Resources for Sustainable Gardens

If you’d like to know more about gardening for sustainability and planting native plants, the following resources are good places to start:

Books

Noah’s Garden, by Sarah Stein

Planting Noah’s Garden, by Sarah Stein

These two beautifully written books tell you everything you need to know about environmental gardening: what it is and how to do it. Noah’s Garden tells you why, and Planting Noah’s Garden tells you how. Out of print but well worth seeking out.

Native Alternative to Invasive Plants

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guides for a Greener Planet

The book that answers the question “What should I plant instead?” Describes beautiful native alternatives to specific invasive trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and grasses.

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, by Douglas Tallamy

The author, an entomologist, has a simple thesis: the more bugs you see, the healthier your backyard environment. A strong argument for the use of native plants and sustainable gardening methods.

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, by Rich Darke and Doug Tallamy

A coffee-table book full of gorgeous photos of gardens focusing on native plants and wildlife. Highly informative plant lists.

Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East by Carolyn Summers

Describes how to use native plants to create traditional gardens (even English cottage gardens and Japanese gardens). Good appendices listing many native plants, street trees, etc.

Field Guides

Field guides to wildflowers, butterflies, trees, and shrubs are sometimes the most useful resources. I like the Peterson series, but you may find that you prefer a different one, such as Audubon. The Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Forests is an excellent reference on the ecology of forests. The Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies has extensive lists of host plants.

Websites

USDA Plant Database: http://plants.usda.gov

This is your go-to source for information about plants. You can search by common name or Latin name and see photos as well as get information about native status.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: http://www.wildflower.org/

How-to articles and step-by-step guides, such as how to create a water garden, store seeds, or prune a tree. The plant database contains very detailed information about specific native plants.

Native Plant Society of New Jersey: http://www.npsnj.org/

Information about New jersey native plants, lots of resources, and an excellent guide to creating a rain garden.

Places to Visit

Thielke Arboretum in Glen Rock: http://glenrockarboretum.org

A native wetland forest right here in Glen Rock: Park on Doremus Avenue near the pool. Walk through the gates, down the gravel road, through the planted areas, and back and to the right into the beautiful native wetland forest. The Arboretum runs education programs for adults and children, including docent-led walks.

New York Botanical Garden: https://www.nybg.org/

This premier international research organization contains the last stand of virgin forest in New York City, now being meticulously restored and freed of invasives. There is a beautiful wetland walk and a gorgeous native plant garden.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden: http://www.bbg.org/

A bit farther away and somewhat smaller, the BBG nevertheless offers many resources for native plant enthusiasts. Most important is the Native Flora Garden, where you can see native plants arranged to display several different local habitats. The new Visitors’ Center has a green roof planted with natives.

The Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College: http://www.nativeplantcenter.org/

An educational center and demonstration garden located in Valhalla, NY. Yearly native plant sale and numerous classes and activities.

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