Ask the Experts: Gardening for Wildlife with Mary Phillips

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Ask the Experts: Gardening for Wildlife with Mary Phillips


Headshot of Mary Phillips
Mary Phillips

Head of Garden for Wildlife™ and Certified Wildlife Habitat®


Headshot of Melissa Gusdorf
Melissa Gusdorf

Director of Donor Relations & Special Giving


Spring has officially arrived, bringing brighter days, buzzing pollinators, and budding plants. For gardeners across the country, this time can also prompt many questions about which gardening practices are most beneficial to bees, birds, butterflies, and other visiting wildlife. Whether you have a small plant box on your apartment balcony or a spacious backyard garden, isn’t sharing the splendors of your green space with wildlife one of gardening’s joys?

In honor of the spring planting season and the 50th anniversary of the Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™ program, we invite you to join Mary Phillips, Head of Garden for Wildlife™ and Certified Wildlife Habitat® for a fun, informative, and interactive conversation all about gardening and how to find the right native plants for where you live. Mary will share her top tips for the perfect habitat garden and lend her expert opinion to the questions that you want answered most.

Recorded April 26, 2023.

About Mary

For nine years, Mary has led the Garden for Wildlife™ and Certified Wildlife Habitat® programs as an ambassador for native plants. Her work ensures all habitat gardening programs and resources are rooted in sustainable practices and the latest science.

Mary collaborates with leading entomologists, pollinator conservationists, federal agencies, Federation naturalists, and researchers to provide substantive content, like keystone native plant lists for the Federation’s Native Plant Finder™, Garden for Wildlife™ "how-to's", and Spanish language resources. Her efforts have fostered public participation among millions of wildlife gardeners, more than doubled wildlife habitat certifications, and created a Garden for Wildlife™ network of Federation state affiliates.

After tracking the increasing demand for native plants and surveying approximately five hundred native plant growers nationwide, Mary led the Federation’s launch of the Garden for Wildlife Native Plants Collections™ through an eCommerce-based social enterprise to provide consumers access to the right plants for where they live. The pilot launched in spring of 2021 and has since experienced a 300% increase in sales.

Prior to joining the Federation, Mary was Principal at The Abundant Backyard, a sustainable native plant landscaping service and one of the first Certified Green Businesses in Montgomery County, Maryland. As a Maryland Master Naturalist, Mary maintains her Certified Wildlife Habitat® with her family and enjoys hiking and exploring the Chesapeake Bay’s natural history and heritage.

Gardening for Wildlife Resources

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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