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Praying mantis in the Native Flora Garden. Native Flora Garden expansion in spring Pixie-moss in bloom.

The Native Flora Garden: A Truly Sustainable Garden

May 2015

The Native Flora Garden expansion, a Campaign for the Next Century project completed in 2013, is coming into its own as it enters its third growing season. As it matures, this beautiful garden is becoming increasingly self-sustaining. In fact, since the plants have become established, the garden has required no watering, mulch, or fertilizer. This is because the native plants chosen are suited to the climate and conditions right here in Brooklyn.

Uli Lorimer, curator of the Native Flora Garden, spends the majority of his time working with the plants, rather than preserving a static image. The landscape is constantly evolving as plants adapt, mix and spread their seeds. Lorimer edits and guides its development instead of fighting it, with the knowledge that choreographing this dynamic living palette of plants is an ongoing process.

Lorimer is constantly balancing the careful stewardship of the collection with the natural selection of the evolving landscape. The expansion aims to re-create several local plant communities whose habitats have been nearly wiped out by development. One conservation success has been the introduction of pixie-moss, a rare and threatened species of flowering evergreen groundcover for which BBG serves as an official custodian as a member of the Center for Plant Conservation network.

These local plant communities also attract wildlife. Insects in particular are abundant, and last summer the garden was teeming with praying mantises, a predatory species whose presence is a great sign that the garden is producing food for a diversity of creatures, including birds and bats. Lorimer said that bringing life back to this corner of BBG has been one of the great joys of working on the new expansion. What was previously a minimally used space is now a thriving ecosystem supporting the food web.

Top left photo: A praying mantis in the Native Flora Garden. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
Middle left photo: The Native Flora Garden expansion in spring. Photo by Uli Lorimer.
Bottom left photo: Pixie-moss (Pyxidanthera barbulata) in bloom. Photo by Uli Lorimer.

Green Facts

The Garden is working to save water, and you can too. The average New York home wastes as much as 11,000 gallons of water each year—that’s 30 gallons a day!