Sara Stein

Introduction by Cindy Crosby

Through her books, Sara Stein has taken us along on her journeys of self-education and discovery.

Roses and lawn, vegetables and flowerbeds. They comprised my gardening palette until six years ago when I moved to suburban Chicago and a friend gave me Sara Stein’s Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards. Sara’s wry, down-to-earth description of the transformation of her rural New York acreage from traditional to a more native landscape, brimming with biodiversity, captured my imagination. Six years later, inspired by her book, my backyard likewise has morphed to include a small pond, a tallgrass prairie plot, and a wildlife-friendly tree.

Others across the country were also reading Noah’s Garden and rethinking their approach to landscaping. Sara writes, “Noah’s Garden became the story of what has gone wrong with our increasingly inanimate land.” She jump-started the native landscaping movement of the 1990s by giving voice to what was being lost in back yards across America.

Sara introduced me to Wild Ones through her book, Planting Noah’s Garden: Further Adventures in Backyard Ecology. My local Wild Ones chapter helped me learn what it meant to have a native landscape in an urban subdivision, offered an annual “Seed Swap” to help me get started, and modeled what I could aspire to by opening their yards for display and discussion.

As a charter honorary director for Wild Ones, Sara lent her well-known persona to the fledgling organization at a crucial time in its formation. Her introduction to Wild Ones came in 1995 when she was the keynote speaker at a tribute dinner for now honorary director Lorrie Otto in Milwaukee. “She was a ‘Wild One’ without knowing she was a ‘Wild One,’” remembers Lorrie. “She has such a burning creativity. I love her!”

Though Sara has penned many books, including My Weeds: A Gardener’s Botany, Noah’s Children: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood, and The Evolution Book, Noah’s Garden may be her ultimate literary achievement. “I loved Noah’s Garden because it was written from the standpoint of a novice who had a lot to learn, and we all delight in the learning process,” reflects Milwaukee board member Mandy Ploch. “It seemed written just for the Wild Ones – even if she didn’t know about us then.”

Despite an ongoing battle with lung cancer, Sara and her husband Marty continue promoting native landscaping from their house in Pound Ridge, New York, and their home in the small island community of Vinalhaven, Maine.


In the following Conversation with Sara Stein, Sara shares some of her gardening philosophy, a few tips for native landscapers, and some encouragement for the Wild Ones organization.

Once, not so long ago, children grew up with a hands-on understanding of plants, animals, and the interconnectedness of all life. Why is everything so different now, and what can we do about it? Read HANDSOFF.EDU, excerpted from Noah’s Children: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood, by Sara Stein.

Many people go through life having little impact on their fellow human beings, but long after her death Sara Stein will continue to influence us and will remain in our memories. Read Sara’s Influence, by Joe Powelka to see how her wisdom lives on.

On an island off the coast of Maine, a group of people (including Sara Stein) got together to turn a group of ugly sewer pump stations into an attractive wildlife habitat. Read Berrying the Pump Stations for the fully story.