My Backyard At Nectar’s: Growing Awareness of Native Plants

by Sue Fajgier
Native flo

The native plant industry is currently having a moment. What began quietly in nurseries across the country in the 1980’s is now rapidly becoming a movement. During the 1980’s, growers began packaging and labeling plants as “natives.” Home gardeners began to shift away from planting annuals and started looking for colorful perennials to build a garden.

A Growing Movement

The movement really didn’t gain traction until the early 2000’s. It took the impact of climate change and the awareness of our own ability to impact our personal environment to enable the industry to gain recognition and grow to exceed $5 million in New Jersey alone. NJ growers now rank number four in horticultural sales nationwide.

my backyard at nectar's

Varied selection of plants at My Backyard At Nectar’s | Photo by Sue Fajgier

Unique Blooms

New Jersey is currently home to about 2,100 native plants, and 19 of those are considered rare. We provide a unique environment for 339 endangered plants, about 15 percent of our native plant stock. Our plant life is even more varied and diverse than the gargantuan state of Alaska. Today, when you stroll the gardens in New Jersey small towns and cities, it’s not unusual to see bright patches of milkweed blowing in the wind—the Monarch Butterfly’s favorite food.

Legislating Growth

The rise of our interest in native plants can be traced through the legislation passed around this issue. In 2017, after witnessing the devastation of hurricane Sandy, the New Jersey Senate passed legislation requiring the use of native plants in re-planting the grass ways along the New Jersey Turnpike. In 2020, the NJ Senate passed Bill 583 which established the Native Plant Program. There is currently a bill pending in the Senate that would establish April as Native Plant Month. Clearly, the word is out about native plants in New Jersey.

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Detail of a Milkweed Seed Pod | Photo by Sue Fajgier

The Seed Is Sown

All of this is no surprise to Rosalind Doremus, owner of My Backyard At Nectar’s, located at 1600 River Road, Titusville, New Jersey. Doremus has gardening in her blood and the love for plants is a part of her DNA. She began working at a nursery when she was 16 years old. Not content to just fulfill the basic duties and goof off in between, as most 16-year-olds working part time would do, Doremus made it her mission to read every single plant tag and learn about each and every item that passed through her hands. She found she enjoyed talking about, and learning about plants immensely, but as a young woman, she didn’t see this as a career at the time.

A Season of Change

Doremus went to college, and she began studying for a major in English with a minor in Secondary Education. As she advanced in her studies, she came to realize her heart wasn’t in teaching—it was back home in the garden. Doremus had a strong connection to both her parents; whom she lost in rapid succession.In 2019 her mom, then 2020 her dad. She was fortunate to have strong family support when she decided college wasn’t her path. For ten years she worked in nurseries, during those years she honed her skills at plant buying and selling.

native flowers NJ

Rosalind Doremus, owner of My Backyard At Nectar’s | Photo by Sue Fajgier

Every Rose Has It’s Thorns

Doremus took a break after her mother passed away in 2019. She had helped with her mom’s care, lost both parents, was newly engaged and found she needed to take some time for self-care. It was during this break that Doremus learned of the opportunity to open a shop on River Road, right along the Delaware-Raritan canal. Doremus viewed this as a sign and was soon in talks with the owners to establish her very own garden center, My Backyard at Nectar’s. While she had experience stocking garden centers in the past, starting her very own shop for the first time was a new kind of thrill. I first met Doremus not long after she opened. I had stopped in the shop looking for a plant to give as a birthday present. She wasn’t even set up yet to accept credit cards at that time; but what I remember from our first encounter is the enthusiasm and depth of knowledge Doremus had about each and every plant I inquired about. She knows when they bloom, how they bloom and even has suggestions on what to pair them with. When I handed my friend her plant, she was as excited as I was to hear all about the Allium ‘Millenium’, plant of the year in 2018 awarded by the Perennial Plant Association.

Building a Business

Doremus is a long-standing member of the New Jersey Nursery Landscape Association (NJNLA) and she is a Certified Nursery Landscape Professional (CNLP). The industry is still highly male-dominated, so Doremus, alongside other women, has started a women in horticulture group and she has found camaraderie and mentorship from a wide variety of individuals at industry events and trade shows. Heidi Hesseilein of Pleasant Run Nursery in Allentown is someone she cites as an industry role model and mentor.

my backyard at nectar's

Rosalind Doremus, owner of My Backyard At Necatar’s | Photo by Sue Fajgier

However, the strongest influence on Doremus—her love of native plants and the natural world, has to have been her mother. To talk to Doremus is to discover she truly has nature in her heart. Since second grade ecology classes, she knew she was going to do something to help the environment. She began her Facebook Page, My Backyard, even before the shop. It was a place to write about the beauty of gardening and share it with her mom and all their friends. Doremus feels the connection to the soil, to the plants and to the sun itself. In sharing and spreading her love of gardening, and the connection of planting to help our environment, she is making a difference and making the world a better place in her own unique way.

To Everything, There is a Season

I asked Doremus what “mistakes” people make when it comes to home gardening. “It’s easy to go into a garden center and pick something blooming in a flashy pot. It’s not understanding the need for blooms throughout the year. It’s not understanding the seasonality of gardening. Not appreciating the beauty when leaves have fallen, and it’s snow covered.” Doremus sees her role not so much as “plant seller,” but rather an educator. She wants to encourage people to spend time outside. In her free time, she likes to relax, sitting in her own garden. Doremus has been establishing herself in the local community by recently participating in Hopewell Public Library’s Hidden Gardens of Hopewell Valley garden tours. She also donated over twenty native trees for planting to the Sourlands Conservancy, having recognized their need for trees in the wake of the devastation caused recently by the Emerald ash borer insects.

My backyard at Nectar's flowers in NJ

More than a garden center | Photo by Sue Fajgier

Positive Trends

Doremus sees current trends as a positive sign. The movement towards native plants is definitely growing stronger and people are coming together now in more ways than ever. In New Jersey we have our very own Native Plant Society, which holds regular meetings and has an active member/volunteer base. Doremus is seeing more people coming into the shop wanting native plants, as well as a growing purist movement towards only planting New Jersey native plants.

Restoring native plants benefits wildlife as well as humanity. These plants are pollinators for insects and food for small mammals that cycle into the greater food chain. Everyone benefits when harmony is restored to the planet. Doremus feels it is her mission to make a difference. Her future plans are to remain adaptable—experience has taught her not to over-plan and to be prepared for change. She even told me a second shop may one day be a possibility. The good news is that she plans to remain stocked throughout the summer and fall, reminding us all that fall is for planting. Expect the shop to sparkle in December for the holiday season as well.

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Something is always blooming at My Backyard At Nectar’s | Photo by Sue Fajgier

To Plant a Garden is to Dream of Tomorrow

Every day we turn on the news and we see the wildfires, the once-a-century hurricane, and other natural disasters happening much too frequently because of climate change. It’s easy to see this and feel powerless. Planting native plants is not going to dramatically save the world in a year, or even two; but, planting native plants is something that each and every one of us has the personal power to actually do. Whether you live in a suburban house with a traditional garden, or an apartment with a small window box, everyone can enjoy plants’ beauty and the positive environmental benefits they provide. And if you need advice, or just want to stop and chat for a while about the chrysalis you were able to watch evolve into a butterfly on your milkweed, Rosalind Doremus would be happy to sit awhile with you and talk about your backyard too.

About the Author/s

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Sue graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in English back when you could still get a degree for reading great literature. She spent nearly 40 years working in the Sales & Marketing field with companies ranging from non-profits to small businesses to Fortune 100 Corporations. Most recently retired after nearly 20 years with S & P Global, she is now free to pursue her true passions for hiking, writing and photography. Sue was born and raised in New York State. As a New Jersey transplant, her passion for the special blend of culture and nature that is uniquely Jersey is what Sue loves to share with the world. She has one grown son that she is insanely proud of. Her husband of many decades is an amazing partner both in life and hiking. When not out exploring, Sue is most likely at home reading a novel with her dog.

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1 comment

Peter Nangeroni September 11, 2023 - 8:49 pm

My Backyard at Nectar’s really has a large selection of many, many different varieties of plants and more. I’ve been there and came away very impressed….

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