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About Us


Designing With Natives is a roadmap of environmental stewardship to create and restore beautiful, healthy places that inspire people every day and contribute to quality of life, health, lower cost of living, local economy and sense of place.

Designing With Natives helps communities level the playing field in land use and economic development decisions by estimating the annual impact of natural system services on a local economy and mapping these values across a township.  It helps change the rules of the game, by providing data on a wide range of habitat benefits to all local institutions and organizations to prevent nature from being undervalued in policy choices and investment decisions.  The notion is that the better the habitat, the better quality of life and the economy.

Local parks can be nature learning centers and provide demonstration opportunities about how to use native plants versus non-native plants in home and business landscapes.  In Pennsylvania, over 84% of the land is privately owned.  That’s why helping homeowners with Backyard Conservation Design is so important to the future quality of life and economic well being of every community.

More than 700 people have completed the basic course in Backyard Conservation Design in southeastern Pennsylvania. 48 people have completed a 10-week Backyard Conservation Design certification course.  The map shows the locations where completed designs are located.  If you are interested in having a certified backyard conservation designer help you with your property, go to Contact Us or click on this link to find the closest designer to you.

Designing With Natives  

2015 Awards and Strategy for 2016

We had a good time together at the 2015 DWN Summit.  28 people attended.

We had a good time together at the 2015 DWN Summit.  28 people attended.

Jeanne Ortiz

Jeanne Ortiz

Jeanne Ortiz won the Awesome Award for helping Level the Playing Field with her work and support of the DWN Return on Environment Studies along the Kittatinny Ridge.  Jeanne is in charge of the Kittatinny Coalition and has been giving great support for four years.  Our big prize this year was that the Northampton County Commissioners put $2.2 million back in their open space budget, based on our study.

We are gaining attention at the state and federal levels.  We are beginning to work with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, as well.  This year, we will be doing Return on Environment studies in Lebanon and Dauphine Counties, Kidder Township, Carbon County and Bushkill Township, Northampton County.  We will also be looking at Green Corridors and the financial value of official maps in both townships.

Cindy Nuss

Cindy Nuss

This year, Cindy Nuss became a member of the Wyncote Audubon Chapter and she is helping teach birders about the value of native plants.  She also has provided outstanding support toward our mission. 

Cindy won the Awesome Award for Changing the Rules of the Game.

This year we will be working with Cindy, Leigh Altadonna and Dave Robertson of the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust on a Return on Environment Study for the Pennypack Watershed, an Important Bird Area.

Bird on a Wire Award

Best Backyard Conservation Design 2015

Bonnie Witmer won the 2015 Bird on a Wire Award for “Best Backyard Conservation Design.”  Bonnie designed a beautiful rain garden in Kynlyn Road Park, Wayne, PA in Tredyffrin Township.

Bonnie Witmer

Bonnie Witmer

Gordon Chase

Gordon Chase

Gordon Chase won the Innovation Award for his idea to help township recreation departments create Natural Parks.

Currently we are working with Upper Moreland Township to create a Natural Park at their Veterans Memorial Park.

In Upper Dublin Township, we will be training park staff in March 2016 on how to design and manage Natural Parks.



Ted Morse

Ted Morse

Ted Morse won a Leadership Award for his role in organizing site visits in Radnor Township to help property owners with water and gardening issues.  This evolved into the Habitat Benefits Calculator.  This year Ted will lead a Green Neighborhood process to help engage neighbors in ways to reduce water issues and create habitat.






Kim Kruchinski

Kim Kruchinski

Kim Kruchinski won a Leadership Award for her efforts to implement a Green Corridor Study in Springfield Township, Bucks County.  While the process is not completed yet, she continues to work hard.

This year, both Kidder Township, Carbon County and Bushkill Township, North Hampton County will complete a Return on Environment and Green Corridor Study.

Kathie Fox won the Creativity Award for her beautiful nature photography, enhancing our reports and website.  The irony here is we do not have a photo of Kathie!



Backyard Conservation Design Certification 2015

So far, 48 people have completed the certification class and 22 are now certified.  Below are the new certified backyard conservation designers in 2015. 

  1. Gordon Chase
  2. Gary Gurski
  3. Jenifer Hanf
  4. Kim Kruchinski
  5. Ted Morse
  6. Lynnette Saunders
  7. Bonnie Witmer


Mark Brownlee of Arche Wild Nursery described what to consider when purchasing native plants.  Mark only grows native plants that grow in local ecotypes so they react to soil and climate conditions in the same way as our locally indigenous plants.

Arch Wilde Nursery will be partnering with us this year to create our on-line, "Ready To Go Native Wildflower Gardens.”

Below is a list of the gardens we will be making available.

Mark Brownlee of Arche Wild Nursery

Mark Brownlee of Arche Wild Nursery

Each native garden will contain 45-50 plugs and will cover an area 6-8 feet by 12-16 feet depending on spacing. For rain gardens, this will accommodate a 1,000 sq. ft. drainage area.  More details on the plants and materials that go along with each garden, will be available soon.

We plan to have demonstration gardens in many parks.

New Website

The new website has been improved and is a great resource for counties, townships and residents. 


We plan to improve our Facebook page.

Materials for Sale

We have many new publications for purchase.  Funds generated will help support the Designing With Natives Program.

Nature Literacy Program

This is just beginning.  A growing body of evidence is now showing the wide array of health, social and economic benefits that nature provides.  Nature Literacy is a series of on-line quizzes, lectures, videos and brief, well-documented discussions on the history of nature appreciation, understanding the benefits of nature, the informal rules of ecology and natural solutions that can be part of our culture and daily life.  To quote Albert Einstein, “The more you learn about nature, the better you understand everything else.”  You also are better able to help nature thrive and help people love where they live.

This year’s program began in December 2015 at Camel Hump Farm.  We received great reviews on the program.  In March 2016 we will continue this program with Radnor Township Library and Upper Moreland Library.  We are looking into other venues as well.  If you have ideas, please let me know.

Community Gardens

This year, we plan to begin a Bird on a Wire Award for Community Gardens separately from Backyards.  This will be an annual award, not monthly.  The prize money will be $300.  The money can be used to plant demonstration gardens and Ready to Go Native Plant Gardens.

Girl Scouts Selling Plants

Caroline Young is looking into having her troop of Girl Scouts sell native plants for fund raisers.

Backyard Conservation Design Basic Training

We are trying a new approach to get people to beginner's training.

  1. We have more locations
    • Wildlands Conservancy
    • Camel Hump Farm
    • Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust
    • Honey Hollow
    • Jenkins Arboretum
    • Hawk Mountain (possibility)
    • Manyunk/Roxborough
  2. People can sign up on-line
  3. We will have a social media strategy
  4. Nature Literacy Program

John Rogers is the creator of Designing With Natives

John Rogers, Picture courtesy of Gerald Timm

John Rogers, Picture courtesy of Gerald Timm

John Rogers is an environmental consultant, award-winning planner, researcher, teacher and author. He comes from a long line of farmers and gardeners.

For 40 years, John worked as an environmental consultant on state and regional policies, facilitating agreements and working with private clients on environmental issues.  From the scientific coordination of the New Jersey Pinelands Plan, The Chesapeake Bay Program, Florida Everglades Restoration, Great Lakes Water Policy, California Water Supply Plan, the Spotted Owl Issue and The Economic Value of Proposed Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania Report, John has worked diligently to help protect our environment.  

He was an adjunct professor in Regional Planning at The University of Pennsylvania, directed environmental research for the Water Environment Federation and the American Water Works Association identifying innovative ways to develop incentives for environmental protection. John has helped Fortune 500 companies such as Temple Inland, Waste Management, Boise Cascade and several electric utilities find ways to be better environmental stewards while running more profitable businesses.

John was also a commissioner on Governor Ridge’s 21st Century Environmental Commission for Pennsylvania. John has written chapters in books and published many articles in the field including Guiding Growth: Building Better Communities and Protecting our Countryside (PEC, 1992) and a chapter in The Biodiversity Handbook, 2006, edited by B. MacKintry.

Over John’s extensive environmental career, land use continued to sprawl and pollution and the cost of infrastructure increased. One definition of “crazy” is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. John is changing scales now and helping communities expand natural system services and residents be better environmental stewards, one property at a time.