Books about habitat gardening
If you only have time for one book
Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy is highly recommended. You'll have renewed appreciation for the role of native plants in our gardens - and for reasons that may surprise you!
And for practical advice about using native plants in your landscape...
Summers is a landscape architect and an adjunct professor at Westchester Community College, so she knows our NYS plants and how to use them. This book gives a lot of practical advice to help you design your landscape with native plants.
General habitat gardening topics
Mizejewski, David - Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife: A great summary of all the Backyard Wildlife Habitat concepts and tips. It's very easy to read, and there are lots of beautiful photographs. It's affordable, too! Full of good information.
Stein, Sara Bonnett - Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards: This book shows us how our landscape style of neat yards and gardens has devastated suburban ecology, wiping out entire communities of plants and animals. When Stein realized what her intensive efforts at making a garden had done, she set out to "ungarden." It interweaves an account of her efforts with an explanation of the ecology of gardens.
Stein, Sara Bonnett - Planting Noah's Garden: Further Adventures in Backyard Ecology: This is the how-to-do-it complement to Noah's Garden. Lots of practical ideas and practical philosophy. I finally understood the importance of designing plant communities after reading this book - not just planting individual plants that were on the habitat lists.
Tallamy, Douglas - Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens: Explains that simply planting a variety of flowering perennials, trees, and shrubs is not enough. Wild creatures exist in a complex web of interrelationships, and often require different kinds of food at different stages of their development. By favoring native plants, gardeners can provide a welcoming environment for wildlife of all kinds.
Wasowski, Sally and Wasowski, Andy - Requiem for a Lawnmower: Gardening in a Warmer, Drier World
Wasowski, Andy with Wasowski, Sally - The Landscaping Revolution: Garden with Mother Nature, Not Against Her: Covers all the basic ideas of natural and naturalistic landscaping, restoring habitat, invasive plants, etc. etc. - and with a sense of humor. For example, one my favorite quotes that he uses at the beginning of the book is from Dave Barry: “The average American homeowner would rather live next to a pervert, heroin-addict, communist pornographer than someone with an unkempt lawn.” Best of all, there are lots of photographs so you really understand the issues. Very readable, enjoyable, but also inspiring as he profiles some of our country's landscaping "revolutionaries!"
Cullina, William - The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada: Very well-organized and complete information on wildflowers. I like that pronunciations are given for the botanical names! The only thing I'd change would be to have the range explained by using little maps rather than a verbal description. Gives good information on propagation - especially important for wildflowers.
Cullina, William - The New England Wild Flower Society Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines: A Guide to Using, Growing and Propagating North American Woody Plants : Very well-organized and complete information on woody plants, including wildlife value. I use these two Cullina books are my authoritative references. The pictures and the books themselves are beautiful and a joy to use.
Cullina, William - Native Ferns, Moss, and Grasses: From Emerald Carpet to Amber Wave, Serene and Sensuous Plants for the Garden. The latest in his series. Note that he includes plants native to North America, which aren't necessarily native to Central New York; check the range description.
Elpel, Thomas - Botany in a Day. Learn how to identify plants by family.
Kaufman, Sylvan and Wallace Kaufman - Invasive Plants: A Guide to Identification, Impacts, and Control of Common North American Species: Very well-organized, well-illustrated with photos, and information on control. A wonderful resource!
Leopold, Donald - Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation
Very well-organized and illustrated. Includes sections on all types of plants - wildflowers, ferns, grasses, shrubs, trees, vines.
Stein, Sara Bonnett - My Weeds: A Gardener's Botany. About more than just weeds! A user-friendly guide to botany blended with philosophy. This book preceded the author's more famous books (which follow), so you can track the evolution of her ideas toward more habitat-friendly gardening if you read them sequentially.
Buchmann, Stephen and Gary Paul Nabhan - The Forgotten Pollinators: Did you know that the services of pollinators are required for one of every three mouthfuls of food and the beverages we drink? And yet the populations of many of these pollinators - insects, bats, and birds - are in decline. This is a good book to read to learn more about this important issue. You'll never look at those little insects in your garden the same way again! As habitat gardeners, we can play an important role in helping these pollinators survive and in educating other people. SEE ALSO, the Xerces book below, which I think is more readable than this one. The Grissell book is also a good book about insects.
DeGraaf, Richard - Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Attracting Birds: Very specific information about a variety of plants. Describes the characteristics of each plant as usual, but it's one of the few resources that indicates which part of each plant is preferred by individual species of birds. For example, it lists the birds that use gray dogwood, and indicates that the robin uses the berries for food, and the catbird also uses it for cover and nesting. It even notes that this is a preferred nesting site for catbirds. BUT CAUTION: Plants known to be invasive, such as Norway maple, are listed along with all the other plants!
Grissell, Eric - Insects and Gardens: In Pursuit of a Garden Ecology: This book really opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about insects and their important role in a healthy garden. It also seemed to validate my own inclinations in gardening - plant lots of different kinds of plants (especially native ones), allow to be a little "messy," and don't use pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. This book explained for me why I seldom have had insect damage. It seems that my naturally "relaxed" style of gardening made my yard hospitable for insects. (I hope there are equally beneficial results with my "relaxed" style of housekeeping!)
Stokes, Donald and Lillian - Stokes Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies: As with all the Stokes books, this book is very well-organized, clearly written, and educational. Even though it's listed as a beginners book, it covers a large number of dragonflies, and I think it will be more than sufficient for my needs.
Stokes, Donald, Ernest Williams, and Lillian Stokes - The Butterfly Book: The Complete Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification, and Behavior: Everything you want to know about butterfly gardening, identification of butterflies and caterpillars, and behavior. I think it's an especially good resource for beginners. I didn't know much about butterflies when I first got this book, but I always could easily find what I wanted to know.
Stokes, Donald - Guide to Bird Behavior, Volumes 1, 2, 3: A bird book with a difference - instead of focusing on bird identification, it describes the behaviors of commonly-seen birds. If you've ever wondered why a bird is doing what it's doing, these are the books for you!
Stokes, Donald, and Lillian Stokes - Stokes Bird Gardening Book: The Complete Guide to Creating a Bird-Friendly Habitat in Your Backyard: Although these short guides might not satisfy the expert, but these books are very clear and comprehensive for the average person. Trees, bushes, and plants are classified according to their value as food or cover by region. There are a few non-native plant recommendations that shouldn't be there, but for the most part, an excellent resource.
Terres, John - Songbirds in Your Garden: A wonderful little book packed full of anecdotes and practical information. There are directions for building roost boxes, for "Miracle Mix," for building a brush pile, and many lists of valuable information, such as which plants produce useful seed for birds after flowering. I never cease to be amazed at how much is packed into this little book!
Xerces Society and Smithsonian Institution - Butterfly Gardening
Xerces Society - The Pollinator Conservation Handbook: This book provides very good information about what you can do in my own yard, farm, natural area etc. to protect pollinators. The Handbook guides the reader through the steps needed to create and enhance habitat for insect pollinators and contains information on selecting and planting forage flowers, providing nesting and egg-laying sites for bees, butterflies, and other insects, and caring for your pollinator habitat over time. You can read more about this handbook and order it directly from Xerces.
Lawn and gardening practices
Appelhof, Mary - Worms Eat My Garbage: A classic - the worm composting bible! Everything you need to know to get started and maintain your worm composting system.
Bormann, F. Herbert, Diana Balmori, and G. Geballe - Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony: This book describes the history of the American lawn and the environmental problems associated with it. Best of all, it provides practical ideas about how to create what the authors call a "Freedom Lawn." This book has especially clear and complete diagrams not just about growing lawns, but also about their relationship to environmental issues such as global warming.
Daniels, Stevie - Wild Lawn Handbook: Alternatives to the Traditional Front Lawn
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Charles Colston Burrell (Ed.) - The Natural Water Garden: Pools, Ponds, Marshes and Bogs for Backyards Everywhere: The ecological gardener's guide to water gardens. This book includes tips for creating backyard pools, ponds, marshes and bogs, plus plant recommendations for every region.
Holmes, Hannah - Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn
Stein, Sara - Noah's Children: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood
Louv, Richard -Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder