Forget everything you thought you knew about environmentalism. Forget the image of the tie-dyed wearing hippie, munching on granola and shaming you for not composting your kitchen scraps. Today’s environmentalist sees the rising tide of conscientious living as the key to a sustainable future, one where you don’t need to sacrifice the good life to save the Earth.

Whether helping people understand environmental laws, building homes and structures that do as little harm to the earth as possible or just keeping their own home green, there are more ways than ever to live a green lifestyle. Meet a local who is changing the image of living green.

LOCAL SINCE 1991 • THE DUPPS’ BEAUTIFUL GARDEN WAS FEATURED IN SOUTHERN LIVING IN 2009. IT LOOKS MUCH DIFFERENT TODAY, THANKS TO HURRICANE MATTHEW. THE INFLUX OF SUNLIGHT NOW ALLOWS FOR AN HERB AND VEGETABLE GARDEN.

Ellen Dupps

Growing Green

If you ask Ellen Dupps to describe her garden, she’ll call it a series of rooms.

And that’s a fair assessment – while it may not have been planned, the wandering walkways and plants segregate each area of her immensely lush Sea Pines garden into rooms, each with its own unique character. There’s the brick-walled courtyard, resplendent with Lowcountry serenity and centered around a water feature brimming with Egyptian papyrus. There’s the “Secret Garden,” where Ellen and Ralph’s daughters once scouted for fairies. There’s the “cow pasture,” so named because of the cow topiary that seems to be grazing on its grasses. There’s “The Island,” set apart from the rest of the garden across a wooden bridge spanning a tranquil lagoon.

“It’s not like it was planned,” she said. “I love gardening, but I’m not a master gardener. I plant something and work on it. If it works, we keep it, and if not, we move on to something else.”

She describes it as an evolution, each room springing forth organically from the ideas she cooks up along with friend and mentor Carol Guedalia. But more than a series of rooms, it’s a series of stories.

That courtyard’s Lowcountry motif was chosen to honor the home in whose shadow it stands, an old hunting lodge that predates the resort era of Sea Pines. The couple had originally bought the house as a flip but fell in love with its rich character. The pergola that rises between lush pathways lined with Japanese sedge, creeping Jenny and shell ginger was built shortly after daughter Becca married Lee Edwards in the forests out back. During construction of the lagoon, a piece of excavation equipment got stuck in the mire and had to be dug out. The Dupps had been traveling at the time, and came home to find the whole adventure documented on the front page of the Island Packet.

But perhaps no story had more of an impact on this amazing secret oasis than the story of how Hurricane Matthew came through and almost tore it all down.

“Initially we lost 253 trees… we had to rethink all of this,” she said, standing in a sun garden that had been a shade garden until Matthew came through. “That gave us an opportunity, whether we wanted to or not, to expand.”

The storm’s lingering effects are everywhere. On the island, where a tree house stands tall between angel oak branches, pavers that had been strewn about after Matthew now form a lovely checkered pattern. The influx of sunlight allowed for the addition of a small herb and vegetable garden tucked away on one side, brimming with herbs and peppers. And the cow pasture is all that remains of the thick forest where Lee and Becca were married.

“The hurricane came through and just wiped it out,” said Ellen. But even in the storm’s aftermath, the Dupps found ways to discover beauty. That forest became the cow pasture, with a few trees here and there left standing in a purely accidental but beautiful arrangement. They were even able to keep a massive beehive that came down with one of the larger trees, enlisting the help of David Arnal and David McAllister to help relocate the hive to an apiary on-site. Today, those bees live comfortably and have resumed their duties pollinating the garden.

Matthew made its mark, but even the blustery wrath of that great storm couldn’t keep The Dupps from continuing their garden’s fascinating story, one room at a time.

Credits

Story: Barry Kaufman
Photography:
 Lisa Staff
Makeup: Maria Noël
Magazine Featured: Local Life