Your landscaping can make a difference

Be a good steward of God’s creation starting right with your own piece of it! Most churches have at least some land around their church building for which they are stewards. Even most urban churches have at least a little land – and care of this green space is even more important in an urban setting where there is so little habitat.


Good Neighbor Handbook: Tips and Tools for River-Friendly Living in the Middle Potomac Region.Although this is written for the Middle Potomac region, the concepts apply equally to New York State. Indeed, some of New York is even in the Chesapeake Watershed, and the plants native to that area are also native to our area.

Your landscaping practices can help prevent global warming

The National Wildlife Federation has developed a guide and some fact sheets concerned your landscaping and global warming.

Eliminate pesticides

First, do no harm! Consider your use of pesticides and herbicides, especially for merely ornamental purposes. There is a lot of evidence that even the common, everyday pesticides and herbicides cause harm to people (especially children), pets, and other living things, such as birds. As stewards of God’s creation, should we be using these poisons in order to have an attractive lawn?

Integrated pest management (IPM)is an option, but even this isn’t necessary. As stewards of God’s creation, should we be poisoning it and all the creatures (and children) that come into contact with it?

Provide habitat for other creatures

There’s more info on this on the [intlink id=”66″ type=”page”]Personal Landscaping[/intlink] page of this website.

Eliminate invasive plants; celebrate native plants

First, find out what plants are invasive in your area. What is invasive in one area may not be invasive in another. Invasive plants are a key threat to biodiversity.

You may be surprised to find that some commonly-sold plants are invading our natural areas. And chances are, you have some of these planted on your grounds.

Plants such as Japanese barberry, Norway maple, Japanese honeysuckle, and burning bush are non-native invasive plants. These plants often spread to natural areas when birds eat the berries, and then “plant” the seeds in their droppings when they fly to natural areas.

With a little research, you can find many beautiful native plants.


Create a list of plants approved for donation. Having such a list can provide a good guide for people who would like to donate a plant as a memorial and can help prevent the awkwardness of refusing the donation of a plant that may be beautiful, but which is invasive.

For a start, avoid invasive plants. Some of the following are still being sold or are in people’s gardens. Some are plain old weeds that no one would ever think of donating, but which may be on your grounds. Please don’t plant them, or if you are already “blessed” with these plants, it’s a good idea to remove them.

These are plants that are listed as being invasive in at least some parts of New York State:

Invasive plants in New York State

Common name Botanical name Notes


Norway maple Acer platanoides*
tree-of-heaven Ailanthus altissima ailanthus
Siberian crabapple Malus baccata and hybrids
Norway spruce Picea abies
Bradford pear Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’
amur maples Acer ginnala
Russian Elaeagnus angustifolia, E. umbellata
black locust Robinia pseudo-acacia


Japanese barberry Berberis thunbergii*
European barberry Berberis vulgaris
autumn olive Elaeagnus umbellata
burning-bush, winged euonymus Euonymus alata
Amur River privet Ligustrum obtusifolium
California privet Ligustrum ovalifolium
common privet Ligustrum vulgare
Maack’s honeysuckle Lonicera maackii
honeysuckle Lonicera morrowii*
Tartarian honeysuckle Lonicera tatarica*
honeysuckle Lonicera xylosteum
buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica
alder buckthorn Rhamnus frangula
multiflora rose Rosa multiflora*
Bamboo-“running” types
Japanese spirea Spiraea japonica


Asian bittersweet Celastrus orbiculata
Five-leaf akebia, chocolate vine Akebia quinta
Japanese honeysuckle Lonicera japonica
Kudzu Pueraria montana var.lobata
Porcelain berry Ampelopsis brevipedunculata
Silver lace vine Polygonum aubertii
Chinese, Japanese wisteria Wisteria sinensis, W. floribunda
black swallowwort Vincetoxicum nigrum, Cynanchum nigrum


goutweed, bishop’s weed Aegopodium podagraria
crownvetch Coronilla varia
leafy spurge Euphorbia esula
purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria
Japanese knotweed Polygonum cuspidatum (Fallopia japonica)
Dame’s rocket Hesperis matronalis
periwinkle Vinca minor
Chinese yam Dioscorea batatas
Cypress spurge Euphorbia cyparissias
Giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum
Lesser celandine Ranunculus ficaria
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria, L. alicaria, L. virgatum, or any variety, hybrid, or cultivar
Swallow-worts: black and pale Cynanchum louiseae, C. rossicum
Tall, perennial pepperweed Lepidium latifolium
Garlic mustard Alliaria petiolata
Mile-a-minute vine Polygonum perfoliatum
Narrowleaf bittercress Cardamine impatiens


Common reed Phragmites australis – European subspecies
Chinese silver grass Eulalia (Miscanthus sinensis)
Japanese stilt grass Microstegium vimineum
Reed canary grass Phalaris arundinacea


Brazilian, South American water-weed Egeria densa***
Carolina, grey fanwort Cabomba caroliniana
Chinese lobelia Lobelia chinensis
Eurasian water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum , M. heterophyllum
Frogs-bit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae
Hydrilla Hydrilla verticillata
Mud mat Glossostigma diandrum
Parrot-feather Myriophyllum aquaticum, syn. proserpinacoides
Water chestnut Trapa natans
Water-hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes
Water-lettuce Pistia stratiotes
Yellow iris Iris pseudacorus
Yellow floating-heart Nymphoides peltata

Your lawn

Is most of your congregation’s property covered in lawn or asphalt? An easy way to eliminate a fair amount of greenhouse gases from the use of power equipment is to reduce the size of your lawn. Some lawn may be useful, but much of it is generally walked on only to mow it! Why not create a more interesting property – and one that provides for the needs of pollinators, birds, toads, and other of God’s creatures – by creating a Certified Wildllife Habitat or a Monarch Waystation?

Quiet Garden

Create a Quiet Garden, and your congregation’s grounds become an important spiritual resource for its members and perhaps even for the surrounding neighborhood. But please make sure that these meditation areas are beneficial not only for people, but for all of creation. In other words, create an area that uses sustainable gardening practices and provides for wildlife, too.

Congregations taking action

Here’s the story (“Churches at Work”) of how one church considered their land as a witness and discovered the joy of using their property as a reflection of their belief in God and their relationship to their community. This visible sign of another congregation’s stewardship of God’s creation can also become a beautiful place for meditation.

Here’s another congregation that created a Certified Wildlife Habitat

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis, Maryland created a rain garden to provide habitat and to deal responsibly with water runoff.

Even with a small pocket of land, your congregation can role model stewardship of your church’s piece of Earth, however small. It will surely inspire members of your congregation to create similar spaces in their own backyards.