MAEscapes Mission Statement

Mission : To use native plant materials to demonstrate conservation landscaping for educational purposes.

MAEscapes was created to demonstrate conservation landscaping principles and techniques. The habitats created encourage diversity of native wildlife and have the additional benefits of lower cost and less maintenance. These ideals are appropriate for homes, schools, businesses and public spaces.

“Native plants are vital for the survival of wildlife. The birds and animals we all enjoy will disappear if we take away their food and habitat. We must redo suburban gardens to include some of the native plants species that once nourished our local biodiversity before we lose it forever.” – DOUG TALLAMY


Educating the public about the importance of restoring and preserving Mid-Atlantic ecological landscapes, native plants and their communities by demonstrating landscaping principles, processes and practices that are beneficial, responsible and sustainable.


Ecological Values: There is a vital link between native plant species and native wildlife. Native insects cannot eat the non- native plants so commonly used in our yards. As development threatens natural areas and the native plants that grow there, native insects disappear. Since insects are the main food supply for nesting birds as well as many other animals, when native plants disappear, so does much of our wildlife.

Economic Values: Plants are sources of genetic and raw materials that are used to expand or diversify agricultural and industrial products, including foods and medicine. Native plants provide a storehouse of genetic diversity for future exploration, discovery, and use, to meet human needs.

Societal Values: The beauty of wildflowers is just one of the many aesthetic values of native plants. The presence of plants in their native habitats and in cultivation enhances our world in many ways. Native plant communities and natural areas provide opportunities for people to experience nature.


The conservation landscapes at the County Annex Building in York, Pennsylvania began as many great projects do- with a casual conversation in the hall. Employees of Penn State Cooperative Extension and the local Conservation District both discovered that they were interested in doing some kind of conservation landscaping project at the County Annex building and decided to schedule a meeting to discuss possibilities. From that meeting came suggestions for appropriate partners and a project steering committee (the MAEscapes team) was created. The steering committee sought approval for the project from the Building Committee and the County Commissioners and from there, the conservation landscaping project was born! Members of the MAEscapes team planned and designed the gardens. Installation was accomplished by Master Gardener volunteers, members of the Susquehanna Valley Wild Ones and steering committee members. Gardens were created in stages, as funds and plant materials became available. Today there are five MAEscapes demonstration gardens, with plans for a sixth in the works.

Advisory Board

Tina AlbanForester, Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources
Lauri DankoOwner, GardenScape
Design & Consulting
Jackie DoyleOwner/Operator, Doyle Farm Nursery
Jim HitzPenn State Master Gardener
Joy HowellEnvironmental Educator. Joys of Nature
Mary KlineRegistered Landscape Architect, Mary C. Kline, RLA
Christopher PaulesProfessional Gardener
Gary PeacockWatershed Specialist, York County Conservation District
Connie SchmotzerHorticultural Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension
Tom SmithPenn State Master Gardener
Sharon SwopePenn State Master Gardener
Mark WilloughbyOwner, Splash Supply Co.
Judy BonoOwner, The Gardener of the Owl Valley
Robin ReidPenn State Master Gardener
Tim FalkensteinPenn State Master Gardener
Deb CarmanPenn State Master Gardener
David L. TaylorEnvironmental Educator

MAEscapes Guiding Principles

Four landscaping principles demonstrated in our gardens:

  1. Use of Mid-Atlantic Native Plants! The use of native plants protects, restores and sustains the biodiversity of plants that wildlife needs to survive.
  2. Reduce the Use! Truly native plants, located in their proper conditions, require less fertilizer, pesticide and labor to maintain. Fewer chemicals create a safer ecosystem for all, with the benefit of lower maintenance costs.
  3. Conserve Water! Proper site preparation and careful plant selection will take advantage of natural conditions and control man-made sources of storm water runoff. This reduces the need for watering and slows sedimentation and pollution in the watershed.
  4. Create Wildlife Habitats! The natural communities created by implementing conservation landscaping techniques will help replace our shrinking native habitats. Wildlife attracted to these communities will give your site unique beneficial beauty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my town allow the use of native plants?

We recommend that you check with your local municipality or borough about any beneficial uses or restrictions they may have on your using native plants in your landscape. Do I need to call anybody about underground utilities before I dig?

If you will be digging to a depth greater than 2 feet where there are known subsurface utilities in the area, then you should place a toll free call to PA One Call at 1-800-242-1776 or report on line at, at least three days before digging. If thre’s a real concern, then someone will contact ou and come and mark the locations of each subsurface utility. Will MAEscapes staff come to my home and help me design a native plant landscapes for free?

No, MAEscapes staff do not design gardens or landscapes. MAEscapes Advisors may assess your sites conditions and make plant selection recommendations only. Consult “Landscaping” in the Yellow Pages of the telephone book for local services. Does my town allow the use of native plants?

No municipality is going to specifically restrict the use of native plants. What they sometimes restrict is height and type of landscaping.

Why Landscape with Native Plants?

So what exactly is a Native Plant?

A native plant is one which occurred within the state before settlement by Europeans. Native plants include ferns and clubmosses; grasses, sedges, rushes, and their kin; flowering perennials; annuals which only live one year; biennials, which have a two year life cycle; and, of course, the woody trees, shrubs, and vines which covered "Penns's Woods" when the first settlers arrived. There are over 2,100 native plant species known in Pennsylvania.

An introduced or non-native plant is one that has been brought into the state and become established. At the turn of the 21st century, about 1,300 species of non-native plants existed in Pennsylvania. That is 37 percent of Pennsylvania's total plant flora (which is about 3,400 species), and more introduced plants are identified every year.

An invasive plant is a species that has become a weed pest. One that grows aggressively, spreads, and displaces other plants. Although some native plants are aggressive on disturbed areas, most invasive plants are introduced from other continents, leaving behind pests, diseases, predators, and other natural controls.

While new plants are coming into Pennsylvania, native plants are being lost to habitat destruction, invasive plants, and introduced pests and diseases. By 2000, 5 percent of Pennsylvania native plant species had been eliminated and another 25 percent were in danger of becoming so. The good news is that action can be taken to protect and enhance the remaining diversity of beautiful and often useful plant species which grace our Commonwealth: Protect native plant communities and minimize habitat destruction; Landscape with native plants; Learn more about native plants; Buy nursery-propagated native plants; Do not remove native plants from the wild; Practice responsible landscaping techniques.

"Go Native" with these 6 basics

  1. Protect native plant communities and minimize habitat destruction

The most important guideline is to conserve already existing areas of native vegetation as a whole, functioning unit by using a tondeuse electrique. The easiest, least expensive, and best way to conserve Pennsylvania's plant heritage is to protect existing native plant communities from further disturbance. If disturbance is necessary, strive for minimum habitat destruction. In some cases ecological restoration may be necessary, which can include planting native species, removing invasive introduced species, controlling erosion and loosening soil compaction.

  1. Landscape with native plants

Native plant communities have been destroyed in many areas and therefore landscaping is required; parks, yards, streets, and campuses, for example. Well-chosen native plants perform well in these landscapes. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)-Bureau of Forestry (BOF) recommends avoiding rare, endangered, and threatened plants and instead choosing native plant species which grow commonly throughout the state. These hardy and adaptable plants do well in a wide variety of conditions and have a much better chance of success in gardens. If you do not want all natives, plant adapted introduced plants suited for the site, colorful annuals, or flowering plants that will not escape and become environmental weeds.

  1. Learn more about native plants

Learn what plants are native in your area. The Resources Page lists just a few of the resources for this region, but there are many more. Many field guides can get you started.

  1. Buy nursery-propagated native plants

Most retail nurseries and mail-order catalogs now offer native plants. The more consumers request native plants, the more this supply will grow. If you want guaranteed ornamental characteristics, cultivars (named varieties) are available in some cases; for instance, New England Aster has a cultivar named 'Purple Dome', which was selected for shorter height and showier flowers. Cultivars should be predictable in attributes like height, color, blooming period, or absence of seed pods/thorns--qualities many gardeners want. If your goal is genetic diversity, however, ask for straight species, not cultivars, grown from local seed sources. Plants grown from seed have much more variety than cloned cultivars.

  1. Do not remove native plants from the wild

Taking native plants from the wild depletes native populations. Also, many wild-collected plants do not survive transplanting. Prvent wild-collecting of plants by making sure that plants you buy are propagated at a nursery, or by starting plants yourself from a local seed supply (Collect seed only with the property owner's permission). Ask the DCNR-BOF for a list of native plant and seed sources in Pennsylvania.

  1. Practice responsible landscaping techniques

The first rule of responsible landscaping is to plant the right plants in the right environment: never introduce invasive plants to your landscape that will aggressively spread off your property and invade native plant communities. They can drastically alter ecosystems and give you and your neighbors maintenance headaches for years to come. Ask the DCNR-BOF for the brochure "Invasive Plants in Pennsylvania." When landscaping with native plants it is important to choose plants that will grow well at the site: wet or dry, shade or sun, acid or neutral soil. A good trick is to notice which native plants are thriving nearby, and to use those clues to guide plant selection. Other information can be found from plant nurseries, catalogs, books, or the Internet. For soil fertility, compost and mulch of leaves or grass clippings provide slow release nutrients. Chemical fertilizers often provide too many nutrients too quickly for native plants, and this flush of nutrients gives weeds a competitive edge. Proper site preparation begins with a soil test before applying fertilizer. Try organic pest control. Keep the soil covered to prevent weeds. Remove invasive plants nearby. Take out severely diseased plants, or ones with insect infestations. Many native plants attract beneficial insects which help control pests, so try creating habitat for "good bugs."

MAEscapes Plant Guides

Other Resources

MAEscapes Demonstration Landscapes


This is a hot, dry site with full sun and wind exposure. Native plants are used in groups to hold moisture and physically support each other. RAIN GARDEN Our east and west rain gardens are strategically located to intercept storm water and allow it to soak into the soil, reducing runoff.Water tolerant plants vary and may include herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees.


This unique garden mimics woodland or field edge using trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. It receives sun until mid-afternoon and is partly sheltered from the wind. MEADOW GARDEN This site receives full sun and contains very poor quality soil. It is landscaped with native grasses and forbs.

MAEscapes Classes

MAEscapes offers educational classes on a variety of subjects useful to both beginner and advanced gardeners. Past class topics have been introduction to MAEscapes, raingardens, wildlife habitat and native plants.

MAEscapes Interpretive Signage

Self-Guided Tours MAEscapes features nearly 300 species of native plants and their plant communities in a naturalistic setting, ready for you to discover.

Seasonal Guides

Enjoy picturesque woodlands, edge, meadow, and rain gardens amidst a changing collection of wildflowers, birds and wildlife.


There are several ways to get involved with MAEscapes. For example, you can:


Choose from among a broad spectrum of informative and engaging programs offered throughout the year for all ages. Educational activities include:


Conserving Native Plants

Reduce the Use

Conserving Water & Natural Resources

Preserving Wildlife Habitat