How to Increase Native Plants around our Homes

Tips from the East/North Campus Land Conservation Committee

February 2018

Two effective ways to restore native habitat and help pollinators and birds at Lathrop are removing invasive plants and planting native plants. The Land Conservation Committee has been working on both. This means there is a lot of expertise available if you want to work on your own spaces adjacent to your townhomes. Here are some ideas on how to get started.

Step 1: Sign up.  At showings of “Hometown Habitat,” sign on the sheet to indicate your interest.  Or contact

Step 2: Set a Goal. (Here are some examples)

  • You may be thinking, “In my cottage garden, I want to slip in one or a few native wildflowers.”


  • If the area near your lane is a tangle of brush or has  invasive vines, trees, and shrubs, you may want to target a small area, a few species, or the largest plants


  • You may just want to consult with someone who is knowledgeable about what is already growing near your building–and what could be.

Step 3: Get Help if you Need It.

  • Consult with a Land Conservation Committee member. Contact Barbara Walvoord, Chair of the Land Conservation Committee, to let her know your interest (, 413-203-5086). She or another member of the Committee will get in touch with to you to discuss your plans.
  • You may need to work with Lathrop facilities, as well (see residents’ handbook)
  • If you are on the North campus, and your land is undergoing re-landscaping this year, coordinate your plans with that effort.

Step 4: Do It!  

Step 5:  Label It.  Contact the Land Conservation Committee to get a sign indicating your garden is sustainably managed with native plants for wildlife.

Step 7: Manage It Sustainably. Best practices include no pesticides, organic fertilizer, and keeping the ground covered year-round with a mulch of leaves or bark, or a non-invasive groundcover.


TRUE natives, “straight” or “species” plants, serve as the base of the plant and animal food web. They may not be as showy as “nativars,” which have been bred by nurseries for qualities attractive to humans, but they will offer more sustenance. Pollinators can be stymied by nativars that have altered blossom shape, color,  or plant sex organs. Nativars have English words like “Flame” after their Latin names. Even our favorite local nurseries will rarely have “straight” natives. And worse, big box stores may sell plants with dangerous systemic pesticides (neonicotinoids)–capable of killing insects that encounter any part of the plant–in their soil or plant tissues. (Lowe’s and Home Depot are phasing out neonics in 2018-19.

Two local businesses specialize in propagating “straight” native plants:

  • Nasami nursery in South Deerfield is operated by the New England Wildflower Society.  Their website ( has a catalog and offers help with selecting plants.
  • New England Wetland Plants in Amherst grows native plants for dry land as well as wetlands.  They serve landscapers primarily, but for orders over $150 their plants are available at reasonable costs (wildflower plugs for as little as $1 each and a 3-4-foot tree/shrub for $14).  The Land Committee will be happy to coordinate a bulk order. NEWP’s Catalog (htttp:// contains helpful information on sun, soil, water needs, etc. They do not deliver or install.

Other local businesses specialize in designing with native plants or removing invasives:

  • Abound Design’s  Owen Wormser ( will design and, if desired, purchase plants and install them. He designed the native landscape near the Inn in 2017.
  • Jeff Allen ( installed plants in the East campus native landscaping area by the Inn in 2017 and also removed invasives in the East campus forest.
  • The Land Conservation Committee can help you locate other gardeners and designers.

Helpful Resources:

The DVD Hometown Habitat includes examples of native plant projects in addition to the short introduction by Douglas Tallamy about why native plants are so crucial. Borrow a copy from


Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.

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