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Native Plants for Maryland and Virginia: By the Book

Or maybe that should be “buy” the book.  Inspired by the lists of best books at this time of year, I thought I would share four phenomenal books about gardening with native plants in the Chesapeake watershed.  Each, by authors who live and garden around the Chesapeake, is a treasure trove of information and make for a fun read and good winter substitute for actual gardening.


Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping, The Essential Green Guide, is a “how to” on gardening generally and, in particular, gardening in a way to be more eco-friendly.  Barbara Ellis collaborated on this book with Adkins Arboretum on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, an early proponent of native plant gardening.  Ellis organizes her book around six main principles: reducing your lawn, growing native plants, increasing diversity of plants, welcoming wildlife and reducing water runoff.  This is a great book for the beginning or experienced gardener and includes detailed descriptions of plants and styles of gardens – something for everyone.

TheHumaneGardener cover

The Human Gardener, written by Howard County’s Nancy Lawson, focuses on gardening for the benefit of wildlife using principles of native plants and creating habitat.  Interwoven among advice about gardening with native plants in the Chesapeake, are stories of six gardeners from around the Country detailing how each went about transforming their gardens into native habitats.  While the cover of this book is not glossy, there are photographs throughout the book showing examples of gardens, habitats and their denizens.  Thanks to Instagram book reviewer asiggy, who reviews about 60 books a year, for introducing me to this fantastic resource.


The Living Landscape is an absolutely gorgeous book about “designing for beauty and biodiversity in the home garden.”  This book is both a deeper look at why gardening with native plants is critical to the future of the Chesapeake watershed as well as a pictorial wonderland of what is possible using native plants in your garden. Both authors garden on large properties but their principles and plants translate to any scale.  This is a sophisticated, yet accessible, discussion about why to use native plants by two of the foremost experts and practitioners in their fields, Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy.


Bringing Nature Home is a “how to” about transforming your suburban backyard, no matter the size, into a resource that helps sustain the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It’s also an entomologist’s look at the insect world associated with native plants and why it matters.  The author, Doug Tallamy, Chair of the Department of Entomology at the University of Delaware and avid gardener, weaves his interests together here.  If you are a gardener who has wondered what bug that is or which butterfly that caterpillar will morph into, this book is for you.  Another quick note, Doug Tallamy has another book coming out in February titled “Nature’s Best Hope” focused on what we can do one backyard at a time – can’t wait for that.

All, with the exception of “Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping, the Essential Green Guide,” are currently available at my local independently owned book store and all are readily available on-line.

More info:

The Humane Gardener website is packed with great information.

A very short preview of Doug Tallamy’s newest book.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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