Sunday, May 22: Habitat Gardening Workshop for NYC Wildflower Week

2022-05-13 UPDATE: A second session is now available for Sunday, May 22, 12 noon to 2pm! Registration links below now point to the new event.
2022-05-09 UPDATE: Due to the rainy, windy, cold weather yesterday, we will be scheduling another session of this workshop for later this week, most likely for the afternoon of Friday, May 13th. Will update here when confirmed!

Me hosting the NYCWW Pollinator Week Safari in my Front Yard, June 2014. Photo: Alan Riback

Sunday, May 22nd 6th, I will be hosting and facilitating a workshop on gardening for habitat with native plants in my home garden. The workshop is from 12noon to 2pm. Space is limited, so please register at the Eventbrite link below.

Learn how to garden with native plants to create wildlife habitat, even in small urban gardens. In this interactive garden tour and workshop, Chris will use his garden to highlight the importance of native plants for sustaining urban wildlife, and how to create and maintain a garden for its ecological value. With nearly 200 NYC-native plant species, and over 400 documented insect visitors, you are sure to learn something new and find inspiration for improving habitat wherever you garden.

Presented by Chris Kreussling. Chris is an urban naturalist and advocate for urban habitat gardening with native plants. He has led numerous native plant and pollinator walks and workshops, for NYC Wildflower Week, Wave Hill, the High Line, and others. His garden is a registered habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, Xerces Pollinator Society, and other organizations. He’s documented this ongoing transformation on his gardening blog, Flatbush Gardener and on Twitter as @xrisfg.


Related Content

Insect Year in Review 2021, 2022-01-03
Hot Sheets Habitat, 2021-11-19
Documenting Insect-Plant Interactions, 2021-10-29
Presentation: Creating Urban Habitat, 2021-02-04
Home of the Wild, 2020-05-13 (Link fixed 2024-04-17)
Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants, 2019-06-08
Charismatic Mesofauna, 2019-02-12
Pollinator Gardens, for Schools and Others, 2015-02-20
NYCWW Pollinator Safari of my Gardens, 2014-06-14


Eventbrite registration page
NYC Wildflower Week

Sunday 6/23: Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants

Me hosting the NYCWW Pollinator Week Safari in my Front Yard. Photo: Alan Riback

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be hosting a pollinator-focused garden tour and citizen science workshop in my garden for Pollinator Week, in association with NYC Wildflower Week.

Event Details

Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Time: 1-4pm
Location: Brooklyn, NY, corner of Stratford Road and Matthews Place
Cost: FREE!
RSVP: Eventbrite

1-2pm: I’ll be focusing in using iNaturalist to observe and identify insects in the garden. Create a free account on iNaturalist, and install the app on your smart phone. I’ll show you how to make observations in the garden with your phone!
2-4pm: We’ll explore the garden, see examples of how to garden for insects and pollinators, look at insect-plant associations happening in the garden, and, optionally, make observations with iNaturalist.

These times are a rough guide. You can drop by any time.

What can you see?

With roughly 200 NYC-native species of trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers, my garden hosts scores of native insects that use these plants throughout the year.

I’ve been documenting these residents and visitors on iNaturalist. Here’s what I’ve seen in June over the years:

My garden is registered with several programs dedicated to creating and preserving habitat:

  • National Wildlife Federation: Backyard Wildlife Habitat # 141173, May 2011
  • Xerces Society: Pollinator Habitat, June 2012
  • North American Butterfly Association: Butterfly and Monarch Garden and Habitat, July 2017

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2014 Pollinator Safari

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Event: Sunday 5/15 NYCWW Tour of my Gardens

The Gardener’s Nook this weekend
The Gardener's Nook, May 2016
10 years ago, on May 16, 2006, I wrote the first post for this blog. To celebrate my 10th Blogiversary, on Sunday, May 15, I’m opening my garden for a tour with NYC Wildflower Week. The event is free, but registration is requested, as space is limited.

NYC Wildflower Week: Place, Purpose, Plants: Urban Gardening with Native Plants

Date & Time: Sunday, May 15 from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Location: Stratford Road at Matthews Court in Flatbush, Brooklyn

Event Description:
Since 2005, Chris Kreussling has transformed a dusty, weedy backyard and conventional lawn and gardens into a garden oasis. In his gardens you can find over 80 130 species of plants native to NYC, and many more native to New York state and the Northeast. He’s documented scores of native insects that make use of these plants throughout the year, and some that make their homes there, as well. His gardens are registered as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, and Pollinator Habitat with the Xerces Foundation. He’s documented the process for the past 10 years on his gardening blog, Flatbush Gardener.

Geranium maculatum, wild geranium Fragaria virginiana, Virginia strawberry Zizia aurea, golden alexander Viola lanceolata, bog white violet Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern red columbine Phlox subulata, moss pink

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Native New Yorkers: My Garden’s NYC-Native Plant Checklist

This is a checklist of just the plant species native to New York City I’m growing in my garden. I’m posting this for the benefit of anyone attending the NYC Wildflower Week tour of my garden, Friday, May 15, from 1-3pm. It may also be of interest to those who attended Tuesday night’s meeting of the Long Island Botanical Society. I only had time during that talk – Place, Purpose, Plants: Urban Gardening with Native Plants – to highlight a handful of plants I’m growing.

Visitors are also going to get to witness a rare treat: “My little bees”, Colletes thoracicus, are actively nest-building in the garden right now. Most years, they would be finished by now, not to be seen until April of the next year. If we’re lucky, we will also get to see the Nomada sp. cuckoo bees I just noticed in my garden for the first time this year.

Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair Fern, Pteridaceae
Ageratina altissima, white snakeroot, Asteraceae
Allium tricoccum, ramps, Liliaceae
Andropogon gerardii, NYC-local ecotype, Big Bluestem, Poaceae
Andropogon virginicus, Broom Sedge, Poaceae
Anemone canadensis, Canadian anemone, Ranunculaceae
Angelica atropurpurea, purplestem angelica, great angelica, American angelica, high angelica, masterwort, Apiaceae
Antennaria plantaginifolia, plantain-leaved pussytoes, Asteraceae
Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’, Eastern red columbine, Ranunculaceae
Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern red columbine, Ranunculaceae
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, bearberry, Ericaceae
Arisaema triphyllum, Jack in the pulpit, Araceae
Asarum canadense, Canadian wild ginger, Aristolochiaceae
Asclepias incarnata, NYC-local ecotype, swamp milkweed, Apocynaceae
Asclepias syriaca, NYC-local ecotype, Common Milk Weed, Apocynaceae
Asclepias tuberosa, NYC-local ecotype, Butterfly Weed, Apocynaceae
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’, ladyfern, Dryopteridaceae
Baptisia tinctoria, NYC-local ecotype, False Indigo, Fabaceae
Carex laxiculmis ‘Bunny Blue’, spreading sedge, Cyperaceae
Carex pensylvanica, Pennsylvania sedge, Cyperaceae
Caulophyllum thalictroides, blue cohosh, Berberidaceae
Chelone glabra, white turtlehead, Scrophulariaceae
Chrysopsis mariana, NYC-local ecotype, Maryland Goldenaster, Asteraceae
Claytonia virginica, Virginia springbeauty, Portulacaceae
Clematis virginiana, virgin’s bower, devil’s darning needles, Ranunculaceae
Cunila origanoides, NYC-local ecotype, common dittany, Lamiaceae
Dichanthelium clandestinum, NYC-local ecotype, Deer Tongue, Poaceae
Elymus hystrix, NYC-local ecotype, eastern bottlebrush grass, Poaceae
Equisetum hyemale var. affine, scouring rush, Equisetaceae
Eragrostis spectabilis, Purple Lovegrass, Poaceae
Euthamia caroliniana, Slender Goldentop, Asteraceae
Eutrochium maculatum, NYC-local ecotype, spotted joe pye weed, Asteraceae
Fragaria virginiana, Virginia strawberry, Rosaceae
Gentiana andrewsii, Andrews bottle gentian, Gentianaceae
Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’, spotted geranium, Geraniaceae
Geranium maculatum, spotted geranium, Geraniaceae
Helenium autumnale, NYC-local ecotype, sneezeweed, Asteraceae
Heliopsis helianthoides, smooth oxeye, Asteraceae
Hydrophyllum virginianum, eastern waterleaf, Hydrophyllaceae
Ilex verticillata ‘Southern Gentleman’, winterberry, male, Aquifoliaceae
Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’, winterberry, female, Aquifoliaceae
Ionactis linariifolius, Stiff Aster, Asteraceae
Juncus effusus, NYC-local ecotype, common rush, Juncaceae
Juncus tenuis, Path rush, Juncaceae
Krigia biflora, Two-Flower Cynthia, two-flowered dwarf dandelion, Asteraceae
Lespedeza capitata, Round-headed Bush Clover, Fabaceae
Lilium superbum, Turk’s Cap Lily, Liliaceae
Lobelia cardinalis, cardinal flower, Campanulaceae
Lobelia inflata, indian tobacco, puke weed, Campanulaceae
Lobelia siphilitica, great blue lobelia, Campanulaceae
Lonicera sempervirens, NJ-local ecotype, trumpet honeysuckle, Caprifoliaceae
Monarda fistulosa, NYC-local ecotype, wild bergamot, Lamiaceae
Oenothera biennis, common evening-primrose, Onagraceae
Onoclea sensibilis, sensitive fern, Dryopteridaceae
Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear, Cactaceae
Osmunda cinnamonea, cinnamon fern, Osmundaceae
Osmunda regalis, royal fern, Osmundaceae
Oxalis stricta, upright yellow wood-sorrel, Oxalidaceae
Packera aurea, golden ragwort, Asteraceae
Packera obovata, round-leaved ragwort, Asteraceae
Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’, switchgrass, Poaceae
Panicum virgatum, NYC-local ecotype, switchgrass, Poaceae
Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Virgina creeper, Vitaceae (Grape Family)
Penstemon digitalis, NYC-local ecotype, talus slope penstemon, tall white beardtongue, Scrophulariaceae
Phlox subulata, Moss Phlox, Polemoniaceae
Podophyllum peltatum, mayapple, Berberidaceae
Polygonatum biflorum, smooth Solomon’s seal, Ruscaceae
Polystichum acrostichoides, Christmas fern, Dryopteridaceae
Prunus maritima, beach plum, Rosaceae
Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium, Sweet Everlasting, Asteraceae
Pycnanthemum muticum, NYC-local ecotype, clustered mountain-mint, short-toothed mountain-mint, Lamiaceae
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, Slender-leaved Mountain Mint, Lamiaceae
Pycnanthemum virginianum, NYC-local ecotype, Virginia Mountain Mint, Lamiaceae
Rhexia virginica, Virginia meadow-beauty, Melastomataceae
Rhododendron periclymenoides, pinxterbloom azalea, Ericaceae
Rhododendron viscosum, Swamp Azalea, Ericaceae
Rosa virginiana, Virginia rose, prairie rose, Rosaceae
Rudbeckia laciniata, cut-leaved coneflower, tall coneflower, Asteraceae
Saururus cernuus, lizard’s tail, Saururaceae
Schizachyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem, Poaceae
Solidago caesia, NYC-local ecotype, blue-stemmed goldenrod, Asteraceae
Solidago juncea, NYC-local ecotype, early goldenrod, Asteraceae
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Chilly Winds’, New England aster, Asteraceae
Thalictrum pubescens, NYC-local ecotype, tall meadow-rue, king of the meadow, Ranunculaceae
Thalictrum thalictroides, rue anemone, Ranunculaceae
Thelypteris noveboracensis, NYC-local ecotype, New York fern, Thelypteridaceae
Thelypteris noveboracensis, unknown provenance, New York fern, Thelypteridaceae
Thelypteris palustris, marsh fern, Thelypteridaceae
Trillium erectum, red trillium, Liliaceae
Vaccinium angustifolium, lowbush blueberry, Ericaceae
Vaccinium corymbosum, multiple cultivars, highbush blueberry, Ericaceae
Verbena hastata, Blue Vervain, Verbenaceae
Vernonia noveboracensis, New York ironweed, Asteraceae
Veronicastrum virginicum, Culver’s root, Scrophulariaceae
Viburnum dentatum, southern arrowwood, Caprifoliaceae
Viola lanceolata, Bog White Violet, Violaceae
Viola sororia, common blue violet, Violaceae
Zizia aurea, golden alexander, Apiaceae

About this list:

  • This isn’t all of the “native” plants visitors will see in my garden. I have half again as many eastern North American species that are not native to NYC. 
  • This list doesn’t include any plants I’ve acquired this year; I don’t “count” anything until it’s survived a year of my gardening.
  • My most treasured plants are those listed as “NYC-local ecotypes.” These have been propagated by the NYC Parks’ Greenbelt Native Plant Center from populations in and around New York City.

Related Content


Place, Purpose, Plants: Urban Gardening with Native Plants

At last night’s meeting of the Long Island Botanical Society, I spoke about my experiences gardening with native plants in an urban setting. These slides accompanied my talk.

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Bennington, J Bret, 2003. New Observations on the Glacial Geomorphology of Long Island from a digital elevation model (DEM) (PDF). Long Island Geologists Conference, Stony Brook, New York, April 2003.

Event: Saturday 6/21 NYCWW Pollinator Safari of my Gardens

On Saturday, June 21, in partnership with NYC Wildflower Week, in observation of Pollinator Week, I’m opening my gardens for a guided tour, what I’m calling a “Pollinator Safari.” This is only the third time, and the first time in three years, I’ve opened my gardens for a tour.

This Hylaeus modestus, Modest Masked Bee, 1/4″ long, was visiting the blooms of Viburnum dentatum, Arrowwood, in my garden just two weeks ago. I’ve documented scores of insect pollinators in my gardens over the years, including bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, and beetles.
Hylaeus modestus modestus, Modest Masked Bee sensu stricto

Here’s the information from the Evite page, with a couple of extra links thrown in:

NYC Wildflower WeekPollinator Week in Flatbush, Brooklyn

Date & Time: Saturday, June 21 from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm (rain date Sunday, June 22)
Location: Stratford Road at Matthews Court in Flatbush, Brooklyn


Event Description:

  • Since 2005, Chris has transformed a dusty, weedy backyard into a garden oasis. His gardens now incorporate over 80 species of native trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses and wildflowers. He’s documented the process on his gardening blog, Flatbush Gardener. In honor of National Pollinator Week, Chris will give us a behind-the-scenes tour!
  • Our bee expert will help us identify some of the gardens’ winged visitors, and review tips for creating an insect-friendly sustainable garden in urban settings.

A view of my urban backyard native plant garden, as it looked in 2011, six years in.
The View North in my urban backyard native plant garden, May 2011
The same view as above, when we bought the house, in May 2005
Backyard, view away from garage, May 2005

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Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Staten Island

Tim Chambers, Greenbelt Native Plant Center Nursery Manager, and our guide for the tour, explains GNPC’s history and mission at the start of the tour.
Greenbelt Native Plant Center

Monday, May 3, I visited the Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC) for the first time. This tour was one of over 45 events scheduled for NYC Wildflower Week. From the event description:

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center is the only municipal native plant nursery in the country. It is a 13-acre greenhouse, nursery, founder seed and seed bank complex owned and operated by NYC Parks & Recreations Dept. Over the past fifteen years, the center has grown hundreds of thousands of specimens from locally collected seed of the city’s indigenous flora for use in restoration, and replanting projects and is currently developing bulk seed mixes for the city. The GNPC is a partner in the establishment of the first national native seed bank called Seeds of Success.

GNPC operates as a wholesale nursery serving primarily, but not exclusively, restoration projects around the NYC area. GNPC partners with other growers around the region. Not all their efforts go to NYC wild areas and parks; some go to other, nearby restorations, and they also receive plants of specific species when they don’t have the stock to meet the demand.

There are over 2,000 plant species native to the NYC area. GNPC currently propagates about 350, a remarkable proportion. That range is important; GNPC is not just in the business of species preservation, but also restoration of plant communities. That work requires sourcing of many different species, and the plant “palette” required depends on the goals of each project.


It all starts with the collection of seed from the wild. Collections are done throughout the region; NYC itself has over 8,700 acres in 51 nature preserves under its Forever Wild program. Wherever it comes from, the seed collection protocol links back to the mission of GNPC. As Tim Chambers, our guide for the tour, and GNPC’s Nursery Manager, explained to us, non-selection is the goal.

Use of plant materials from local populations ensures the success of ecological restoration or enhancement of natural systems. Our seed collection begins by employing internationally accepted protocols for collecting seeds from wild populations that capture the full genetic variability of a given plant population. Genetic variation is the basis for evolutionary success.
– Mission, GNPC

Part of the protocol includes random sampling across a population. Collecting seed from the most vigorous plants, or those with the largest seedheads, or some other criteria, introduces unnatural, human selection. This distorts the evolutionary history captured in the genetic diversity across the population. The population grown on from those seeds will be less representative of the original, less adapted to the conditions in which the original plants were found, and less suitable for restoration efforts.

Collection must be distributed not just spatially across a population, but across time. A given population may have individuals whose seed ripens slightly earlier, or slightly later, than the bulk of the population. These outliers give the population as a whole more resiliency in the face of unusual or extreme conditions: a drought, an early frost, an unusual outbreak of insects. Seed must be collected throughout the ripening seasons to capture that diversity.


If you’ve never collected seed from your own plants before, I can recommend it. It’s not so straightforward as you might think. You don’t usually collect seeds. You collect the fruits that contain the seeds. Getting the seeds out – separating the seeds from the chaff – can take some work. And it requires different techniques for each species.

Separation Equipment
Seed Lab
Seed Lab
Separation Equipment

Barrels of Chaff

This chaff was softer than the softest feathers or wool you’ve ever felt.


After separation, germination is tested in the Seed Lab. If germination succeeds, it means the seed is ripe; they sow the seeds in trays. They’re germinated and grown in a greenhouse dedicated to this first stage in getting plants from seed.

Propagation Greenhouse
Propagation Greenhouse, Greenbelt Native Plant Center

What results is a dense mat of first growth.

I didn’t get the id of these grass seedlings.
Propagation Greenhouse, Greenbelt Native Plant Center

Amelanchier canadensis, Canadian Serviceberry
Amelanchier canadensis seedlings

Agastache nepetoides, Yellow Giant Hyssop
Agastache nepetoides seedlings

Growing on

To grow past this point, the seedlings must be separated from their siblings. They’re pricked out from the mat and planted in individual containers, just like you find in any plant nursery. It’s delicate, time-consuming work.

Planting out
Planting out

The result is an abundance of beautiful, healthy seedlings of NYC-local ecotype native plants. These will be grown onto successively larger containers, depending on the needs of the projects for which they’ve been contracted.

Pinus strobus, Eastern White Pine. Mature height: 150 feet.
Pinus strobus seedlings
Pinus strobus seedlings

These cute little guys are Liriodendron tulipifera, Tulip Tree. Mature height: 120 feet.
Liriodendron tulipifera seedlings

Preparation and Storage



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NYC Wildflower Week, 5/1-5/9

The Native Flora Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, May 2009. This was the first garden constructed after BBG was established on the site of a municipal ash dump 100 years ago, and the first public garden devoted to native plants. Next Wednesday’s tour of this garden with Uli Lorimer, curator of BBG’s Native Flora Garden and an instructor in their Certificate in Horticulture program, is one of over 45 FREE events in all – available during NYC Wildflower Week.
Native Flora Garden

NYC Wildflower Week kicks off Saturday 5/1. This is the third year for the event, and it’s bigger and better than ever. There are events all over the city, including tours of locations otherwise closed to the public. I’m looking forward to visiting, for the first time, the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island, “the only municipal native plant nursery in the country.”

You can get all the details at the official, extensive, NYCWW Web site, or at the Parks Department event page:

From Friday, May 1, to Saturday, May 9, we’re celebrating the hundreds of native flowers, trees, shrubs and grasses in the Big Apple. Take advantage of the spring weather, and come out for a week of environmental learning, with free activities, walks, and talks galore.

I’m proud that this year, for the first time, I’ve been invited to participate in an official capacity. This Saturday morning, May 1, I’ll be on-hand at the information booth at Union Square to help answer questions and provide information about native plants.

A male Agapostemon, Green Metallic Bee, on a native perennial Helianthus, Sunflower, in my backyard native plant garden. Native plants provide vital habitat – food, forage, and shelter – for this and the rest of the more than 250 of bees native to NYC.
Agapostemon sp., Metallic Green Bee, Jade Bee

What can you do to help preserve NYC’s native plants?

Take a walk.
Head outdoors with a field guide and a friend to learn about the botanical jewels in your neck of the woods. Preservation comes to those places that are loved by people.

Ride with the masses.
Whenever possible, take mass transit. Let your legislators know how you travel. New roadways promote sprawl and destroy and degrade habitat. If this money were instead used to bolster mass transit, we could conserve oil, preserve biodiversity and decrease sprawl.

No picking.
Removing native plants from the wild depletes natural populations. Never take plants from parks or other open spaces. An exemption – if a site were slated for development, then the plants should be rescued and moved to another site, but ONLY if you were absolutely certain that the plants would otherwise be destroyed.

Be civically active.
Development is the cause of native plant destruction. Make note of open space slated for a strip mall or housing complex or active recreation area (because even settings like ball fields and golf courses eat up natural habitats). Attend community board meetings. Voice your dissent. Open space allows for passive recreation, like plant hunting, birding and hiking. Such activities nurture the naturalist in all of us.

Preserve open space.
Work to save our natural areas. Become a member of a local land trust or conservancy devoted to preserving open space and natural resources. If one doesn’t exist, consider starting your own.

Join a botanical society.
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut all have native plant societies. These groups lead tours through local fields and forests and always welcome new plant people. See our Resources page to learn more.

Compost with care.
Most homeowners believe it is environmentally responsible to pile lawn refuse (grass clippings, leaves, twigs) in adjacent open areas. Don’t. By dumping garden waste in woods or at property edge, you may be inadvertently overwhelming critical habitat for plants and animals!

Lay off the herbicide.
Is it really that important to have a “weed free” yard? The struggle for pristine green carpet (aka lawn) is a struggle against nature itself. Herbicides kill the native plants on and around your property. Instead, keep turf to a minimum, and maximize color, richness and beauty with native plant gardens.

Legal protection for plants.
New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut all have something in common – none of these states have laws safeguarding native flora. Moreover, they have no legal protections for rare plants. An undeveloped lot chuck-full of uncommon and unique vegetation is not legally viewed as special. This site is just as likely to be built upon as a lot full of crummy weeds. This happens even at the Federal level, where most of the money from the Endangered Species Act goes towards animal protection. Let your legislators know that your flora should have rights. Flower power!

Why Wildflowers?, NYC Wildflower Week

Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens, BBG Native Flora Garden, May 2009
Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens

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Facebook Fan Page
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Greenbelt Native Plant Center
Torrey Botanical Society