Productive Plants

To say that Michelle Alfandari was ultra urban would be an understatement. Living in New York City with her artist husband, Tom Goldenberg, she traveled the world creating new licensed branded businesses for companies as diverse (but always sophisticated) as The New York Times, the Tour de France and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

When she and Goldenberg moved to Sharon, Conn., a few years ago, Alfandari literally stopped and smelled the flowers. 

The house they now live in had been owned for years by a Sharon gardener/nursery owner; the bones were excellent, but the plants and beds had been neglected and needed some intensive TLC. Neighbors Robin Zitter and Michael Nadeau —landscape designers who emphasize native planting and sustainability — helped guide Alfandari through the process of learning what is an undesirable plant that can be evicted and what is a plant that should be protected and invited to stay. 

Then Alfandari attended a talk by entomologist Doug Tallamy and learned about the critical consequences of loss of habitat — degraded biodiversity and ecosystem services we all need to survive. She was impressed by the simplicity of the solution to restore biodiversity and felt she could help scale Tallamy’s message.  

Alfandari has partnered with Tallamy to create Homegrown National Park, a call-to-action to restore biodiversity, one person at a time, by planting native plants and removing invasives. They invite  everyone in America, no experience necessary, to get on the interactive Homegrown National Park map by planting native in their yards, whether it’s a  few feet or a few hundred acres.

To sign up and learn more, go to If you’re on your way to the nursery, Tallamy suggests these native plants as a way to create and protect biodiversity in your own homegrown national park:

Trees (buy small)

White oak (Quercus alba)

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Paperbark birch (Betula papyrifera)

Black willow (Salix nigra) (damp areas)

Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)

White pine (Pinus strobus)


Any native Viburnum

Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Winterberry (Ilex verticilata

Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

Pussy willow (look for native Salix discolor)


Any of the goldenrods (Solidago spp.)

New England aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis

Common milkweed (Asclepius seryaca)

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

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