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Book Review: Native Plants for the Small Yard, by Kate Brandes

Photo of Native Plants for the Small Yard with Heuchera leaves in the background.Native Plants for the Small Yard: Easy, Beautiful Home Gardens that Support Local Ecology, by Kate Brandes

Rating: 🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳/5 Trees

Genres: Non-Fiction, Garden Design, Horticulture

Summary: Native Plants for the Small Yard recognizes that not all home gardens are large. Most gardeners can’t install gardens that mimic wild areas or gardens that are highly managed like destination gardens. This book is written specifically for “the resident with a small yard” (1).


This short, free e-book is an excellent guide to designing a small garden using native plants. It begins by explaining why native plants are important—referencing our favorite entomologist Doug Tallamy’s research—and moves on to some basic design tips. The bulk of the book covers design templates that can be copied as-is or modified to accommodate different garden sizes and, most importantly, growing conditions. The templates covered in this book are for nine small garden locations:

  1. Corner Garden
  2. Mailbox Garden
  3. Small Water Feature Garden
  4. Container Garden
  5. Downspout Garden
  6. Rock Wall Garden
  7. Front Porch Garden
  8. Sidewalk Strip Garden
  9. Back Patio Garden

Each design has a basic color palette as well as helpful hints to assist in design and installation.

This book is all about flexibility, and the most helpful aspect is that almost all the designs include separate plant lists for different growing conditions. There are alternative lists for dry/sun, dry/shade, wet/sun, and wet/shade. These alternative lists maintain the color palette of the initial design and also identify which plants are short, medium, or tall, making it easy to tailor the design to your garden’s needs.

The appendix includes helpful information for both the beginner and advanced gardener. There are photos of common weeds and invasive plants to help identify what shouldn’t be growing in your native garden. There is also an extensive, though not exhaustive, list of native plants sorted by growing conditions to help you find what will work best in your garden.

We understand that garden design can be daunting, and so we highly recommend this book for gardeners of all experience levels. Native Plants for the Small Yard simplifies the design process and gives home gardeners the tools they need to design and install a beautiful native garden.

This e-book is published by the Lehigh Gap Nature Center’s Landscape for Communities and Wildlife Program in Pennsylvania. Please keep in mind that these designs focus on the native plants of Pennsylvania, although most of the plants have a very wide native range.

You can read the book for free here!

Looking for the plants listed in this book? Start by checking out the native plants offered at Direct Native Plants!

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 23rd, 2021 at 12:03 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.