Bring Home the Beauty of New England
And turn your landscape into a haven for birds, bees, and other wildlife
By filling your garden with New England native plants, you bring the region’s distinctive beauty into your home landscape. You also add a link to the chain of life that connects your backyard to the wilder habitats beyond: native plants provide food and shelter for the birds and animals around you. They also use less water, clean the air, and help to manage the flow of water.
Most of the plants we sell are grown from seed that we harvest sustainably from wild populations throughout the region, which ensures genetic diversity. That’s important, especially because most commercial nurseries sell clones—genetically identical specimens—of plants originally from somewhere else, which means they're not adapted to our region's conditions.
Every clone you plant contributes to an impoverished, increasingly generic landscape that fails to support local wildlife, lacks resistance to diseases and pests, and is more likely to require pesticides. And a garden of clones is apt to look as lackluster as it sounds. Here you will learn more about the stunning native plants that will thrive in your garden. Then browse our classes, webinars, and books to build on the basics.
What Is Native?
The simple answer is that these were the plants likely to have been growing here before Europeans arrived.
For horticultural purposes, we define "native plants" as those that naturally occur in the Ecoregions of New England, as outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ecoregions are large areas that share similar climates, geology, landforms, and hydrology, giving rise to communities of plants that have adapted to these conditions over millennia.
Though designating a time marker for "native" is complicated, most botanists agree that the arrival of the first European settlers makes sense, in part because that makes it easier to determine which plants migrated on their own and which were introduced from outside the region.
Species migrate constantly; in fact, every plant species in New England has migrated northward since the last ice age. When plants migrate into an area on their own, they do so slowly, typically by natural movement of seed by wind, animals, and water. Natural migration is obstructed by geographic barriers, like oceans and mountain ranges. When people move plants, they can do so rapidly and across great distances, introducing species that may become either naturalized (that is, benignly established in the wild) or invasive.
A Tree Grows in Brookline—and Hartford, and Portland...
What if all New England city dwellers added native plants to their gardens?
How diverse are your town’s flora and fauna? Myla Aronson of Rutgers University recently studied cities around the world and made a compelling case for cultivating more native plants in urban settings. She worked with 23 colleagues to document the diversity of birds and plants in cities in 36 countries on 6 continents. Specifically, the researchers compiled lists of all the bird species they observed in 54 cities and of all the plants growing in 110 cities.
The results both surprised and sobered the researchers: Though they observed 20 percent of the world’s bird species and more than 14,000 plant species in these cities, the numbers represent only a fraction of the species that could exist there. Specifically, the surveyed cities support only 25 percent of the plants and 8 percent of the birds whose natural geographic ranges encompass the urban areas.
“Cities can support both biodiversity and people,” Aronson and her colleagues conclude, “but retaining these connections requires sustainable urban planning, conservation, and education focused on each city’s unique natural resources.”
But the first step can be simpler than rounding up a committee—we can just plant more native species in our yards, window boxes, patios, and rooftops. Our small patches of native green will expand the web of sustenance for pollinating insects, offer sanctuary to year-round birds, and provide crucial way stations for migrating hummingbirds and monarch butterflies, northern orioles, and wood nymph moths. If more city-dwelling New Englanders do this, we can literally transform the urban landscape. Imagine how different life would be if we heard the music of birdsong and the hum of bees rising in counterpoint to the cacophony of traffic.
But how to begin? Start by using our Garden Plant Finder to discover which native plants will thrive in your local conditions. Then search our classes, webinars, and field studies to learn how to create a beautiful design at any scale.
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