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Home Gardens Help Stem Insect Decline: Rhode Islanders invited to join “Homegrown National Park” effort | By Staff | ecoRI News | March 28, 2024

KINGSTON, R.I. — Steven Alm and Casey Johnson in the University of Rhode Island Bee Lab want property owners to think small. Though tiny, the issues the duo is examining are anything but trivial. In fact, the issues they are studying are bellwethers for larger issues facing the natural world.

They want to reminding us of the importance of, as E.O. Wilson said, “the little things that run the world.”

A professor at URI and keeper of the university’s Insect Collection, which dates to the late 1800s, Alm is concerned about the insect loss he has witnessed in the course of his career, never mind the species that now only exist in pinned specimen form, no longer in the wild.

“We’re in trouble with the insects,” he said. Birds, fish, and other members of the food web need insects, but their numbers are dwindling. Pollinators in particular are vulnerable.

Entomologists are seeing notable declines in insect diversity worldwide, caused by habitat loss, introduced species, novel pathogens, pesticides, pollution, and climate change.

Based on historical records from the URI Insect Collection, for instance, a dozen species of bumblebees flew around the state at one time. That number is now halved. After surveying the state for bees since 2019, URI researchers have only been able to detect seven of the 12 species, indicating that the other five species are likely forever lost from the state or persisting in low numbers in isolated populations.

Bees and other insects are not only the scenic backdrop, and soundtrack, to our summer gardens, they are essential. For example, Alm noted that a University of Delaware study found that a clutch of chickadees requires 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to grow to adulthood.

“We need to focus on what’s at the bottom,” he said. “This is a large loss. You don’t realize how important insects are until they’re gone.”

Homegrown National Park: Go Small and Go Homegrown | By Mary B. O’Neill | Main Street Magazine | March 27, 2024

Homegrown National Park® is determined to save biodiversity one privately owned land at a time. Seventy-eight percent – that’s 1.3 billion acres – of all land in the lower 48 states of the US is privately owned. That’s a lot of land we have direct control over, and Homegrown National Park empowers all of us to make a difference in one planting container, one square foot, one acre at a time.   

HNP’s goal is to arrest and reverse the 800,000 acres of habitat lost each year in the US, in order to help address the loss of bird, animal, and insect species that occupy those habitats. HNP reframes the complex issue of biodiversity and habitat preservation, which can be mired in large numbers and staggering statistics, and make it simple.  

This information can help you make intentional choices about what to do with your land to encourage species and regeneration. Whether it’s planting a container on your deck with plants that attract pollinators, creating a small native garden, planting a single tree, or converting acres to meadow, it all counts. You can scale your efforts based on what is manageable for you, and no effort is too small.

The low-maintenance, eco-friendly lawn that will still impress your neighbors | By Michael J. Coren  | The Washington Post | February 6, 2024

This year, a Tasmanian yard that hadn’t been watered in 10 years and featured a dead brushtail possum won the title of ugliest lawn in the world. The contest, organized by the island of Gotland in Sweden, rewards those who turn over their yards to nature to save water and change the world’s perception of the ideal lawn.

It also raises an important question: Who wants an ugly lawn, really? An admirable, dedicated contingent embracing ugly lawns’ ecological bona fides is willing to draw “disgusted glances from neighbors — and a round of applause from around the globe,” as the contest organizers put it.

But far more people just want a nice yard that won’t provoke their neighborhood homeowners association (HOA).

“If we’re saying we’re all going to have the ugliest landscape in the world, that’s not going to catch on,” insists Doug Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware who’s proposing a different approach. “I’m trying to reduce the area of lawn and do it in an attractive way so you’re not thrown out of your neighborhood.”

Preserving biodiversity through homegrown national parks | By Doug Tallamy | The Land Trust Alliance | August 22, 2023

In my view, the only way to achieve E. O. Wilson’s dream of protecting the natural world on at least half of the planet, as described in his 2016 book “Half Earth,” is to coexist with nature, in the same place, at the same time. We must bury forever the notion that humans are here and nature is someplace else, for there are no longer enough “someplace else’s” to meet the need. We have persisted for the last century in the misguided belief that humans can only thrive when segregated from the natural world, and, as a result, the U.S. has formally protected only 12% of its land.

We can achieve Wilson’s lofty goals without excluding the human enterprise, but the key to doing this is to practice conservation not only in protected wildlands, but also outside of parks and preserves: where we live, work, farm and play. And by “we,” I don’t mean just a few ecologists and conservation biologists. I mean every one of us. Conservation is the responsibility of everyone on Earth because every one of us depends entirely on healthy ecosystems.

Homegrown National Park: Making a difference by planting native species (Part 2) | By Elias Sorich | The Lakeville Journal/Millerton News | August 9, 2023

Claire Goodman of Millerton is at the beginning of her interest in planting native flora. Having attended a screening of “What’s the Rush?,” a film from Homegrown National Park (HNP), a nonprofit based in Sharon, Connecticut, Goodman began to get energized around the concept of making a contribution to ecosystem health.

“I’ve always been very fascinated with larger projects like reseeding meadow — but I was frequently left thinking ‘it’s all too big.’ And then I encountered the idea that even if you only have a little pocket handkerchief of land, you can do something.”

For Goodman, who is on the Climate Smart Task Force in Millerton, having her interests galvanized has already led to a shift in how she sees her lawn and humble porchfront garden.

She’s thinking more actively about which plants to add to the mix; is accepting of a more shaggy, wild, and natural look to her garden; and spends more time thinking about how to connect with and cultivate the nature around her.

“What makes you feel compassion for a bunch of wildlife? What inspires that? Just last night Dolly Parton’s song ‘Wildflowers’ came on. That sort of lyricism, or poetry, can make people feel connected to nature — that they’re not separate from it, but a part of it. I’m from England, and all our gardens are lovely but totally manicured. America still has vast tracts of land that are wild, uninhabited. There’s a real possibility for an initiative like HNP to succeed.”

To save the planet, Homegrown National Park wants you to garden (Part 1) | The Lakeville Journal/Millerton News | August 2, 2023

SHARON — From a home base in the forested hills of the Northwest Corner, a nonprofit organization called Homegrown National Park (HNP) hopes to take a stab at healing one of the world’s great wounds: the decimation of biodiversity.

To do so, HNP pursues one major goal—to encourage homeowners across the country to plant native plants in however much of their property they’re able and willing to do. Whether it’s a container garden in the window of an urban apartment, or stewarding rolling acres of meadow.

On the subject of container gardening, HNP has found some viral success. A HNP TikTok video titled “Container-friendly Native Plants for Eastern Temperate Forests Ecoregion” has amassed 4.4 million views, with a number of others collecting hundreds of thousands as well.

This sort of grassroots success is exactly the sort that co-founder and Sharon resident Michelle Alfandari is striving to cultivate. Alfandari, a marketer and entrepreneur, founded HNP in 2020 with Doug Tallamy, a nationally renowned scientist and professor at the University of Delaware, and author of “Nature’s Best Hope.” Through HNP, Alfandari and Tallamy hope to promote a groundswell of participation in home-scaled ecology. Tallamy handles the science side of the messaging through speaking engagements and video lectures, and Alfandari tackles the marketing, managing, and outreach.

HNP’s messaging gears toward positive and encouraging — but Tallamy doesn’t pull punches when he describes the scale and severity of the threat the world is facing.

Is Your Yard on the Map? | By Kathy Connolly | Connecticut Gardener | May 1, 2023

This story previously appeared in Connecticut Gardner magazine: Millions of people will flock to national parks this summer, anticipating the oceanside cascades at Acadia, the wildlife at Yellowstone, or the views at Shenandoah. All these worthy destinations delight their visitors at the same time as they preserve extraordinary elements of the natural landscape and provide wildlife habitat.

But, according to some ways of thinking, the national parks are more like nature museums than nature itself.

One of those thinkers is Dr. Douglas Tallamy, whose 40 years of research have aimed to understand how insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. He is probably familiar to many Connecticut Gardener readers through his books and many talks and webinars…

No, mowing less often doesn’t mean more ticks. And there’s a way to get around those homeowner association rules. Read on. | by Margaret Roach | The New York Times | June 29, 2022

Calling the tens of millions of acres of lawn in America “an ecologically dead status symbol,” Douglas W. Tallamy, an ecologist at the University of Delaware, encourages us to do better and help regenerate biodiversity by planting more natives.

And that means replacing some of our lawn.

In his 2020 book, “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard,” he challenged readers to help create what he calls a Homegrown National Park. His proposal: that a network of individual efforts can add up, and will help to offset the fragmentation of the greater landscape.

Now, in an online Homegrown National Park campaign, participants can commit their land to the movement by joining an interactive map and displaying a sign that tells neighbors what they are doing.

Your Lawn Questions, Answered

No, mowing less often doesn’t mean more ticks. And there’s a way to get around those homeowner association rules. Read on. It’s time, Dr. Tallamy said, to “bring the private landowner back into a critically important position in the future of conservation.”

THE RISE - ANN BEAUTY - OF THE NATIVE PLANT In an era of climate change, homeowners and landscapers are learning what ecologists have known for decades: It’s time to shed the mighty American lawn in favor of native plants and perennials. | by Chris Moody | The Washington Post | April 4, 2022

Plants and animals evolved over millions of years to survive in cooperation with one another. Replacing natives with foreign exotics such as turf grass or invasive vines can disrupt that delicate ecological balance, says Douglas Tallamy, a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. At a time of anxiety over the effects of climate change and the mass extinction of wildlife, ecologists say that planting natives can provide an opportunity to make a difference.

“We have to expand beyond lawns,” says Tallamy, a native plant advocate and author of “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.” “It’s the low-hanging fruit because it’s the easiest one to fix and it’s the most detrimental.”

… While pondering the millions of acres of native landscape repurposed for alien turf grass, Tallamy had an idea. Despite federal conservation efforts like the system of national parks that protects natural spaces, government action would never create enough space for habitat renewal. But small private action, if accomplished on a collective scale, could make a difference. He launched an initiative to persuade Americans to plant natives on their property instead of grass, one household at a time. He called it Homegrown National Park.


The setting was idyllic. Acres of restored prairie surrounded over 125 dinner guests on Molly and Jeff Keller’s North Breakenridge Farm in Burlington on Saturday, July 17. The sun shone softly in the west, and the grasses and “forbs”, or flowers, of gold, white and blue swayed in the refreshing breeze.

Douglas Tallamy, the event’s speaker, may well be the current “rock star” of gardeners and conservationists across the country. Tallamy is a professor of entomology – a “bug guy” – at the University of Delaware.

His 2020 book, “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard,” is a New York Times Best-Seller.


If 2020 was the year of vegetable gardening, perhaps 2021 can be a time to shift our focus to the broader ecosystem – not just for the sake of our wilder neighbours, but for our human communities, too.

One leader in this movement has been American ecologist Douglas W. Tallamy, whose book Nature’s Best Hope urges readers to set aside half their properties for native plants, a concept he calls Homegrown National Park. It’s an idea that has captured many imaginations, and for good reason, says Carly Ziter, a professor of biology at Concordia University who specializes in the ecology of urban environments. “It might feel uncomfortable at first to do these things because we’re used to a certain aesthetic,” she says. “But often when people start seeing the bees and butterflies and birds come back, it’s really gratifying and they want to do more.”

PRODUCTIVE PLANTS | by Cynthia Hochswender | TriCorner News | April 28, 2021

To say that Michelle Alfandari was ultra urban would be an understatement. Living in New York City with her artist husband, Tom Goldenberg, she traveled the world creating new licensed branded businesses for companies as diverse (but always sophisticated) as The New York Times, the Tour de France and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

When she and Goldenberg moved to Sharon, Conn., a few years ago, Alfandari literally stopped and smelled the flowers. .. Alfandari has partnered with Tallamy to create Homegrown National Park, a call-to-action to restore biodiversity, one person at a time, by planting native plants and removing invasives. They invite everyone in America, no experience necessary, to get on the interactive Homegrown National Park map by planting native in their yards, whether it’s a few feet or a few hundred acres. READ THE FULL ARTICLE PDF

OPEN DAYS 2021: New Connections, New Themes, Renewed Energy | Garden Conservancy News | April 2021

“Connecting gardening, people, and ecological stewardship
In many ways, the question of why we garden—and why we value visiting gardens — is philosophical. Gardening has always been an activity that draws people together through the sharing of seeds saved from previous years with our neighbors, the sharing of divisions of our favorite plants with friends, and, importantly, the sharing of advice and lessons learned with those who are new to gardening.

… Douglas W. Tallamy, a renowned University of Delaware entomologist, is also a supporter of the Two Thirds for the Birds initiative… Garden Conservancy Director of Public Programs and Education Patrick MacRae spoke with Doug virtually about the connections between native plants, bird populations, and our gardens. Here are some highlights from that conversation…” READ THE FULL ARTICLE PDF

RUN, PLANT, CONNECT: Here’s how you can help the Earth this weekend | by Rasa Kaye | KYWnewsradio | April 15, 2021

“Entomologist and University of Delaware professor Douglas Tallamy encourages people to think about their yards as wildlife preserves, where trees serve as major anchors. His new interactive website invites users to chart their own planting efforts toward biodiversity with others across the nation.

Tallamy’s latest book about oak trees illustrates the benefits trees bring to any landscape. One excerpt reads, “A yard without oaks is a yard meeting only a fraction of its life-support potential.”

And, seeds are easily available and free — just scoop out a hole in a spot with a lot of soil volume and space to spread, and drop an acorn in.”

THE STURDY, STEADFAST OAK IS THE PERFECT TREE FOR TROUBLED TIMES | by Adrian Higgins | Washington Post | April 14, 2021

“One uplifting way to mark the hardships and sorrows of a year like no other is to plant a tree.

As it grows, it will be a reminder of the time the world shut down and of those who died in the pandemic. A young tree, vigorous, aiming for the stars, also allows us to look forward and to share in its vitality.

But don’t plant just any tree. Make it an oak.”

WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT OAKS These large, long-lived trees support more life-forms than any other trees in North America. And they’re magnificent. | by Margaret Roach | New York Times | March 31, 2021

“Oaks support more life-forms than any other North American tree genus, providing food, protection or both for birds to bears, as well as countless insects and spiders, among the enormous diversity of species. Oaks also supply more of what he calls “fascinating interactions,” intimate details the book chronicles, month by month… There’s a payoff for the environment, yes, but also for each of us, in the bonds of personal connection. He [Doug} feels it, down to the last acorn.”

PODCASTS with Margaret Roach and Doug Tallamy
- How conservation starts in your yard: Doug Tallamy on 'Nature's Best Hope'
- The garden as habitat, with Doug Tallamy
- How effective are nativars? with Doug Tallamy
- What I learned about pollinators and other beneficial insects in 2018

CREATING A HOMEGROWN NATIONAL PARK | Berkshire Botanical Garden Be-a-Better-Gardener | by Thomas Christopher | 03.04.21

“Social media and the Internet in general have been attracting a lot of criticism recently, and deservedly so. Still, we shouldn’t lose track of the fact that these means of communication also have the power to do good--even in the garden. Consider, for example, what Michelle Alfandari and Douglas Tallamy are accomplishing with their new website,

Dr. Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist (insect researcher) at the University of Delaware, has attracted a lot of attention in gardening circles over the last dozen years with his championship of insects’ role as the base of the wildlife food chain. Eliminating insects is something gardeners have done very effectively over the last generation by planting species of foreign origin that are inedible to our native insects. When you do this, Tallamy has found through his research, you also eliminate the native birds and other types of wildlife that eat the insects.”

The right plants and some TLC can help your garden get through the heat | By Jessica Damiano | The Washington Post | August 8, 2023

With record-breaking heat striking many places across the country and around the world, my social media feeds are filling up with gardeners’ laments – and photos of their fallen annuals and perennials.

Although my tomatoes in suburban New York have been stalled at green for the past few weeks, my flower garden is thriving. This despite having to endure 100-degree temperatures, mainly without supplemental irrigation (I’ve watered my flower beds and borders just twice this summer, and even then, only as a precaution).

But I’m not doing anything special to turn my plants into superheroes. All I did was select the right ones at planting time – and plant them with TLC.

Return of the Native | By Dee Salomon - The Ungardener | The Lakeville Journal | June 7, 2023

I have been writing The Ungardener column for a little over a year. If you are a reader then you are likely aware that these articles exist to cajole, inform or otherwise persuade you to get rid of the invasive plants on your property and to cultivate the growth of native plants. There are many ways to write about the topic and, with a few exceptions, I have stuck to the most positive ones as they are nicest to both write and, I hope, to read. Also, my sense is that the topic of invasives so easily leads to negativity, guilt and fear — clearly not the best motivators to action.

Similarly, when I visit people’s property, as I have with each of the 16 participants in my Woodland Workshop, I am always looking for the nicest elements of each property. This might be a beautiful tree, a small patch of trout lily or an area of native strawberry and partridge berry groundcover. It is easier to begin a difficult and potentially long endeavor bolstered by the notion that you are saving something beautiful from disappearance. It gives a sense of what can be — the potential that is waiting to be unleashed. I also am confident that once people get on with the work, their senses become heightened in a way that is tremendously fulfilling and reinforcing. These successes give us confidence and inspiration to address, in our own way, what would otherwise be a scary reality.

After their homeowner association ordered them to replace their wildlife-friendly plants with turf grass, a Maryland couple sued. They ended up changing state law. Read on. | by Cara Buckley | The New York Times | December 14, 2022

Dr. Tallamy, whose book, “Nature’s Best Hope,” urges homeowner to change their yards into conservation corridors, said that because so much property in the United States is privately owned — as much as 78 percent — owners had to be enlisted to grow native plants that support biodiversity. “This idea that humans and nature cannot coexist is destroying the entire planet, which in turn is destroying humans,” Dr. Tallamy said. “The only way forward is to coexist.”

For the Crouches, giving in was not an option. They hired a lawyer and contacted every wildlife and environmental group they could think of, along with local legislators. After a year and a half, still at an impasse with the homeowner association and fearful that one day they’d come home to find their garden mowed down, they filed a complaint in Howard County Circuit Court. “The overall principles are bigger than us,” Mrs. Crouch said. “We had an opportunity and even an obligation to see it through as best we could.”

Two months after the Crouches filed their complaint, a Maryland state representative asked if they would allow their case to form the basis of a new environmental law. Dozens of states have passed legislation to promote the health of pollinators, which include bees, wasps, bats and butterflies, while some have curbed the authority of homeowner association edicts during droughts. But the Maryland law was the first in the country to limit homeowner association control over eco-friendly yards, said Mary Catherine Cochran, former legislative director for Maryland State Delegate Terri L. Hill, a Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation. The measure gained bipartisan support, passed with near unanimity, and became law in October 2021.

“Maryland was a big deal,” Dr. Tallamy, the ecologist, said. “Now people know if they fight back, they can win.”

THE SECRET TO A LOW-MAINTENANCE FLOWER GARDEN? BEAUTIFUL WEEDS | by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans | The Wall Street Journal | July 15, 2021

GARDEN DESIGNER Butter Wakefield’s London backyard, above, has nary a blade of grass out of place. Except, that is, for an untamed patch that contains what many people might deem weedy eyesores: tufted vetch, ragged robin and knapweed. Bracketed by a close-cropped carpet of grass and conically manicured yews in her tidy back garden, the wildflower strip gives the space an unexpected “wow factor,” Ms. Wakefield said.

Landscape designers and home gardeners are beginning to embrace the feral beauty of what might be called “welcome weeds”: pop-up native plants whose reputations are being elevated from squatting carbuncles to prized members of the flora-scape.

DITCHING GRASS COULD HELP YOUR BACKYARD THRIVE Lawns are ecological ‘dead space.’ Experts explain how to design a more eco-friendly yard. | by Tik Root | The Washington Post | June 30, 2021

Summer is officially here. For many Americans, that means blankets of grassy green for kids to play in, or families to picnic on.

There are an estimated 40 million to 50 million acres of lawn in the continental United States — that’s nearly as much as all of the country’s national parks combined. In 2020, Americans spent $105 billion keeping their lawns verdant and neat. But our grass addiction comes at an environmental cost.

WHY THE NEXT BIG GARDENING TREND IS TAKING A CUE FROM LOCL BIOVIVERSITY Before you buy a tropical tree, here's why native plants are a better option. | by Nadia Hassani | May 19, 2021

Planting a tree and seeing it grow and thrive is one of the most long-lasting and fulfilling gardening experiences. I feel that way about the gingko in our front yard, but when it comes to wildlife value, a gingko is almost like having a plastic tree in your yard—it has zero value to the little critters that make nature work. A gingko attracts no caterpillars at all (which are essential for birds to raise their young), but a native oak, on the other hand, supports more than 550 species of caterpillars. According to Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware and a leading voice in the movement to plant more natives, a single pair of chickadees needs 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to feed one clutch of young.

BUILDING AN ECOSYSTEM FOR EARTH DAY: THE SHIRE IN MY BACKYARD | by Betsy Scotto-Lavino | Artistic Fuel | April 23, 2021

In honor of Earth Day, we are building a shire in our backyard. Not the dictionary definition of a shire, (meaning a county in England). But rather, the fantasy world one, as featured in the series of movies based on the book, “The Hobbit.” It was my husband’s idea. He noticed that a turned-over tree stump took the shape of Frodo’s front door. Our imaginations took over from there. Building a fantastical, productive ecosystem of native plants took on a fun twist.

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