Sustainable Landscaping

Sustainable landscaping will reduce our vulnerability to extreme weather events and drought by reducing stress on our water supply, enhancing groundwater recharge, filtering out contaminants, mitigating flash flooding, improving health of local waterways, and increasing local carbon sequestration potential.

Burlington offers this Sustainable Burlington Landscape Handbook, adapted from work done by the Town of Concord, to help residents plan and create a sustainable landscape project. Click on the image of the handbook for a step-by-step approach.



Dedicate 10% of your yard to native plants!

If you're not ready to replace your whole lawn, start small. A few native trees here, a patch of native pollinators underneath or elsewhere. Send us photos of your patches to feature here. 

Why Native Plants?

Native plants are plants that have been growing in a particular habitat and region, typically for thousands of years or much longer, without human introduction. They are well adapted to the climate, light, and soil conditions that characterize their ecosystem. Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over that time and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat.

Plants native to this region thrive in the soils, moisture and weather of this region. That means less supplemental watering and fewer pest problems. They also help in managing runoff and maintaining healthy soil as their root systems are deep and keep soil from being compacted. 

Every ecoregion has different native plant communities. Burlington is in Ecoregion 8. Some of the plants that have adapted to local conditions and are the best native species or varieties suited to this regions include oaks, birches, blueberries, goldenrod, sunflowers and asters. 

Find the top keystone plants for Burlington here: Keystone Native Plants for Eastern Temperate Forests - Ecoregion 8

How to start creating a native-rich yard?

There are lots of resources available. Try watching some of these excellent Pollinator Habitat 101 webinars produced by Ohio State Univeristy.

Some of the takeaways include:

  • Start with areas that are difficult to mow, such as steep slopes, wet areas or areas where grass is sparse.
  • Plant keystone species and provide native plantings under keystone trees to provide selter and habitat for pollinator insects. 
  • Plants in masses to provide a buffet for foraging.
  • Don't apply pesticides.
  • Leave leaf litter, cut grass and plants, and dead trees in place.

Ground Cover

Some native plants to replace turf grass include:

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), which likes full or partial shade

Golden star (Chrysogonum virginianum), which likes light shade

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), which also likes shade and is deer-resistant!

Phlox species, like Moss Phlox (Phox subulata)

Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), which likes full sun to partial shade, can produce tiny strawberries or can be mowed.

Tip:  If you are thinkng of dedicating more of your yard to a more natural lawn-free look but are concerned about neighbors thinking your yard is unkempt, consider mowing a strip at the front of your property to show it is intentional, 

Some other benefits to native- and sustainable gardening 

Managing Stormwater

Pervious surfaces, such as plants in soil, capture far more runoff than paved surfaces and can absorb pollutants. Plants, and especially trees, intercept and store water, direct water into the soil and transpire water back into the atmosphere. Use native trees and plants to gain more benefits.  

Rain Gardens

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape that collects rain water from a roof, driveway or street and allows it to soak into the ground. They are typically shallow depressions that are filled with sandy soils and covered with mulch and dense native vegetation.   When stormwater enters the bioretention area, the soil acts as a filter that removes pollutants before it the water is infiltrated or discharged.

They can be a cost effective and beautiful way to reduce runoff from your property. Rain gardens can also help filter out pollutants in runoff and provide food and shelter for butterflies, song birds and other wildlife.

Here is a clear video on how to create a raingarden. For more information on other ways to manage stormwater on your property, see our other Stormwater Management pages

Carbon sequestration

Trees reduce particulate deposition, moderate temperatures and help save energy. 

The i-Tree Design tool can be used to estimate individual tree benefits in terms of carbon dioxide, air pollution, stormwater impacts and energy savings. 

Where to source native material? 

Grow Native Massachusetts has tons of resources - plants lists and landscape guides. links to videos, and an annual Native Plant Sale.

Other locations where you can purchase native plants and plugs, include but are not limited to:

Bigelow Nurseries

455 W. Main St, Northborough, MA / 508-845-2143

Native Plant Trust

Garden in the Woods, 180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, MA 01701 / 508-877-7630

Nasami Farm, 128 North Street, Whately, MA 01903 / 413-397-9922

New England Wetland Plants, Inc

14 Pearl Lane, South Hadley, MA 01075 / 413-548-8000

Russell's Garden Center

397 Boston Post Road, Wayland, MA 01778 / 508-358-2283

Sylvan Nursery

1028 Horseneck Road, Westport, MA 02709 / 508-636-4573

Weston Nurseries

Hopkinton Garden Center, 93 East Main Street, Hopkinton, MA 01748

Chelmsford Garden Center, 160 Pine Hill ROad, Chelmsford, MA 01824 / 978-349-0055