Our History

Beginnings

Grow Native was founded by Claudia Thompson in 2010, and our community-oriented programs reflect our grassroots origins. For many months prior, we had been gathering as a group of neighbors caring about the stewardship of our gardens, and their collective potential to improve the health of our ecosystem. We exchanged ideas over potluck dinners while Claudia taught neighborhood workshops and built a website full of resources and information. In our first year, we initiated our public lecture series, and provided technical assistance to a team of middle school teachers developing a STEM curriculum for 7th graders that focused on biodiversity and the creation of a native plant garden.

Although our roots were local to Cambridge, we incorporated as Grow Native Massachusetts— knowing that advocacy for native plant landscapes was equally important in cities and towns across the state. Indeed, our young programs had been immediately embraced not just by the residents of a single city, but by many throughout the Boston region. We committed to program growth designed to build community engagement at the local level, while supporting action to achieve our mission across the Commonwealth. Looking back, our founding charter crafted through those early neighborhood discussions still resonates today.

  • 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

    For the first four years we operated as a completely volunteer organization. With Claudia's dedication and leadership,and a growing member-volunteer base, we built a significant number of programs. Evenings with Experts, our public lecture series at the Cambridge Public Library, quickly became widely respected 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 to build 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 solely with volunteers were now really 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. With a growing board and new staff capacity, we added more programs. We began development of a native plant demonstration garden by first conducting a major invasive plant removal project at the Field Station’s horticultural site, once known as a “Rose Garden” but later abandoned and badly overgrown. We re-invented our Native Plant Sale, making it one of the biggest such sales in New England— at which we now sell more than 4,000 native plants each year, typically representing well over 100 species. We added Workshops and Field Walks, for both members and the general public. In 2019, we created this newly redesigned website, reaffirming our commitment to provide valuable resources that are freely available to all. We still operate with a modest budget and small staff, Yet, by continuing to leverage the passion and work of a large volunteer base, 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 and we are helping to “move the needle” of public consciousness. Evenings with Experts has now reached more than 14,000 in-person attendees or online viewers. Our membership, which provides significant funding for programs, is approaching 1,000 households. More than 20% of Grow Native members are active volunteers who help us run our programs and events. With the reach of our resource-rich website, we are educating more than 40,000 people each year and inspiring them to action. We have members in 169 cities and towns across the state who are actively creating and restoring native plant landscapes, in both residential and public community settings.

    We are building significant support for the more careful stewardship of all lands, based on an understanding of ecology. Today, with the continued loss of biodiversity and increasing 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 the next.