Designing Gardens With Flora of the American East

Cover & Overview

New Book: Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East by Carolyn Summers

Co-Authors: Carolyn Summers
and Kate Brittenham
Rutgers University Press

About the Book

The newly revised (2024) and beautifully illustrated Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East approaches landscape design from an ecological perspective. Co-authors and landscape designers Carolyn Summers and Kate Brittenham encourage professional designers and backyard enthusiasts alike to intensify their use of indigenous or native plants.  These plants form the basis of the food web. Wildlife simply cannot continue to survive without them—nor can we.

This book, newly revised with full-color photographs, will help to introduce our wild flora into designs for common garden landscapes, such as foundation plantings, mixed borders, and mini-meadows to beautify underutilized yards and shrink suburban lawns. Emphasizing the importance of “keystone” plants for gardening and landscape design, this book provides guidance and plant lists for beginning gardeners as well as experienced designers.

Buy your hardcopy or ebook today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your favorite local indie bookstores.

Book Highlights

  • In-depth scientific explanation of the need for indigenous plants in cultivated landscapes
  • “Keystone” plant lists appropriate for northeastern gardens, including numbers of pollinators supported by each
  • Concrete design guidance – including actual designs coupled with trees, shrubs, ground covers, and other showy substitutes for invasive plants
  • Best practices on
    – Controlling plant reproduction
    – Choosing cultivars or hybrids
    – Explore the joys of “safe sex in the garden”


Gardeners are endowed with love for a hobby that has profound potential for positive change. Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East lays the “gardenwork”— for “by preserving natural areas through the thoughtful planting of indigenous plants, we may bask in the knowledge that it is possible to have loads of fun at the same time we are growing a better world!”


Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East is a long overdue, in-depth look at the paucity of indigenous American plants in gardens in the United States, and the importance of correcting this situation. It is an explicit guidebook for garden professionals to enable them to help sustain our wild floral heritage, rather than allowing its not-so-slow destruction.
Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East is the most complete publication on the practical challenges associated with native plant gardening and fills this need very well for eastern gardeners. What Carolyn Summers tells us about indigenous plants and wildlife is critical to our sustainable future.
This book has been among my go-to books since its first publication for its trustworthy information. Carolyn Summers is an authority on native plants of the east and shares her extensive knowledge to enlighten us about the benefits of these critical species. Now she is joined by her daughter, Kate Brittenham, reaching a new generation with exciting graphics that bring fresh insight into sustainable gardening.