Above: Marigolds and Cucumbers. Include a variety of flowering nectar plants and herbs in and around your vegetable beds. This is called "companion planting", in which certain plants attract pest predators and help other plants to grow. Companion planting lets you rely on the simple laws of nature to keep your garden in balance.
Above: A summer bed of Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) provides a smorgasbord of nectar and seeds for birds, butterflies and predatory insects. Planting in groups likes this makes it easier for natural pest predators such as parasitic wasps and hover flies to find your garden.
In a (very large!) nutshell, my gardening philosophy is based upon:
Choosing plants suited for your particular site conditions, rather than trying to change your conditions to suit certain plants.
Replacing all or part of your lawn with areas of plants, shrubs and trees that provide benefits for birds, pollinators and beneficial insects, and reducing your need to mow
Reducing or eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in favor of organic techniques and products such as companion planting and compost
Using native plants wherever possible to support local biodiversity
Recognizing that most bugs are "good bugs", most bees are gentle and do not sting, and that insects in general are essential to healthy ecosystems.
Letting go of the idea that we need fussy, high-maintenance exotic plants in order to have a beautiful garden.
Grow Native Massachusetts - lots of information on their website, a free winter lecture series in Cambridge, MA and an ever-growing list of nurseries in Massachusetts that sell native plants.
"Ellen helped me realize not only my garden's potential, but my potential as a gardener. I was always fearful of how and where to group plants, if I could move things around or how to even get started. Ellen encouraged my efforts, added artistic design and made me believe this could all be possible in my little garden (despite the fact that I have two young children,work full time and have a dog who enjoys digging up what I plant)."
Andrea, Framingham MA
Ellen's "coaching has given us the confidence to face the challenge of shade gardening. We are learning how rewarding it can be to play in dirt!"
Judy, Spencer MA
Ellen's passion and enthusiasm is contagious and I can't wait for spring to arrive so that we can get started implementing the gorgeous plan she created for us. She listened carefully to my needs and concerns, knowing I'm not an avid gardener and then designed a garden that met those needs utilizing low maintenance plants that even I couldn't kill. When I think of how much time and money I've wasted in the past on plants that weren't right for my garden, I only wish I'd found Ellen sooner. Thank you so much!!
Terri, Uxbridge MA
"As a garden designer, Ellen is passionate, knowledgeable and creative. She is able to meet the needs of her clients and the environment in a way that benefits them both."
Lauren, Spencer MA
"Thank you again for all of your great advice for our garden - we newbies appreciate it!"
Janice and Michael, Berlin MA
"A few hours after (everything was planted), mid afternoon yesterday, I looked out my window and there was a whole flock of chipping sparrows in the trees and shrubs already! It was magical! I was like, 'Ellen was right! the trees are coaxing the birds out of the woods!' I didn't expect it to happen so soon! wow!!"
Sophie, Berlin MA
"We have had SO many compliments already. I want to thank you again for your time and help. It is so nice to finally feel proud of our yard and to have color. Plus, I look forward every day to taking care of it. Some of the plants are already changing and it is so much fun to watch. Oh--and we have already seen so many more butterflies and our first hummingbird! That has been fantastic!"
Nicole, Groton MA
"Thank you for the patience, guidance and vision."
Judy, Spencer MA
"Your suggestions and encouragement were just what we needed to get us going again on the garden"
D and Dotty, Sterling MA
"We were very thankful and impressed at your knowledge of just about everything and it was such a great help for us to be taught what is all around us at our home. We cannot wait to start nature-beautifying our home...thank you so much for your expertise and your patience in teaching us and for all the beauty you are sharing with us."
Pamela, Charlton MA
Identify plants with Go Botany, the online plant ID tool from New England Wild Flower Society:
New England Wild Flower Society and Garden in the Woods, Framingham and Whately MA. Home of New England's native plant society and a beautiful botanic garden featuring American native plants grown in their preferred natural habitats. Classes, lectures, plus a native plant nursery and gift shop in Framingham and at Nasami Farm (Whately, MA).