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Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards
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Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  236 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Published to rave reviews in 1993, Noah's Garden shows us how our landscape style of neat yards and gardens has devastated suburban ecology, wiping out entire communities of plants and animals by stripping bare their habitats and destroying their food supplies. When Stein realized what her intensive efforts at making a traditional garden had done, she set out to "ungarden. ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 24th 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published April 21st 1993)
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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanThe Ecological Rift by John Bellamy FosterThe Systems View of Life by Fritjof CapraSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
best sustainability
68th out of 165 books — 208 voters
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Best Environmental Books
158th out of 504 books — 683 voters

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Community Reviews

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Inspiring and informative! Tallamy introduced me to the importance of native plants and ecosystem gardening, and Stein's book provided even better context and answers to many of my "I wonders." My worry that this book would somehow be a rehash of the others I've read was proven completely unfounded. It may be an older, longer, less flashy book (alas, there are only a scattering of illustrations--and no native garden photographs!), but it's probably the best I've read so far.

It's thanks to peopl
Stephen Kiernan
This book changed how I landscape around my home. Less work, more pleasure, more birds, more variety.
Less a how-to and more a belle-lettres ode to native habitat gardening. Stein does an excellent job sharing her experiences developing her backyard into a near-mimic of the wild forests of New England, with particular joy to be found in her intellectual explorations, branching from every bird species to ten plants, from every plant to ten insects, from each insect to 10 more insects, and ending up with both a diodiverse back yard and an intimate knowledge of the food webs and seasonal rounds tha ...more
I thought I was really going to like this book about "restoring the ecology of our own backyards," especially considering that, having just bought a new house, we are starting a backyard from scratch. However, I found it repetitive and unorganized, and I ended up mostly skimming the last two chapters. I realize that this was intended as a story of how Stein and her husband manage their lot rather than a how-to book, but I found the structure of the book confusing. I wish she had defined at the o ...more
J. Aleksandr Wootton
The day is not far off when we, as a society, will admit that the suburbs are bad for us.

Its symptoms are many and varied, but the root problem can be simply stated: suburbia encourages connections neither with our neighbors, nor with the land. Ecology is sterilized by permanent real-estate-listing-style landscapes; community is sterilized by automatic garage-door openers; time, energy, daylight and resources are wasted on long commutes; genuine interaction is discarded in favor of inarticulate
Excellent book about planting native plants and designing landscapes so as to attract and sustain wildlife.


UPDATED May 2014

I find that I need to re-read this book every so often. It speaks to me in a way that I can't quite articulate. I love puttering in my garden - and though I certainly don't hew to an all native plant palette, I do try to plant natives, and plant fruiting shrubs that the birds will like (and the deer won't). Here's a quote:

"I want us as a culture to depart from t
Sara Stein documents her journey from being a conventional American gardener to a naturalist, ecologist and native-habitat restorer. Along the way there are wonders to behold and lessons to learn.

First a sample of one of the wonders: have you ever considered the life cycle of the aphid? Aphids are polymorphous, viviparous and parthenogenetic. Let's break that down.
Polymorphous: different generations have different body shapes.
Viviparous: they give birth to live young.
Parthenogenetic: they reprod
I was tentative buying this book, thinking it might be some religiously angled book, even though I didn't notice any such thing when leafing through it in the bookstore. That used book shop seems to be a bit heavy on the Christian literature so I wasn't sure... but I bought it anyways. Glad I did. There's a lot worthwhile in this book. At the very least it's an interesting read about one woman's attempt to create a natural, native garden from her former, more conventional one. But there are long ...more
Catherine Weaver
Advocates planting native plants in home gardens for solutions to complex animal and insect relationships. Three stars only because newer books (like Bringing Nature Home) may be a better time investment for those interested in wildlife gardening. A good read.
Picked up for fifty cents at a Friends of the Library book sale...So far I love it.
So to update, like so many would be great books, this one started and ended well but got a bit too long winded in the middle. Lots of good theories about creating habitat within the confines of our existing communities were muddled up when she began to outline the transformation of here own extensive New England property. Perhaps I just lost my way among all the unfamiliar flora, since I am a west coaster on a ti
This is a wonderful book on the importance of urban/suburban backyards in sustaining our eco-system. Given continuing population growth, we can't really avoid further habitat loss, but even in cities, we can provide some habitat to sustain native plants, insects, animals, and a healthy diverse ecosystem. She has a wonderful vision of suburbia where the wooded edges of my backyard flow (unfenced) into the wooded edges of my neighbors backyard, creating corridors. Very good on the science of why i ...more
I was thoroughly impressed with everything Stein had to say in this book. Noah's Garden is essentially a testimonial of someone who went from being a typical ornamental gardener to a stewardess of ecological health. What Stein did to her yard is an inspiration that is only now beginning to catch on. The fact that this book was written in the 90's makes this even more impressive.

I aspire to have a yard like Stein's, and feel that it is not only environmentally responsible, but much more practica
Sandy D.
This was written in 1993, so it is actually a bit dated in terms of the trend towards using native plants in your garden & yard. It is also a bit depressing - despite the fact that it's cool to have jack-in-the pulpit or marsh marigold in your yard (and there are now plenty of places to buy native plants), the basic trend towards huge subdivisions with acres of sterile lawn, white gravel, and a few isolated trees and run of the mill shrubs like gas-station yews seems to have prevailed.

This book describes one gardener/biologist's efforts to re-invent the suburban yard to enhance the local ecosystem. It's full of practical insight, detailing many of the techniques she tried and their results. It's also a great book to inspire a sense of wonder in the natural world, as she brings the reader along to meet all the living creatures whose homes are our natural ecosystems, and considers what they need to live and how the typical yard does or does not provide for those needs.
When I worked for GSLIS, one of the fun things I did in the summers was record book talks from LEEP students in the Adult Popular Literature class - easily one of the most popular, and certainly one of the most fun classes we offered. I picked this one up on the basis of one of the book talks and thoroughly enjoyed it - I was a nascent greenie at that point, so perhaps this book was one of the first to sow the seed of "back to the land" in my little head.
Ron Cammel
A great book ahead of its time. A single description of an 1880s wildflower field without invasive plants oddly brought me to tears. It struck like a vision and remains with me.

Though this book is about the difference native plants can make in an ecology, I never hear about it from my many friends in the native plant movement. It should rank high in the reading list, however, because it inspires and is very well written.
Man I really wanted to like this book. It is written by someone who lives in Westchester county, where I live, so I thought I could get a lot out of it. Sooooooo boring! Like a textbook. And I only read about half of it, very painfully. I so hate not finishing books. I really wanted to commit to reading this but life's too short. ;) Liked the basic premise, but got lost in the mumbo jumbo.
Lee Alexander
This book taught me so much about native plantings and how to bring back local wildlife and keep it around (like the bluebirds). We were so inspired by this book that we drove to Pound Ridge, NY to tour Sara Stein's own yard during Open House Days. Our 12-year old River Birches were planted specifically because Sara Stein wrote about them, and they are the most beautiful trees in our yard.
Nov 13, 2010 Jo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: nature
I heard Sara Stein speak at a native plant conference. What an epiphany! I had been working on responsible stewardship of land for years, but here was a whole new wise perspective. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in taking care of their land in an eco-responsible way. Her nature drawings are lovely, too.
From a "pretty" garden to a garden welcoming to living creatures.

I wrote a quote in the front of the book. I think it is Stein's words: VALUE THE LAND BY THE LIFE IT HARBORS

I have to find the time to read this again.
I bought this book off the sale table at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

It is a sequel to a previous book that I did not read.

Interesting anecdotes about trying to create gardens that in some ways resemble natural settings.
Jul 25, 2007 Gea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Interested in a new perspective on backyard gardening
Talks about un-learning how to garden -
most of our assumed gardening practices are doing more harm than good. Very interesting book to make you look at your backyard very differently.
Ellen Parker
The author articulates on the topic of native plants...addressing questions that I have been grappling with. I feel further along the road to having a philosophy to call my own.
This book is about how to incorporate nature and native plants into your own landscaping. It is not a how-to book, but more a story of how one person did it. One of my favs!
excellent gardening/horticulture book: native plants are extremely important! i wish the writing were a little better...but in this case, the content is worth it.
Very informative and fascinating book, now how to get started! If only others would agree, I wish I could get my community hooked in.. There is always hope!
This is an easy read and serves the purpose of educating people. It clearly explains the advantages of native plants and the disadvantages of lawns.
Good background information so we can be mindful of the consequences of what we choose to do with your yards, which impacts our community and planet.
I enjoyed the book in a historiacl context as well as a fresh perspective on what I can do in my own backyard to help restore the ecology.
A good book if you're looking for inspiration to garden more naturally. Most appropriate for readers in the northeastern U.S.
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