Much of our landscape in the Northeast, especially in more ‘thickly settled’ areas, is composed of backyards and front lawns. How these lands are managed goes a long way in determining how appealing such areas will be not only to ourselves, but also to other species. If we want to help conserve native species in our landscape, then we need to think about what the patches around our houses, stores and offices can offer them.
Landscaping with native plants helps these species directly, by increasing their abundances both on-site and, through dispersing seeds, potentially elsewhere. Because native plants also represent long-term members of our native communities, they can invite in a host of other organisms who are looking to feed upon them or to otherwise take advantage of the ecologies they create.
Since 2010, we have been working with Ruth Dufault (Bittersweet Gardens) to craft a native plant garden in the acre or so around our home-office here at the Creekhouse. At a small scale, we try to encourage native plants to form communities resembling those found in the wild: a wet meadow community in our rain garden, an old field community in the former lawn, a shaded forest understory community under the Honey Locust tree we inherited. The hillside formerly overgrown by Multiflora Rose is slowly developing into a dry meadow community.
We have pledged never to transplant a wild-growing plant from its natural habitat into the garden and hope that all native plant enthusiasts will do the same. So, where do our native plants in the garden come from? During the first two years, we purchased a variety of plants from the local native plant nursery Project Native. Over the years, we have received donations from many other gardens, and are now in the position to reciprocate and help new native plant gardens get started with seeds and plants. Once the native plants were thriving in certain areas of the garden, we divided them and transplanted them into new areas. Each fall, we also collect seeds from our garden to share them and to keep propagating them in our little nursery. We do collect seeds for propagation in our garden from the wild only where there is ample seed supply and the landowner has given us permission.
We welcome visitors and love to show you around, share our experiences, as well as seeds and cuttings from some of the 130 species of native plants growing in the garden.
The native plant garden is largely a volunteer effort and would not be what it is today, where it not for the many willing hands that have helped remove invasives, plant and transplant natives, and keep the non-natives at bay. We are very grateful to everybody who has contributed over the years. Complete (we hope...) acknowledgements are found at the bottom of our Chronological Documentation.
Please email or call Claudia (518-672-7994) if you would like to find out about current volunteer opportunites in the native plant garden.
Resources to dig deeper:
Chronological Documentation of the Native Plant Garden (2010-2013)
The Native Plant Garden after 10 Years (by Ellen Scheid and Nellie Ostow)
More detailed photo documentation of certain periods of the Native Plant Garden featured in our Blog:
Gardening with Native Plants on a Budget: An essay published in The Columbia Paper in August 2010
Native Gardening Resource List 2021: A list of resources to help you plan and maintain your native plant garden. (PDF file)
Plant List: A list of the native plants growing in the Creekhouse Garden in 2013
List of Flagged Plants in the Creekhouse Garden and Butterfly House July 2020 (PDF file)