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Best Native Plants for Fall Gardens

Alternate-leaf Dogwood Tree-- 22 different bird species visit this tree!
Alternate-leaf Dogwood Tree– 20 different bird species visit this native tree!

In their new book, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, (Timber Press $39.95), authors Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke offer valuable advices on the best native plants for home gardeners in our Mid-Atlantic growing zone.

Also, a selection of these plants will be available at the Native Plant Festival at Rosedale Nursery in Hawthorne, NY on Sept. 6-7 — a percentage of all sales will be donated to the Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College.

If you’d like to create a native garden this fall, the new book is a goldmine, containing 77 pages listing and cross-referencing the many ecological and landscape functions of native plants. These plant lists help you get a start whether you’re looking for plants that provide nest sites for birds, pollen for bees and other insects, food for squirrels and other wildlife, edible fruits for people, or many other benefits. The easy-to-use lists focus mainly on plants native to our Mid-Atlantic region, but there are lists for all the other U.S. regions as well.RESzdLiving Landscape COVER

For example, bird lovers might want to consider Tallamy’s recommended dogwood tree. Tallamy, known as the “guru” of native plant gardening for his earlier, award-winning book, Bringing Nature Home, actually recorded as many as 20 different bird species—many beautifully photographed in the book—eating berries and insects from an alternate-leaf dogwood tree planted outside his bathroom window.

“So many birds visit this tree during the summer that our bathroom has become the hottest birding destination in our house,” he jokes. But the serious message of this story and one of most important points of his entire new book is that “our plants are our bird feeders!”

For the first time, this book introduces home gardeners to the concept of multidimensional layering in their own residential landscapes, starting from below ground and moving up. Each layer is sort of unpacked both vertically and horizontally and in terms of its cultural and temporal aspects—the ability of a natural habitat to perpetuate itself over time.

Multidimensional layering in a healthy, living landscape is in fact the key concept and main takeaway from this book. After reading it, your perspective of the garden landscape is totally altered to a 3-D or even a 4-D view. The book is so richly illustrated that understanding the different layers becomes easier as you go.

A series of powerful photographs by Rick Darke, taken from season to season at the 1.5-acre, residential Pennsylvania landscape that he owns with his wife, Melinda Zoehrer, shows how they achieved a layered design, structure, scale, and diverse plantings over more than two decades. These images and the personal stories that each author provides are especially instructive and inspiring.

Native Plant Appreciation Weekend
When: Saturday–Sunday, September 6 & 7, all day
Where: Rosedale Nurseries, Inc.
51 Saw Mill River Road, (Route 9A)
Hawthorne, NY 10532-1598
(914) 769-1300

Photos courtesy Timber Press and










Joyce Newman
Joyce Newman
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.
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