The Climate Conscious Gardener

Beaver Lake Nature Center

“So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to thee.”
–  Samuel Taylor Coleridge


This spring as the garden starts, it is as if I am starting anew in my garden or looking at it with fresh eyes as though I just moved here and had never seen it blooming before.  What will I keep? I may want to make some changes.  I definitely want to make it my own with my own signature or style.  That style has been evolving over the past several years.

I have always had more difficulty making decisions with my own house, my own gardens.  I can see someone else’s and get ideas right away.  Mine I could stare at for hours and still not see it.  I think I have needed time to evolve with the style that has been developing.  To make sure od a right fit for me.  And now it feels as if the moment is right to make some significant changes.

I have been focusing more on native plants particularly those that feed birds or act as larval and host plants to many different butterflies.  I have decided to take my time and get to know my garden, to not be in a hurry as I did when I first planted much of it.  There are things that are working and things that are not.  But going slow will be the key to moving forward in the right direction.

As Earth Day approaches on April 22nd, I always question myself.  What have I done this past year to make a difference?  What can I do this year?  I believe continuing to garden more sustainably, more responsibly is the path I continue to go down.  In doing this, I feel I am making a difference.

After all that is all we can do…our little part.  So when Michelle@The Sage Butterfly decided to host her Earth Day Reading Project again this year, I was excited to participate especially since I have found the perfect book.  It exemplifies the change I have made, continues to inform me about sustainable gardening habits and I hope it might inspire you.  I will also be linking in with Holley@Roses and Other Gardening Joys for her Garden Book Review which happens the 20th of the month.

For the Earth Day Reading Project, Michelle asks us to share a book that:

  • is one you would recommend to others for living or gardening more sustainably – or –
  • inspires your love of nature

My last book review is one that inspired my love of nature; Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.  A fantastic read and not to be missed.  The Climate Conscious Gardener takes me further on my journey to learn more about  sustainable gardening.


The Climate Conscious Gardener

(BBG Guides for a Greener Planet)

by Janet Marinelli (editor)

Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Brooklyn Botanic Garden (June 1, 2010)
List Price:  $ 12.95
Amazon Price: $11.01 (Paperback)



In a  Few Words

The Climate Conscious Gardener gives gardeners practical strategies for keeping the planet green through sustainable and organic gardening.  It is a wonderful collection of chapters or essays that are jammed packed full of info:

  • Introduction:  A Wake Up Call from the Climate-a quick intro about climate change; especially what happens when the  carbon and nitrogen are out of balance in the atmosphere, and how plants, soil, and chemicals affect climate change.
  • A Gardener’s Guide to Climate Change-goes through the effects of climate change, how it affects different areas of the US, the impact on plants and the basics of global warming.
  • Reducing Your Garden’s Climate Footprint-shows you the ways you can lower your garden’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Offsetting Carbon Emissions in Your Garden-teaches you to landscape for home efficiency with such things as planting for shade around your house, creating windbreaks to keep your house warmer in winter and determining the climate footprint of homegrown food.
  • Turning Your Landscape into a Carbon Sink-shows you how your plants can be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; maximizing carbon storage in your plants; best ways to food garden by going organic and growing soil carbon in your food garden.
  • Beyond the Garden-takes you on a journey with gardeners who are taking action in their communities.


What I Liked

What was particularly compelling was  A Gardener’s Guide to Climate Change.  It goes through what will happen and is happening to our gardens with climate change.  The data and examples are from 2009 (already 3 years past), but they speak about trends that either were just happening or could happen.  This part is particularly scary since many are coming to fruition already; increased number and duration of extreme droughts throughout the country is one example.  This section also discusses the challenges for each region of the US as the climate change continues.  For the NE, we may see the end to growing apples, blueberries, cranberries as well as the maple sugar industry.  Scary prospects indeed, but certainly substantiated  recently when many of  our planting zones changed showing we have been warming up.

Another aspect of the this chapter is the many studies about plants and garden styles that will also be changing.   One such study showed the likely demise of the English Cottage Garden because of the extreme weather conditions.  This would be sad.

The most informative part of the book for me was the section on Reducing Your Garden’s Climate Footprint.  While I loved reading about climate change and learning more, I wanted something that would show me what I could do.  Getting rid of or reducing lawns is a big part of reducing your carbon footprint.  If you do not know all the reasons why this is true, you will after reading this book.  For some of us we are forced to keep lawns, but I have reduced the size, use no chemicals or water and cut it sparingly.  I was glad to learn these will help.  Other things I learned more about were:  proper natural fertilizing (feeding the soil) and its importance, selecting or making your own potting mixes, how to water wisely, the no-irrigation garden and selecting eco-friendly products.

Actually Offsetting Carbon Emissions in Your Garden and Turning Your Landscape into a Carbon Sink also gave me useful information as a gardener especially with : the climate footprint of growing your own food; the how to and reasons for going organic; gardening without disturbing your soil and why this is important and the best ways to maximize carbon storage in your plants to help reduce the greenhouse gases.


Not So Much

For those who are not into the science of climate change, you can breeze through those sections and still get a lot out of the book, but I challenge you to wrap your head around the science.  They make it plain and easy to understand from a gardener’s perspective.  What the greenhouse gases are, how we contribute to them with our gardens, and how we can improve our carbon footprint are some of the most important things you can learn from this book…all the reasons why I have chosen to garden more sustainably, more environmentally friendly.


local wetlands

Final Thoughts

This book was a fascinating read for me.  Even though it is a mere 120 pages, they are jammed packed with lots of incredibly useful information.  And while I was sure I knew a lot about the subject, I was pleased to discover so much more I had not even considered.  It is a great starting place to learn about the why and how of sustainable gardening.  To see what little things you can do to help the environment while you garden.  Just imagine that your beautiful garden (what you plant, how you plant and how you maintain it) can actually help the Earth.  Just knowing this makes me say, “I’m in!”  How about you?


“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” ~Kahlil Gibran



Next up on the blog:  Next Monday it will be time for another GBBD post and I hope to parade lots more blooms.  Another Simply the Best post that ties in with Diana@Elephant’s Eye, and Gail@Clay and Limestone’s Wildflower Wednesday will follow on the 23rd.  I will be featuring my Wild Lupines.  And lastly it will be time for another Word 4 Wednesday with Donna@Garden Walk, Garden Talk.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my weekly posts, every Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

52 Replies to “The Climate Conscious Gardener”

  1. HI Donna, yes I finally read the caption right, and figured out how to leave a comment, sigh.

    I like what you said about being able to quickly determine what can be done in others gardens, but having a problem with doing it in yours. I guess many of us feel that way.

    We are finding our way slowly here, there will be water restrictions, and climate changes from down on the coast and as we encounter them, we will learn to adapt.

    Love the idea of planting more natives.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    1. Jen I am so glad you were able to visit and leave a comment…I fear we may finally face water restrictions here too as the surface ground water is lacking and the climate is changing…I think the only plants that will be able to adapt will be the natives. I find they are some of the most beautiful plants that attract lovely wildlife…so glad you enjoyed the post!!

  2. Very timely post and book review indeed. I am already fearing what is coming this summer. With little snow and no rain, lots of wind, the plants are really taking a big hit already. My post tonight is images taking in the only rain shower (April 1) we had lately. And it was very brief. And as much as I don’t want to be a broken record, I really do see a topsy turvy gardening year. Many areas have not even recovered from last year, nor will they. Many of my plants are drought tolerant, but no rain is not what they were designed for! Watering may be little help too with clay based soils, if the ground surface and subsoil is hard packed from the repetitive freeze thaws this past winter, water will run off in all but the sandy soils. All the conditioning from the previous years is lessened.

    Well, the only thing to do is hope for the best. As much as we think we are changing nature (like adjusting pH, amending soil texture, adding nutrients, planting desired natives) the soil reverts, the conditions determine, the clay rises to the surface and the native weeds proliferate.

    Gardening is a battle in current climate conditions, no matter what the books dictate. Designing (the landscapes, not buildings) is getting much harder when you can’t rely on some expected givens of typical and mean seasonal conditions. People are not happy maintaining and want nature to provide.

    1. We have had barely a third of an inch of rain in April…that is just unheard of…but I do not mind the native weeds as many are lovely wildflowers…gardening is getting harder with the changing climate…I do think replanting the natives that were stripped from the forest floor that was my property before they developed it can only help…some has recovered and that is how I got the trout lilies…they were here and have been able to spread again since I put down some compost that had been stripped with development.

  3. I’m very interested in how climate change affects gardens. This year has been a totally weird year. I’ll have to look for the book. Thanks for showcasing it.

  4. This year we are moving steadily and honestly to planting what will survive our climate. More of the happy, less of the But I MUST have … So grateful for the rain we had over the Easter weekend!

    1. We are getting a bit of rain as well finally…strange for us not to have rain…scary actually. Like you Diana I am finding that the ‘Must Have’ plants have become the natives…many that are lovely and I never even knew them until now…

  5. This is a perfect selection for our time today. So much change is taking place, and it is evident. So much change is taking place, and we are not aware of it. I tend to fret about all of those frightening changes and try to accept that there is not much I can do about the past. However, I, too, often try to think about what things I can do to make a difference. Your selection seems like a book that could introduce me to some areas with which I have not experimented. I am looking forward to learning more. Thank you for joining in The Earth Day Reading Project. It is a joy to have you participate.

    1. Your meme Michelle is one of the best. I hope you find the book as enlightening and helpful as I did…we really can help by just changing one or 2 things a year.

  6. I was surprised when you mentioned this book was only 120 pages long. It seems to have a lot of information packed into those few pages! I am slowly learning that each of our little plots of earth affect so much more than just our little area, and think the things discussed in this book would be good to know. I also enjoyed hearing about how you are making your garden your very own, and taking the time for your style to develop. Thanks for linking in with my meme as well as Michelle’s.

  7. Another book to read…You made me feel so much better. As recently as 2 seasons ago, we had landscaping done in the back yard to help keep the pond from flooding so far up and had them plant some plants and bushes that are not native. They do provide a nice windbreak and hiding places for wildlife especially birds, but I thought I would take them out right I think I can take my time and work on areas that don’t have anything and plant native..I have learned so much in that last couple of years…

    1. Sounds like a great plan Michelle. Before you replace them read up on the bushes native to your area and what will produce the windbreak for you and will take care of the flooded area…

  8. I’m a slow gardener. I guess it is kinda like the slow food movement. I try to fit my garden into the landscape. This year I’ll be adding some natives to the gardens. How many and what kinds are still to be determined. I’m taking my time deciding.

    1. I have a long list that I ponder yearly. This year I added more. The list will continue to grow as I exchange non-natives for natives. I am finding them so much more lovely as they draw in such beautiful wildlife.

  9. Great book review! It gives me some new things to think about: working with what we have and not trying to make so many changes, and some old things to think on again: what is up with these big patches of green grass that everyone wants in front of their house?

    1. Oh Elaine don’t get me started…we have to stop. I am planning to take out more grass, but the hardest part about not having grass is in the resale of the house. My old gardens at our last house were ripped out by the new owners and they planted grass. Parents want grass for kids to play on, but do we need so much…and in some neighborhoods, towns etc you must have grass…so sad.

  10. Sounds like a great book, Donna. I appreciate it when books explain what we can do along with telling us what is going wrong. Your first shot of the Monarch butterfly is beautiful!

    1. Thx Beth. That butterfly had no notion of me standing right next to it…he was storing up for his long flight last fall…

  11. Donna, I had plans to move slowly this year, too; they lasted until the first time I went to a nursery… I love the way the garden around your gazebo is taking shape. It looks easy and natural and relaxed–really beautiful with the warm rudbeckia against the cool greenery. Thanks for the review, and for setting it out so clearly. It sounds like a useful book, perhaps even for us folks way out here… I’d love to plant more natives, but they really do want more sun than my townhouse urban environment provides. Finding out what works with the least water is going to be a long process.

    1. Stacy how nice of you to say so about the garden. It is definitely a very useful resource and gave me quite an education. I have had issues with clay and wet areas that i am finally solving using native plants….good gardening is a long process isn’t it.

  12. Donna, I’ve read your post with interest, our climate here in Saint Petersburg doesn’t change or may be changes very slowly. I don’t want to battle for every plant that isn’t hardy and try to plant only easy and hardy roses (like Canadian), native for our zone 4-5a.

    1. Nadezda planting native plants helps so you don’t have to battle for non-hardy plants. Climate change is slowly happening and what we do in our part of the earth will affect others…I am glad you found the post interesting.

  13. Donna thanks for reviewing this book. I have not heard of this title but am going to read a copy soon. We all need to be prepared for what’s in store for our landscapes.

    1. Heather it is a sobering book with important info to help us prepare for changes and perhaps make changes that can help!

  14. Donna – GREAT post! So much going on! Thanks for telling us about the Earth Day Reading Project! I also really liked your book review even though it is alarming…I think we need to be alarmed…

  15. I have been reading lots of posts from temperate climates that their expectations on flowering, snowing, temperature changes, etc, etc are changing. And they associated these with climate change, maybe that is so. And here in our small tropical country, which is very much affected by what happened in big continents, we are also experiencing much changes. Some plants flower in Feb instead of Dec, and there was a big rain in Mar which was supposed to be all dry, rain normally is still in May. A lot of plants were affected, to my joy because they can withstand the dry season better. However, at this early i think it affected fruiting trees, as the citrus did not have much time receiving longer dry season before shooting. They now shoot without flowers, meaning there will be no produce in December. We wonder what is happening, but i tried to do my personal share for our delirious earth by planting some trees around our property. In my little own way, i think planting trees are the best way to do now.

    I saw a blog from the US where all his activities in his garden are posted. I feel so sad that even his burning of a lot of his plants, prunnings and debris were posted. He might have not been aware of what is going on around him! How sad that there are still people like that in your part of the world.

    1. Andrea it is sad that people don’t realize that what they do in their little yard will affect the rest of the Earth…Planting trees is a great way to do our part…i planted a few today as well.

  16. I would love to know more about the changes your garden is going through – it all sounds very exciting. I am hoping there will be more pictures of butterflies too! I hope you will be happy with what you are trying to accomplish although a garden always seems to be a work in progress…

    Thank you for the book review, very informative and well written. I need to get the book!

    1. I am hoping for more butterflies this year too…it will definitely make it all worthwhile…glad you enjoyed the post!

  17. Donna, I really appreciate your musings about the evolution of your garden. I find it easier to help others with theirs too. My own, not so easy! I can’t wait to read this book. I’m going to ‘pin’ it for sure so I can come back to it when I have more time. Thanks!

  18. I’m in too! Sounds like an interesting book, I’ll have to check it out. I’m much like you, in having a difficult time visualizing my own garden. I stared at this property for two years straight, and didn’t hardly touch it. Admittedly, I felt overwhelmed by the space here, and didn’t know where to start, or ‘how’ to garden here. Formal, informal, exotic, native? Sometimes, just sitting back and observing the space, the plants, the insects, the animals, watching what grows, and what doesn’t, can give you inspiration, but it can take time for the vision to become clear.

    1. Glad to hear I am not alone Clare. I planted more non-natives and am now moving into designing with natives…I am having a ball…

    1. Karen you are indeed lucky. If I were younger it would be my dream to have a landscaping business that only practiced earth friendly methods…I am still creating my garden design business and will be leaning heavily in this direction.

  19. Sounds like a very informative book Donna. Thanks for highlighting this issue. I think it is a great reminder for gardeners to do what they can to be earth-friendly. I must say that I think it is harder in some areas than others to go completely native. Since I now live in what used to be known as high-desert, it would be no fun at all to garden here with just natives and rely only on natural rainfall. The garden season would be just a few weeks! Although most all my plants and trees must have supplemental moisture, I do what I can to water smart, plant lots of trees that are drought tolerant and help our cleanse our air and also provide shade so less electricity is used. Plus grow alot of my own organic food. The key for me is to have a positive impact make up for one that might be negative and in the end come on Mother Earth’s side.

    1. Andrea that is the most important thing making those positive impacts…gardening organic is also a key feature and less chemical use period…glad you enjoyed the review…I think you would find the book interesting.

  20. Thank you for recommending this book and for addressing this issue! I believe it is something we should all think about seriously, and I’m grateful that you’ve shared so many details about this book with us. It sounds like a good one.

    I’m considering rigging up some barrels to collect rainwater this year…one small way to help reduce. I love that you have focused more on native plants in your garden – another great move.

    A Sand County Almanac is one of my all time favorite books in the world. I can’t wait to read your review!

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