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Life at the Nursery 2

Native Grass Lawns

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)

At this time of year, we have a few plants that are just beginning to flower… Anise-Scented Goldenrods (Solidago odora), Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) and New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae). A major focus is on Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). While all native plants have amazing benefits (need fewer resources, are adapted to the region), native grasses have become more and more important. People invest a lot in their lawns, watering and fertilizing to keep them bright green and lush. As an alternative to annual grasses, one could dedicate part of their lawn to native grasses. Native grass lawns require less maintenance, less cutting, watering and fertilizing, and they naturally look more dramatic. As summers become hotter, our native grasses are happier in the dry sun. Other examples of native grasses at the nursery include: Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis) and Purpletop (Tridens flavus).

Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis)

Purpletop (Tridens flavus)

Managing Our Site for Different Habitats

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

One of the most interesting and important aspects of our nursery is the variety of ecosystems. Specifically, we are trying to manage parts of the site as woods, meadows and yard space. Starting with the easiest to manage, our wood spaces have mostly been left alone. We make sure to keep the forest spaces as natural as possible by letting existing plants grow and not cutting anything down. Next is our meadow spaces, which we have put the most work into. The largest priority in our meadow spaces is to remove woody plants in order to keep the areas from becoming forests. In addition, we need to manage the very invasive meadow plants to ensure species diversity. The most prominent example on our site of an invasive meadow species is Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). In place of the Mugwort, we use the space to showcase our meadow plants that we grow and sell. For instance, we have planted Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum), New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). This demonstration of our meadow plants is also a way to show people that a meadow habitat can be an alternative to a thermal garden or lawn. Lastly, our yard area looks more like a traditional backyard, and so, we manage it as such. With a workspace and vegetable garden, it looks fairly similar to the lawns that most people have. Furthermore, we cut it more often than our other spaces in order to maintain that appearance. This space is where we host most of our programming at the nursery, so it is necessary to keep the yard mowed and easy to access.

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)


Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

One of the benefits of the way we manage and revitalize all of our spaces on site is the urban wildlife. Probably the most common visitors we see at the nursery are the birds. Each of our areas provides different needs for shelter, food and mating opportunities for a broad range of bird species. Around this time of year, we see birds such as Common Yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas), Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) and Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea) in our forest habitats. Flocking from neighboring wetland, we see Northern Rough-Winged Swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) and Red-Winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) visit our meadow habitats. In a more general sense, we also see species such as Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) by our vegetable gardens, as well as raptors, including the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), flying overhead. Our restoration of habitats at the nursery attracts many birds, which play a very important role in the management of the ecosystem. While we enjoy seeing the birds on site and their songs create a peaceful ambience, they are also helpful links in the nursery food chain. Specifically, they are a great integrated and natural control of pests, rather than us needing to rely on pesticides. In addition, the raptors that visit our site target other parts of the food chain, such as snakes and mice. Beautiful and helpful guests to our nursery, birds increase the diversity of our environments and are important parts of our land revitalization.

Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis)

Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

All bird photos from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


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