Native Landscape Restoration
All photos on this page by Kevin Burkman unless otherwise noted.
Much like geography, I have been surrounded by plants and gardening my entire life. I was raised largely by my grandmother, and remember playing among her azaleas, irises (known to her as "flags"), roses, and every conceivable spring-blooming plant you can name.
Some 30 years later I bought my first house in Pottstown, PA. Although I had a postage-sized yard, I made the most of it, by planting a border garden with spring-blooming bulb plants (inspired by my grandmother), and summer-blooming perennials, including Echinacea and black-eyed Susans. Some of the first plants I ever purchased have followed me from that house, including my first native plants, obtained at the annual Brandywine Conservancy spring plant sale.
My first garden at 112 N. Evans St., Pottstown, PA
Burkonosi Manor & Gardens
It wasn't until I moved to I moved to my current home in Skillman, NJ that I became a serious gardener. Located in a semi-rural part of central New Jersey, Burkonosi* Manor and Gardens sits on a 2+ acre parcel of land, divided in half by woods and lawn.
Immediately upon moving in in May 2000, I began installing a series of small flower beds located close to our house. And almost immediately, I encountered the first and foremost impediment to gardening in central New Jersey; white tail deer. No sooner would I plant something, it would disappear within days (or hours), into their mouths.
After a couple of years, I decided to fence in an area of the yard, to preclude deer browsing on our plants. Using ordinary 5' chicken wire and
Crab Apple (Malus) on the Great Lawn
posts, I installed a semi-formal garden, based loosely on traditional English cottage gardens, in the northwest corner of our property. This sector of the yard was well suited for a diverse garden (offering both sun and shade) and over the next ten years, the garden evolved and expanded, and was home to dozens of ornamental and native plants, many of which out grew their intended space. A future expansion was in order...
* Burkonosi is derived from a "marriage" of mine and Margaret's last names: Burkman and Martonosi.
The semi-formal garden once comprised several thousand square feet. Beginning in 2016, I began distributing its plants to other parts of the yard; non-native ornamental to the Great Lawn, and natives to specially designated zones, along the perimeter of the Great Lawn. The former garden area is now being restored to a native shade landscape.
The Great Lawn covers nearly an acre of our property. It is home to several hardwood trees, hollies and numerous red cedars. Ornamental plantings in it include irises, peonies, hostas, and hundreds of daffodils, the signature plant of Burkonosi Manor and Gardens. The Great Lawn has also provided wonderful grounds for our current dog Morgan (the Black One), and the late, great Maya (the Brown One).
The Great Lawn
Students from Cook College/Rutgers receive a red oak (Quercus rubra) at graduation. After ten years of care, mine has grown to over 20 feet.
The Gnomes of
Burkonosi Manor & Gardens
Xerxes "Capability" Nantmeal
George Marshallton Cook
Contrapunctus Raritan Bloustein
Arthur Mercer Nottingham
Arcturus Septimus Marlborough
Harland “Star Gazer” Northbrook
Burkonosi Manor and Gardens is home to a battery of 10+ gnomes. Fashioned after 19th century German gnomes, they are normally found along the perimeter of the Great Lawn eight months of the year (with the other four months spent in the comfort of the hibernaculum). Our most senior gnome, and editor of Better Gnomes and Gardens, Arthur Mercer Nottingham, has been with us for over ten years.
An Education in Invasive Species and
Native Landscape Restoration
For years after moving in, my wife Margaret and I enjoyed the various plants and shrubs that would grow and bloom along the perimeter of our lawn, in the open shade of the tree line; thousands of garlic mustard blooms in May, the little white blossoms of multi flora rose, the orange petaled, sweet smelling honey suckle that wrapped itself around the trees and shrubs, and Japanese stilt grass, with its late summer, almost electric blue flowers. We would soon learn that these were not plants that were native to central New Jersey; these were invasive species which were displacing vital native plants.
My first real education into invasive plant species and foray into native landscape restoration began in 2006, when I was interning for the D&R Greenway, as an undergraduate environmental planning student. Working under Land Preservation Director (and Greenway co-founding member) Jim Amon, I became a Neil Upmeyer Intern in Land Preservation & Stewardship and cataloged both native and invasive plants at the Greenway's Drakes Corner Preserve in nearby Princeton, NJ. That summer proved to be the most influential and informative of my life, as I started to develop into an environmental planner, and began looking at geography and landscapes in a new, critical way. And most of what I learned over those three months was carried with me, and into an evolving Burkonosi Gardens.
The aerial photos at left demonstrate the drastic land use and cover changes, since the 1930's, in the region. Areas that were once agricultural fields have been transformed into suburban neighborhoods and woods creating edge habitat, which favors invasive plant species.
Landcover Changes, Deer and Invasive Plant Species
The lessons learned at Drakes Corner included the hows and whys of what was (and is) occurring on the landscapes of central New Jersey. The process began about 40 years ago, when this part of New Jersey was being transformed from a mostly agricultural region, to something of a hybrid, that included newly formed suburbs, with some agricultural and semi-rural areas mixed in. This mixture of land cover/use types created mile after mile of "edge" habitat, where woodland and open areas meet. This can be a great habit for birds- Burkonosi Gardens, comprised of this habitat, is frequented by over a dozen different native birds each year.
However, edge habitat also has major negative impacts on the environment. Many invasive plant species thrive in this habitat, pushing out native plant species. White tail deer, who benefit from the cover the woods provide (as well as the suburban landscapes filled with hostas, roses, etc.), have become over populated in the region, consuming the few native plants which remain (most of the wooded areas in the region are considered "unhealthy" by plant scientists- deer browsing has lead to a significant reduction of under story trees and shrubs). The deer spread Lyme Disease through the ticks they carry, and are a danger to motorists, causing many collisions in the region and throughout the Northeast.
For the first time since moving to New Jersey, I would be able to plant anything I wanted. And since my interest in non-native ornamental plants was waning, I could fully concentrate on restoring much of the fenced-in area into a more native landscape. I stopped introducing new ornamental plants into the yard, followed by a large-scale removal of invasive species plants that lined the perimeter of the yard (see listings of these plants below). This took a couple of seasons to complete, and maintenance of these areas against the invasive plants is ongoing.
I then divided up the yard into four different zones, based on the amount of sunlight they receive during the growing season:
Grassland Bank: The bank in the "lower" part of the yard has a south facing aspect, and is well suited for plants that grow in grassland/prairie/transitional landscapes. The Grassland Bank was the first native plant zone I created.
Until the 1970's, our property had been under cultivation for decades, and the entire area was mostly open farmland, with very little native vegetation. Construction of our neighborhood began in 1974 and with it, the creation of the edge habitat that is prevalent in central New Jersey.
When we first moved in, our property had very little in the way of flowering plants. I began installing flower beds at the foundation of the house, and later constructed the semi-formal garden, with a fence to protect it from the deer.
In 2011, we had an 8' deer fence installed at the back of the house, covering about a half acre. It soon transformed our property, and how I gardened.
This photograph, courtesy of Central Pennsylvania Forestry, demonstrates the effectiveness of deer fencing. The area on the left is entirely enclosed by the fence; the area on right is not, and has experienced severe deer browsing.
Shade Garden: The second zone, the Shade Garden, is located on the east edge of the fence, which contains the edge of a woods, that extends down to Rock Brook. All of the native shade plants that once lived in the semi-formal garden where transplanted exclusively here. These plants range from small spring ephemerals to several species of under story viburnum.
Open Shade: The next zone created Open Shade, was first established along the open edge of woods along the east side of the deer fence. Grassland plants, including echinacea and black eyed Susans are found here, as well as witch hazel, viburnum, and winter berry. A second Open Shade zone has opened where the semi-formal garden once resided.
Woods Restoration: In 2016, I began to close down the semi-formal garden; in its place would be a restored shade garden. Most of the plantings here consist of under story dogwoods, red bud, azaleas and rhododendron along the edge, with seedling hardwoods growing in the rear.
Native Landscape Restoration at Burkonosi Gardens
Invasive Plant Species List
The following list is a catalog of all the invasive plant species that have been identified on our property. Eradication
of these species is continuous. click the on scientific name for detailed information from the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States.
Native Plant, Shrub,
and Tree Species List
Burkonosi Gardens is home to over 100 different species of herbaceous plants, ferns, under story shrubs and deciduous/coniferous trees. The scroll-able list below contains information for each of them; click the on scientific name for detailed information from the Missouri Botanical Garden, an authority on North American native plants.
Bee Balm (Monarda)
& Blackswallow Tail (Papilio polyxenes)
Blue False Indigo
& Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Green Headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)
Dense Blazing Star
& Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae)
Native Plant Gardens/Sites in the Delaware Valley
Brandywine Conservancy, Chadds Ford, PA
Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, DE
Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, New Hope, PA
Duke Gardens, Hillsborough, NJ
Schuylkill Center, Philadelphia, PA
Native Plant Suppliers
Prairie Nursery, Westfield, WI
Toadshade, Frenchtown, PA
Cold Stream Farms, Free Soil, MI
Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, New Hope, PA