Automotive Holiday Deals Books Holiday Gift Guide Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Ty Dolla Sign egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Subscribe & Save Gifts Under $50 Amazon Gift Card Offer minions minions minions  Amazon Echo Starting at $84.99 Kindle Black Friday Deals BestoftheYear Outdoor Deals on HTL

Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

271 of 275 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2007
I heard Douglas Tallamy speak at the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference at Millersville University (PA) last June, and I've been waiting for his book to be published by Timber Press.

I'm a gardener, and I don't want to grow only native plants. But this book makes me stop and think. Douglas Tallamy makes the best case for use of native plants I've read. I recommend it without reservation.

Simply put, the book's message is this. All life on earth, except for some recently discovered, relatively rare forms that take energy from volcanic vents in the ocean floor, depend on energy from the sun that plants convert into food through photosynthesis. Most of that solar energy is made available to higher life forms through insects that eat plants. With the exception of a few direct herbivores such as cows, all other higher forms of life either eat insects (most birds) or eat other animals that eat insects (hawks eating sparrows), and so on up the food chain. The productivity of an environment, literally the weight of biomass produced in a given area, is directly related to the insect population, and the variety of wildlife - number of species of birds and so on - is also directly related to the numbers and varieties of insects living there.

Research now clearly shows that native insect populations cannot be sustained by most alien plants. Our insects have co-evolved with native plants over millions of years, and most have highly specific preferences for certain plants as food. As Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, Tallamy has access to research that tells a disturbing story. With increasing urbanization and suburbanization, loss of large forest and natural areas to development, and transformation of a vast portion of the continent into ecologically sterile lawn, we can look forward to mass extinctions of insects, birds, and other forms of life that could surpass the mass extinctions caused by the great meteorite impacts long ago.

Without the literally innumerable varieties of insects that constitute the first step in transfer of solar energy into life, massive losses of species will occur in the not too distant future. Many such extinctions are actually under way.

Tallamy's statistics support his message. Native oaks, for example, support 517 lepidoptera species, willows, 456, birches, 413. In contrast, alien Clematis vitalba supports 40 species of herbivores in its homeland, but only 1 in North America. Another example, Phragmites australis supports 170 species in its homeland, but only 5 species on this continent. Unfortunately, insects can't evolve to adapt to alien species in time to save our threatened populations. Evolution takes place over millions of years. Although the Norway maple has been on the North American continent for going on 300 years, and has become the predominant shade tree here, it still has not become a productive part of our native ecosystem. Instead, it is rapidly displacing native species of maple.

Tallamy urges readers to do what they can to eliminate invasive alien species, to use native plants, to replace sterile lawns, which consist of two or three alien grass species that support little more than Japanese beetle grubs, with sustaining native plant refuges. He urges those who live in suburbia to plant native shade trees, possibly groves, to plant natives along lot lines to begin reestablishing productive areas where insects can successfully reproduce and live, and where their predators can find security and cover.

Tallamy writes with grace and humor. He makes it easy to follow his arguments, uses copious examples to relate his ideas to the natural world we all know, and uses down-to-earth anecdotes to illustrate his points clearly. The book, even with its many, for me, unpronounceable binomial Latin names for a multitude of insects, is an easy read. I finished it in two days, while busy with work and many other chores.

Like most people, I have an aversion to what I consider ugly, even frightening insects. I find it much easier to look at pictures of pretty butterflies than spiders and sawflies, but I learned a lot about the insect world while reading this book and looking at its pictures. And now I have enough knowledge to want to learn more, and to better understand how the natural world of my garden works.

I doubt I'll be able to eliminate plants of foreign origin from my garden, but I'll try to keep a much better balance of natives to aliens (mostly natives), and practice more sustainable gardening in the future. And I'll certainly work to try to convince others to reduce lawn size and incorporate native plants into their landscapes.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2008
This is a first-rate popular work by a mature researcher. Tallamy's arguments for using native plants in suburban gardens are convincing, often eloquent (esp. in chaps. 3 and 4). He argues that native bugs can only eat plants that they share an evolutionary history with. Our bugs just can't eat plants which have evolved in other parts of the world (i.e. alien plants). Furthermore, our birds don't feed their young on plants but can only feed their young on bugs. (This is true even if adult birds can survive on plant food alone--e.g. berries from native and alien plants alike). So bugs are necessary for bird reproduction. Therefore, as the number and diversity of native plants diminish so do the number and diversity of bugs, and, therefore, so do the number of birds since bugs are less and less available for bird reproduction. So far as reproductive nutrition is concerned, alien plants are as useful as a parking lot. Since so far as making bugs available for food, alien plants have no ecological function. What's worse, there is very little in our native ecosystem to inhibit the spread of many of these alien plants--except us!

Tallamy does not leave us hanging with just a lot of bad news. To the contrary, he offers a plan for beginning recovery in which the suburban gardener plays the central role. He celebrates the role each suburban gardener can have in restoring the habitat of native plant and animal ecosystems right in each gardener's own yard. He gave me a real excitement about creating and observing a wonderous, healthy biodiversity just outside my backdoor, a diversity much more interesting than I could ever achieve with alien plants. His hope is that this excitement could become widespread among gardeners such that suburbia and nature could reconcile.

The few times Tallamy touches upon the issue of how best to achieve this reconciliation so far as policy, he is careful not to call for any government involvement but rather to encourage grassroots action. Now I guess in general we don't want the state telling us what and what not to plant. But if his arguments are sound, some state funded education might be in order. The state has already seen fit to spend money encouraging us to plant trees, this book seems to make a fine argument that the state has an interest in encouraging us to plant certain kinds of trees an not others. Also Tallamy seems more tenative than I would be over policy regarding future importation of aliens.

But in general I think this is a great book. Indeed I've just finished it and I may be still too much in its thrall. But I put it in the rare league of two with Ricke Darke'sThe American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest. It is a masterful work expressing, like Darke's, what might be called the new Emersonian spirit in American gardening. It really helps us become oriented toward how to cooperate with and be a part of nature in the 21st century. I suppose it goes without saying that I regard it as essential reading for every contemporary suburban gardener.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
91 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2007
Douglas Tallamy was captivated early by the natural world. In his engaging new book, Bringing Nature Home, Tallamy writes of spending his summer days exploring the "wild" places near his home in New Jersey. There, he also discovered the devastating effects of development when a bulldozer buried tiny toads he had watched develop from tadpoles in a polliwog pond. Our hearts go out to the nine-year-old child as he works valiantly, but futilely, to save the little creatures from being buried alive.
When he grew up, the boy who had tried to rescue toads studied the natural world, ultimately becoming Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. In the process, he discovered the extent of loss resulting from wide scale development and agricultural activities. And that is the subject of his book. But Bringing Nature Home is not another gloom and doom tome on what we humans have wrought. Instead, this engaging and highly readable book tells us how we can all be involved in turning back environmental loss in a way that will bring that wild world right into our own back yards by simply trading non-native ornamental plantings for native ones.
Bringing Nature Home is very well documented (with a bibliography longer than your arm) and full of beautiful and fascinating photos. It includes many of Tallamy's own personal landscaping experiences as well as numerous suggestions on plant choices for the rest of us.
Like Ted Williams in Wild Moments and Scott Weidensaul in Return to Wild America, Tallamy remains optimistic about the future of America's wildlife. But unlike Williams and Weidensaul, both of whom wrote eloquently about why we should connect with and want to save our natural world, the good professor's book is a prescription on how we can all work to make that happen.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2007
Bringing Nature Home is a veritable cookbook for making your yard more attractive and useful to native birds by growing the plants and food they need. If you love birds, read this book and learn how you can help restore our declining bird populations. The information is also extremely useful guidance for public land managers, landscapers, and ecologists trying to create or restore natural landscapes and native communities. In addition to an overview of the worrisome state of native wildlife in the U.S. due to habitat loss, invasive species, excessive night lighting, and an ever-expanding human population, the author provides specific natural history information available nowhere else. The book is a fun and fascinating read thanks to Doug Tallamy's vast knowledge and good sense of humor.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2013
The majority of the book's chapters deal with "Why" this is a good idea. I think that most people seeking out this type of information might already understand Why - which is important. But the book title says "How" and only dedicates one chapter on "What to Plant". Even it deals mostly with Trees except a few pages that mentions some berries.

The appendix's save the book. Appendix 1 covers Native plants (not just trees) per region of the United States. Appendix 2 lists types of insects like the Monarch butterfly and what you can plant to attract and provide for it.

The book is informative, but spends most of the time trying to convince the reader Why this is a method to consider as opposed to How to do it.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2008
I actually had the pleasure of hearing the author on this subject in Cleveland. I was blown away. He shows this really easy way of making a difference without having to spend more money or having lots of land or even go out of your way. Tallamy is very passionate without being a fanatic and fantastically entertaining and easy to understand. He shows connections and solutions in such a way that you will be surprised you never saw them before. You can read his book front to back or leave it out on the coffee table. It works either way. You will definitely look at insects and plants in a very different manner after reading `Bringing nature home'. I have given it to many friends (with and without big yards) already and keep ordering more copies...
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2008
In my opinion, "Bringing Nature Home" is one of the most important books of the decade and should be a candidate for a prize. I have not seen the perspective provided by the author in any other books or articles to date except in vague, arm-waving ways. The book clearly identifies the issues, provides data to back up the opinions, and makes logical recommendations on how to integrate the concepts in your own garden. It is also clear that the actions generally won't have additional costs, it is merely a matter of choosing between two approximately equally priced alternatives.

As someone who has battled invasives in my garden, I can attest to how monocultural an area can become. I think loss of biodiversity is likely to be a much larger issue than global warming over the next 100 years. Without biodiversity, it is likely that the natural and agricultural ecologies will likely collapse. Eliminating alien invasives and reintroducing species to enhance biodiversity is something individuals can do that will have significant impacts since the issue has to be tackled on a locale by locale basis.

We aren't going to be able to do much about global warming on a personal basis since the entire planet's population is going to want to improve their lifestyle which will inevitably result in burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, much like the history of the United States over the last 200 years. However, maintaining the biodiversity in our own backyard on our own continent IS something that we can do independent of the rest of the world.

This book brings a different focus on the term "good for wildlife" in all of the nursery catalogs. The real revolution will come when the catalogs clearly identify regions of origin and whether or not the plants will support insect populations without significant aesthetic loss. This book may be the one to kick-start that whole process of revolutionizing the nursery trade.

By the way, I do have some "aliens" that I don't plan on giving up but having a garden that is 90% natives instead of 90% non-natives and avoiding plants identified as potentially invasive should make a big difference if it can be repeated across subdivisions. I suspect that research will end up identifying some "aliens" to be acceptable based on the types of criteria that Dr. Tallamy is proposing. Dr. Tallamy points out in his book that there is a paucity of hard data to get into a plant by plant evaluation at this time, but I suspect that the research will come over time.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2008
This book makes a convincing case, and a call to action, for preserving biological diversity in the U.S. by shifting our home gardening practices to include native plants. The author provides useful and easy-to-understand explanations and statistics to back up his thesis, and gives specific examples of plants that can be established to optimize biological diversity in large and small home landscapes. I can't recommend this book enough as a "toolbox" for individuals to use for bringing their own backyards back to life. Be prepared to dog-ear a lot of pages!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2008
I love this book! It's the most thought-provoking book I've ever read on gardening and environmental stewardship. I had never really realized that exotic plants don't participate as part of the food chain. As I came to realize after reading this book, planting a garden with exotic plants is like setting a table with fine silver and china, inviting your guests to dinner, and omitting the food.

The author would have us completely eliminate exotic plants from our gardens. I'm sure he'll wince if he reads this review, but I don't think I can go quite that far. I inherited a yard that is planted with the grass, trees and shrubs typically planted by developers, and I can't quite imagine starting over from scratch. But I do intend to focus on native plants for all future plantings. I had never considered the possibility before, but I can imagine getting really excited about fostering and finding the fascinating and beautiful insects depicted in his excellent photographs.

The writing style is surprisingly engaging for a topic that is fairly scientific in nature. I enjoyed every word of it.

2 green thumbs up from me!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2008
Along with one of the prior reviewers, I too heard Doug Tallamy speak at the Millersville Native Plant Conference. When he said he was writing a book due out in the Fall of 2007, I put it on my iCal to check to see when it was published - It was a long wait, but it was worth it!

I have bookshelves of gardening books, but this is one of those very few that has done more than just provide useful information. It has profoundly influenced my understanding of how my yard can help create a healthy planet - not only can, but must.

The other books on my "short list": Noah's Garden by Sara Stein, Planting Noah's Garden by Sara Stein, and Insects and Gardens by Eric Grissell. Although Grissell has a blind spot with respect to the role of native plants, his was the first book that helped me appreciate the role of insects, and I'd still recommend it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Customers who viewed this also viewed

Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation
Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation by Donald Joseph Leopold (Hardcover - February 1, 2005)

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.