Adapt Now: April 2023

Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) is one of our earliest spring wildflowers. Enjoy its ephemeral nature!

As the days grow warm so too does our desire to plant. But hold your horses there friends! The vast majority of native plant producers start their seeds in unheated greenhouses. This allows the plants to germinate early and get a head start on the growing season while also being relatively in sync with their natural timing. However, it still takes these plants about 3 months to grow large enough to distribute to us, the hungry masses. That means that in colder climates, say Michigan for example, plants aren’t ready until mid-May at the earliest, sometimes we have to wait until late May or early June! Ugh. It truly is a hard-fought moral virtue to have patience at this time!

Until the baby plants are hardy enough to go to their forever homes, we have been hard at work preparing for another growing season of creation, restoration and connection. 

Service Request Form is Open

Many of you have received one of our services in the past. Some of you may have requested one but it was unable to be fulfilled. Maybe you have friends, family or neighbors who might be interested in a deeper connection with their land – or at least getting a free garden. We are accepting requests and would love to fill up our slots ASAP. Please pass this information along. Below are links to the Service Request Form and our Facebook announcement.

Plant Orders

We knew it would be a big year with the launch of Adapt Landscape but WOW this has been extraordinary. In addition to the 200 free micromeadow plantings and garden kits, and 200 native trees and shrubs will be installing in our member communities, we will be installing 35 large gardens in Michigan including a 2 acre prairie planting. In total we’ve ordered over 9000 plants to be installed just this spring! 

As restoring our ecosystems through native planting gardening has become more popular, so too has the demand for plants. So much in fact that the demand is outpacing the supply. Each year certain species sell out earlier and earlier despite the best efforts of the producers to grow more and more. Here’s another place where hard-fought patience is a great moral virtue. If you can’t find what you need right now, don’t worry about it. Don’t find a replacement. Place your orders at your local native plant producer for fall planting within the next few weeks and get those plants guaranteed! 

It’s barely spring, we haven’t put a plant in the ground and yet we will be placing our fall orders in just a few weeks! Get yours in before we do or we will take ALL the Carex rosea.

Visit our homepage ( ) and click on the location nearest you to find a list of recommended native plant sellers. We highly recommend avoiding conventional garden centers and nurseries. In addition to not selling appropriate native species, many or most of those plants are produced using insecticides including neonicotinoids. Bad news all around. Best to simply avoid!

Past Recipients, We have a Request.

Did you receive a garden kit or micromeadow planting? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your experience, ask any questions you may have…


It is our sincerest hope that our connection with each other can last well beyond the short time we have together in person. Send us questions here or contact your local Community Leader to say hello and keep in touch. 

If you are on Facebook, join our online community called The Adapters. You can ask questions, share photos, request and share resources like tools, plants, books, help. 

Click here and request to join.

They are such adorable babies. But we’d really like to see some pictures as they grow up!

What to do with your Garden as it wakes up.

The short answer is … it depends. We’d like to take you through a few examples and hopefully one is right for your situation. Remember, first and foremost, that you are working with a space that should give you energy, that you should be proud of, that you should enter and exit with great feelings about what you’ve brought into existence and care for. Think about your situation holistically. Elements that may not seem to be part of the garden can still have a profound impact on your feelings in the garden. Think of the humans around you. They are as much a part of your garden as all the plants, animals and microbes.

Situation 1: The Trailblazer. 

You are the first person with a native plant garden in your community. Everyone already thought you were a little weird. Now, they KNOW it. You truly do want the best for all the plants and animals out there, you even think about FUNGI and all their cute mycelium that’s stretching for millions of miles in the soil. You know that there are overwintering insects in the stems of all the plants that you thoughtfully left stand over the winter. You also know it’s not quite warm enough yet to cut them down. 

Cut them down. 

Your orientation at this point should be toward your human neighbors. You want them to feel as best as THEY can about YOUR landscape. Let’s just barely push the boundary and engage their curiosity, interest and questions. Let’s not run them over with a prairie and then smack them in the face with all the dead stems. We need to get these neighbors on with living diversity before we get into the fact that dead plant debris is a functional and sorely needed aspect of diversity (and, when you learn to see, it’s beautiful as well).

Situation 2: The Tentative Explorer

You’ve planted a garden and live in a community where gardens are fairly common but not the norm. Some people leave their stems up, others are tidying the moment the thermometer hits 45 on a sunny day. You are unsure what to do. You think the morally correct action is to leave the stems up. But it feels wrong to you for whatever reason. 

Cut down to 12-18 inches.  

This will provide some habitat while also tidying up the look. The height you leave is up to you. Remember, this is your garden. You need to feel good about your landscape as you will convey whatever energy resides inside of you. If you feel good about it, others will too. Take the time to figure out what is making you feel off and try your best to address it. If it’s simply that you like it tidying, that’s OK! Keep in mind that fire regularly swept across vast tracts of this country. Your shears pale in destructive force next to fire.

Situation 3: The Woke City Dweller

You live in a city where gardens are the norm, more are being built every year, the council supported No Mow May (please don’t do it again), and vegetation height ordinances have exceptions for native plants. Your garden is BUCK WILD. 

Leave ⅓ for the whole year, cut ⅓  at 12-18 inches, completely tidy ⅓.  

You have the opportunity to create a mosaic of different habitat opportunities. Go for it. Be sure to rotate the areas year after year so that debris isn’t building up for more than 3 years in any particular spot. However, all native grasses should have the dead stems and leaves around and above them removed at least every 18 months or they will start to lose vigor. 

Be sure to keep vegetation near sidewalks and driveways shorter, even though your city allows you to let it grow. We need to think of our community members who feel the least comfortable and make sure we take care of them. 

Situation 4: The Rural Prairie or Woodland.

You lucky sonofa… You got your acreage complete with a forest and prairie and old field and chickens and an F250 Superduty Crewcab with a 5 ½  foot bed that you use to take the kids to soccer practice in the city. I hate you because I want to be you. 

Consult local prescribed fire contractors and set fire to a portion of the prairie and, if a fire dependent ecosystem (i.e. oak forests), the woods every year. Learn from the contractors how to do it yourself if local law allows AND it is safe to do so. If fire is not allowed, mow the portion of the prairie that should get burned in any particular year. Selectively cut saplings in the woods to allow for greater light penetration to the forest floor. Always be on the lookout for invasive species!

You get to participate in the flow of life as your location encourages. Give into the flow and enjoy life 

Events in the Ann Arbor Area

  • April 12th, “Nature in Our Neighborhood: The Heritage of Our Place in the World and How We Can Support Abundant Natural Communities” by Community Leader Jonathan Parker. Preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a potluck; bring a dish to pass. 7:15 PM talk. Pittsfield Grange, 3337 Ann Arbor–Saline Rd.
  • April 16th, Earth Day Ypsilanti 4. Ypsilanti Freight House, 100 Market Pl, Ypsilanti, MI 12PM-5PM. 
  • April 26th Argus Farm Stop, Packard Cafe. 1200 Packard St, Ann Arbor.  William will be giving a talk on preparing your garden for native planting. Spoiler alert! It’s very different from conventional landscaping advice.  6:30 PM.

We hope the longer days and warmer weather are lifting your spirits like they are ours. We look forward to a new season of planting with you!


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Selling Your Native Landscape

Selling a home and moving is one of the most stressful life events that we do to ourselves. When we’ve put our efforts into creating a beautiful, life-giving native landscape, the emotional burden can often be too much to bear. Our fears of destruction begin to obscure what our landscape ultimately gives us – a deep, abiding connection with all that other living beings with whom we share our piece of this Earth.

It’s crucially important that we remember that the future home owners are also among those living beings! With deep breaths and a resolute dedication to share our knowledge and experience, we can create the conditions for the future home owners to connect with us and the landscape that we have fostered into existence.

I know this from my own experience. In 2020 we sold our home of 11 years for an adventure of a lifetime (more on that at a future date). It was imperative to us that we found buyers who would continue the work that we started.

*first a caveat* I would not recommend planting your front yard the way we did. For most people in most places, what you see above is absolutely not appropriate, especially so close to a sidewalk. We, however, live in Ann Arbor AND in a neighborhood that celebrates this level of botanical fecundity. This was appropriate for us because we could get away with it and no one would bat an eye.

Our landscape started with only a few native plant species that were hiding in an unkempt corner of the yard. By the time we left there we at least 112 native and perennial edible plant species.

These plants supported countless insect species. Bird and mammals found shelter and food. We found delight and connection.

This was a LOT to communicate to say the least.

The first thing I did was to compile a list of all the species that I knew to be on the land. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on all the work that we had done over the years. Each species added represented a distinct moment in our lives and memories of the work came flooding back. It also gave me the opportunity to reflect on all those experiments that didn’t work. (I like to tell people who think they can’t grow plants that I’ve likely killed more plants than they have tried to grow. Thus my thumb appears green.)

The next step was to create a simple map of what I considered to be the most important plants on the property. These are the plants that I feel provide the most ecological impact, are easiest to manage, look the best and should absolutely remain no matter what. Most of these were woodies species, but as you can see below I also included the rain gardens and black raspberries.

Making a map of your property will give the future home owners the ability to make sense of the garden. Your map should primarily reflect your values. Your values can then be tempered with reflection as to what a future home owner can reasonably be expected to understand. Remember, people are smarter and more interested than you give them credit for! People naturally care and want to do good! Allow them to!

Then I made another map that simply showed the different beds. I wasn’t going to burden them (or myself) with trying to map out individual or groups of plants. After 11 years and most of it started from seed there was no way that would make any sense. But this map below at least gives a sense to the prospective buyer how much of their future property is in garden. This would be especially important if they are buying in the late fall through early spring when all the plants are keeping themselves warm underground!

This leads then to the hard part – creating a coherent narrative that prospective buyers will find appealing. Keep in my that you are selling your house, not just your landscape! You want to give the buyers the feeling that they CAN take care of it, they will ENJOY taking care of it, and that it fits in with the culture of their new home. Give as much concise and coherent detail as you can. Your narrative will be longer the more garden elements you have in your landscape. We had veggies, herbs, raingardens, fruit trees, fruit shrubs, flower beds, wild areas, etc. There was a lot to talk about!

Below is the letter we wrote. This was included in the description of our home.

“Maps have been provided to show a broad view of the vegetation. We would be happy to make more detailed maps if the buyers are interested.

The City of Ann Arbor encourages homeowners to landscape with native plants in order to conserve and restore biodiversity (especially insect pollinators), mitigate climate change and reduce stormwater pollution. The city does not have any height or setback limitations for well-designed and cared for native landscapes except for preserving sight lines. This landscape conforms to the city’s code. 

This mostly native landscape requires very little in terms of maintenance, The main task will be cutting back vegetation that is encroaching on the sidewalks. This can take place once or twice depending upon the home owners comfort level, once in mid June and again in early September. We have used garden shears to take the vegetation down to 18 inches in a foot wide buffer along the sidewalks. This takes about 30 minutes.

The second task is weeding out any invasive plants that may be trying to sneak in. The main worries are non-native shrubs like common buckthorn and honeysuckle, as well as herbaceous plants like garlic mustard and dames rocket. They can all easily be pulled out of the ground as seedings. We will provide photos for identification and a “how to” guide if the buyers would like.

Stems and leaves can be left for the winter where they provide visual interest and habitat for over-wintering pollinator species as well as enriching the soil and creating a natural mulch. Stems can be cut to 18 inches in early May or removed and composted or turned into mulch.

The native gardens flower from early April through early November. In addition to the ever-changing floral and vegetative display, the garden delights with fragrances from the American plum in the spring to the switchgrass in the late summer. Birds nest regularly here and have a buffet of caterpillars (who only eat native plants) to feed their young. Butterflies are found throughout the growing season but reach their peak in August. You’ll find dragonflies darting around every corner.

In addition the birds and bees, this garden does attract toads and mammals. If you want to grow veggies, make sure you keep your fence sturdy.

Strawberry Patch

The strawberry patch will reward you handsomely for any effort you put into it. Fertilize in the spring, eat DELICIOUS berries in the summer, and prune the runners in the fall. We will include a guide to taking care of strawberries if wanted


Cultivated red raspberry are growing in the front yard along the vegetable garden. Their maintenance involves removing dead stems (having only three stems for every 18×18” square of land), winter pruning to 4 feet tall, and eating tons of raspberries for 6 to 8 weeks in the summer. Pull out raspberries that are sneaking out of their patch in the spring and summer.

Wild black raspberries grow in the back yard. They don’t necessarily need any maintenance, but they will produce a lot more fruit if they are occasionally pruned. (This will also keep them from expanding their boundaries)

Vegetable gardens

We will have them covered in straw. They received a heavy amendment of compost in the spring of 2020.

Perennial edibles

There are quite a few edible perennials around the landscape from herbs to berries to perennial greens and even an almond tree! All of these are listed in the species list. We will be happy to help you identify and get to know these plants if you are interested.  Some of the edible perennials include: rhubarb, scorzonera, sea kale, chokeberry, juneberry, hardy almond, elderberry, spiderwort, asparagus, and sunchokes. The landscape has been a blessing to build and to grow along side. Having a place right outside the front door, in a city, that children can go to catch toads, chase butterflies and climb a cherry tree while grazing on the fruit, has been very rewarding. Please do not hesitate to reach out at any point and ask any questions you may have. We are happy to help in whatever”

I think the most important thing we put in this letter was that we were willing to continue helping the future buyer. Knowing that you have support feels good, right?! OFFER YOUR ASSISTANCE in whatever way you can.

Ultimately we ended up finding the PERFECT couple to purchase our home. I am continually delighted to see that the landscape we started is continuing to thrive and expand.


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Adapt Now: January 2022

Happy New Year! At least I think it should be. Hopefully the holidays were great for all of you. Our has finally fallen victim to the latest wave of the coronavirus. Though sequestering ourselves from society isn’t the most fun for our extremely sociable family, we are glad that we thoroughly enjoy each others’ company and that our illness is mild (thank you Pfizer!)(20 year old Billy would never have imagined 42 year old Billy saying that.) Because of illness, this will be an abbreviated email. STAY SAFE out there friends, and do good.

In late December, Adapt filled out the necessary paperwork, paid our fees and applied to become a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 organization with the IRS. We hope to hear about our status before the spring.

Finally, we are introducing our new community leaders on Facebook and Instagram over the next few weeks. Head on over there to meet the team. Or wait until next month when we introduce everyone in our email.

We wish you all the best, especially over the next few weeks. Take it day by day, enjoy where you are and we’ll be out of this in no time. April is 11 weeks away…

interview with SustainabiliME podcastLate in November we recorded an interview with Kelly McElroy, a graduate student at the University of Michigan School for Environment And Sustainability, for her podcast: SustainabiliME.
Click here or below to listen.

Read the rest of January’s newsletter here.