On The Bookshelf: The Green Garden: A New England Guide

Are you a New England gardener seeking a good gardening book in which to lose yourself during cold winter months? Look no further than Ellen Sousa’s book The Green Garden: A New England Guide to Planning, Planting & Maintaining the Eco-Friendly Habitat Garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sousa is a fellow garden coach and a natural gardening instructor. She holds a certificate in Native Plant Horticulture & Design from the New England Wild Flower Society and has written about habitat gardening for National Wildlife Federation and other magazines. Sousa writes for a few blogs, including Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens, and the Massachusetts farm she shares with her husband is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation.

She walks the walk and talks the talk.

Now she has compiled an extensive and comprehensive guide for other New England landowners interested in making their property more user-friendly for non-human naturally-residing creatures and, ultimately, more enjoyable for human residents as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASousa explains the what, why, and wherefore of habitat gardening in rural, suburban and urban areas in addition to forests, fields, fresh and saltwater shorelines, and wetlands.

She explains how to replace lawns – or most of a lawn – with diverse plantings needing less human input.

She describes how to begin transforming a patch or a property to a wildlife habitat – perhaps as simply as insuring a fresh water source for birds or planting nectar sources for butterflies and moths- and how continue the multi-year process.

Sousa separates plants as:

· New England natives – growing in New England prior to European settlement. Think violets, goldenrod, hemlock and oak;

· naturalized non-natives – plants that native creatures have adapted to and count on. Think Queen Anne’s lace;

· introduced non-natives – cosmos, peonies and nasturtiums – brought to New England as ornamentals or edibles. These provide some nectar, pollen or seed benefits to native wildlife;

· and to be avoided and controlled invasive non-natives like Asiatic bittersweet vines that overpower and destroy trees and the purple loosestrife overtaking many New England wetlands.


Then, so readers are not left guessing, she offers more than 40 pages of specific tree, shrub and plant recommendations keyed for their habitat value (attractive to birds, butterflies and moths, amphibians or mammals) and growth characteristics (light and water requirements, deer resistance, ease of growth, etc.).

Sousa further provides lists and links to more information, source nurseries, public habitat gardens, and wildlife gardening organizations, just in case readers crave even more guidance and learning.

The Green Garden: A New England Guide to Planning, Planting & Maintaining the Eco-friendly Habitat Garden is a wonderful primer for those just learning about natural habitat gardening, but it’s also a valuable educational resource for seasoned gardeners seeking to hone their habitat gardening knowledge.

It is one of the books I’ll reach for time and again as I care for my property and continue to urge others to garden thoughtfully.

Want to read another great book about habitats and native plant gardening? Check out my review of Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy.

Disclaimer: Ellen Sousa provided this book, free of charge, for me to review. I know Ellen only through her blog and through our mutual membership in a Facebook group. If I did not like her book you would not be reading about it here.

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6 comments for “On The Bookshelf: The Green Garden: A New England Guide

  1. January 12, 2012 at 9:23 am

    This is a great book, and I am pleased to say that a photograph of my yard is on page 18 (kind of a “what not to do” example, but hey). Ellen came for a visit in 2010 and took lots of pictures. This coming summer, in July, she is bringing a group of NE Wildflower Society people to my garden for a tour and class on habitat gardening! She is a delight, and her book is a real resource. I’m so glad you reviewed this.

    • joenesgarden
      January 12, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Laurrie, It’s very cool that a photo of your property is in the book and that your property is the venue for a habitat gardening class. I’m happy to promote this book since it is, indeed, a wonderful resource.

  2. January 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    This sounds like an interesting book. I like the idea of gardening thoughtfully.

    • joenesgarden
      January 14, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Sage Butterfly, I suspect this book will become a go-to resource for New England and northeastern gardeners seeking to garden more with nature as opposed to fighting her. In other words, gardening thoughtfully.

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