How I Got Started with Native Plants

We all have our own journey of discovery with native plants. This was mine.

Edward Felsenthal

2/17/20243 min read


In about the year 2011 or so, our kids stopped shooting hoops in the back yard so I decided to rewild the place since if given an option for landscaping, this would be my go-to choice as I have always considered myself to be an environmentalist.


So, after we jack-hammered out the concrete, I got some plants online and from a Garden Supply store and Home Depot, I got Liriope, Hybrid Rose, Peppermint, Hosta, various ferns, Milkweed, Hybrid blueberry bushes and because we had travelled to North Carolina and saw all the Crepe Myrtle on the highway I got one of those. Then I bought some wildflower seed mix and put that down. The results were not really what I was after. When I discovered that lots of the plants I bought are not wildlife friendly and are actually invasive, then I started getting serious.

Knowledge Building

I went to Forest Park, which for anyone who doesn’t know is a NYC maintained area of fairly old growth forest, and I collected about a gallon of soil from a place where I suspected seeds from nearby plants may have collected. Then I put it in trays in February with grow lights overhead and watched what would happen, hoping to get some native plants for my yard. I learned a lot from this exercise. I learned that about 75% of the plants that came up were either naturalized non native or invasive. I also miss identified a few. For example, I thought Porcelain Berry was Riverbank Grape, Garlic Mustard was Ground Ivy and Mugwort was Wood Avens. When these plants matured in my yard I was able to identify them more clearly and killed them all except for the geranium robertianum which is too lovely and grows out of my gravel pathway, a single wild black cherry tree and two rough leaf dogwoods which are all about 15 feet high today, but started life under my grow lights. I also got a Linden Viburnum which I wasn’t able to identify until it bloomed. A beautiful plant but of course, I killed it.


What happened to the wildflower mix I raked into my yard? Well, from 10’s of thousands of seeds only a few survived including some Purple Coneflower, Blackeyed Susan, Yarrow and Vervaine. Some of the seeds decided to grow only on the perimeter of the yard or in my gravel walkway. So, although I did this for two years, the results were ok but not very quick or controlled. The thing is that I know birds ate a lot of the seeds and of what remained, there were weeds that competed with them. The weeds that came up in my yard were always the same: Mugwort, Lambs Quarters, Asiatic Dayflower, Horseweed, Crabgrass and Amaranth.


At some point after going down the YouTube rabbit hole long enough I decided to start this native plant nursery business to help others also wanting to give back to the environment. I also joined the Forest Park Steward program and spend some time on weekends clearing invasive plants. Until now, I don’t see a clear pathway to grow the business unless and until I move out of the city into a house with zoning which allows a nursery, but I’m open to ideas. I’m full time employed in a work from home job right now. Well, it may not be work from home much longer, who knows. If that day comes, pickups will be limited to weekends.

What's your story?

If you want to share your native plant story you can send it to me with a picture of your garden or native yard or native landscape you have worked on and I'll post it here on this website.