted but spring up every year. As well as the gailardia. I have purchased a few yuccas but there are an abundance here so I have transplanted them from those I have found growing near the sand roads. Lantana and Oleander do well there also.

  10. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 09/22/2017

    Good morning, Cindy. Wow!, and I thought that I had problems with deer and rabbits. I can't imagine how much damage a horse would do stepping on plantings. What an interesting place to live and garden. That beachie looking fence is perfect for your setting as are your chosen plants. It looks like a peaceful place to retreat and enjoy nature. Is it cool enough for you to grow lavender? It does great here in our sandy soil.

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      Yes it can be challenging with the horses but love having them around. Just have to learn to work around them I have planted some lavender and is does well but Rosemary really loves the climate.

  11. Cenepk10 09/22/2017

    Nice ... Love the fences... I reckon you do retreat there after the beach... sounds like a sweet lifestyle

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      It is very relaxing and I am blessed to be able to have a home here.

  12. Cenepk10 09/22/2017

    Colors are making me smile too. Love that hot pink w the fences & the cool planters on the fences

  13. user-7008735 09/22/2017

    What an interesting place you live, Cindy! It reminds me of a childhood book I had about the horses of Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. Lots of ships were wrecked there and the horses are descendants of the ones who swam to shore.

    1. br_54911 09/22/2017

      It is a very interesting place. We do have many shipwrecks in the area and I have heard many different stories of where the horses came from. Have not visited Nova Scotia but it is on my list.

      1. user-7008735 09/22/2017

        I haven't visited Nova Scotia yet either, but you are closer to it, so you might get there first. I've travelled in 36 countries but not yet visited all the provinces of Canada. It always seemed like it would be safe and easy to travel in Canada when we were older, so we explored places that wouldn't be so easy later.

    2. user-7008906 09/22/2017

      I just read that book with my kids- Misty of Chincotegue? Perhaps? :)

      1. user-7008735 09/22/2017

        Rachel, I think your book is a different one set in Chincoteague, Virginia. Sable Island is a very small island about 300 km (about 186 miles) from Halifax, Nova Scotia, so quite a bit farther north than Virginia. I wonder how many wild horses live along the less populated areas of the Atlantic coast? Some small herds of wild horses still roam the Interior of British Columbia, my province on the Pacific coast of Canada. Keep reading to your kids for as long as they will let you!

  14. user-7008421 09/22/2017

    Love your garden areas! Instead of rabbits, you have mustangs to challenge your gardening...LOL Your home sounds like a wonderful sanctuary. Enjoy your beautiful home and gardens!

  15. br_54911 09/22/2017

    The fence is built out of pallets. The horses are wild but some have become tame over time because we have a lot of tourist that want to feed and pet them. The community and the Wild Horse Group try very hard to educate those new or temporarily in the area to stay 50 ft from the horses. Feeding can make them very ill and in some cases has killed them. Petting them makes them unafraid of approaching cars and they have been hit. Once the horses are injured and need medical assistance or become too tame, they are taken off the beach and not returned. They find good homes for them--usually on a farm but this, of course, is away from their family, herds, and environment. Thanks for all your wonderful comments.

  16. Sunshine111 09/22/2017

    Wow! Wild Mustangs! That really must be something? Do you feed them? I can't imagine what that would be like. Free manure?

    Love seeing your photos and loved seeing and experiencing something new. Thanks for sharing!

  17. anabowers 09/22/2017

    Love your native plantings! They fit perfectly with your surroundings. Lovely, and thanks for sharing!

  18. alohaland 09/22/2017

    The garden is a special tribute to working with the natural elements that will make or break it. You have really "made it " in there is beautiful sand and rocks instead of defined and refined grassy areas. And the shots of fences and colors are wonderful pops of color and your taste. Mahalo, as we say in Hawaii, for caring for these stunning horse creatures that are allowed to live and thrive in your special place.

  19. br_54911 09/25/2017

    There are signs posted and I believe the real estate packets may have information in them for the renters. Unfortunately, there are those that just don't follow the rules.

  20. thevioletfern 09/27/2017

    Wonderful! Gardeners in all the wrong places but you have grit! I can't imagine what it must be like to see wild horses pass through your sanctuary. Love the beachy accents. Great plantings!

  21. user-6536305 12/29/2017

    I like to way you used the shipping pallets for fence and painted and decorated it so beautifully. Love your garden and its decoration. Thanks for sharing and happy New Year Cindy!

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