Our History

Beginnings

We began life as a group of neighbors convened by our founder, Claudia Thompson, caring about the stewardship of our lands and their importance to the health of our ecosystem. In 2009, we exchanged ideas over potluck dinners while Claudia taught neighborhood workshops and built our first website. We operated for our first year as Grow Native Cambridge— initiating our public lecture series and providing technical assistance to a team of middle school teachers developing a STEM curriculum for 7th graders focused on biodiversity and the creation of a native plant garden.

In May 2010, we incorporated as Grow Native Massachusetts, knowing that our advocacy for native plant landscapes was equally important in cities and towns across the state. Our young programs had been immediately embraced by many throughout the Boston region, and we committed to continued program growth that would build community engagement in this issue across the Commonwealth. Looking back, our founding charter crafted by our earliest members still resonates, reflecting our core beliefs and reasons for acting.

  • Clethra in the fall light.

    Our Founding Charter

    We are an organization rooted in community. As friends, neighbors, and citizens, we are inspired by the significance of our gardens and green spaces that contribute to the integrity of our common ecosystem.

    We cultivate them for beauty and biodiversity, aspiring to create essential habitat for birds, butterflies and wildlife, and to better understand the delicate balance that weaves all life together.

    We recognize that native plants create the foundation for healthy ecological communities, and know that our world—both locally and globally—is threatened by a decrease in native plant populations and the proliferation of invasives.

    Therefore, we act to:

    • Steward our land, no matter how big or small, for conservation.
    • Plant our gardens with an emphasis on natives.
    • Work together to aid in the identification and removal of invasive weeds.
    • Build our community through education and dialog.

  • Early Years

    Over our first four years we built a significant number of programs, all while operating as a completely volunteer organization. Evenings with Experts, our public lecture series at the Cambridge Public Library, quickly became a widely respected series throughout the state and well beyond— bringing expert knowledge of ecology, botany, and natural history to both serious gardeners and landscape professionals. Claudia began traveling across Massachusetts, giving workshops about native plant landscaping and building greater citizen engagement in the issue. For three years we ran Festival Floralia, an annual fundraiser and plant sale, bringing our community together by sharing a love of plants, music, and food. The demands of operating a growing organization were now stretching us!

    Our Move to the Waltham Field Station

    In 2014, we took up offices at the former University of Massachusetts field station in Waltham and hired our first staff person, later adding a second staff member in 2017. We conducted a major invasive plant removal project where, historically, there was once a well-known “Rose Garden,” transitioning this abandoned horticultural site to an emerging native plant demonstration garden. We re-invented our Native Plant Sale, making it one of the biggest such sales in New England at which we sell over 4,000 native plants typically representing well over 100 species. We run a variety of Workshops and Field Walks each year, for both members and the public. In 2019, we created this newly redesigned website, chock full of valuable resources and educational materials that are freely available to all. Despite our modest staff size and budget, we do as much as we can to support the creation and restoration of native plant landscapes in both residential and public community settings. And we deliver a tremendous amount of programming for an organization of our size!

    2020: Celebrating Our First Decade

    In ten years, awareness about the importance of native plant landscapes to biodiversity and ecosystem health has increased dramatically. Our “signature” program, Evenings with Experts, has now reached more than 13,000 in-person attendees or online viewers. Our membership, which provides significant funding for our programs, has grown to close to 1,000 households. More than 20% of our members are active volunteers who help, or have helped, to run our programs and events. With the reach of our extensive website, we are educating more than 30,000 people each year and inspiring them to action.

    We know we are making a difference— that our vision and hard work are “moving the needle” of public consciousness. Today, with the continued loss of biodiversity and effects of climate change, our mission is more important than ever. We celebrate our first decade and look forward to all that we will accomplish in our next.