I COULDN’T believe that the giant goldenrod was still blooming in late December, when the temperature was only 32 degrees. But there it was, its curvy seven-foot stems lounging in a landscape devoted to regional plants at the United States Botanic Garden here.

Solidago stricta, or wand goldenrod, is a native of New Jersey’s coastal wetlands. “But it’s very adaptable. I have it blooming at home, in dry clay, right now,” said Bill McLaughlin, the garden’s curator of living collections. “It’s the plant I name when the local rock garden society asks, ‘What’s blooming in your garden in January?’ “

We wandered on through the three-acre garden filled with plants native to the Coastal Plain and Piedmont areas, from New Jersey to North Carolina, many of which can be grown in southern parts of New York and Connecticut and other places where winter temperatures rarely drop below zero. There were chokeberry bushes loaded with red berries; beautyberry full of purple fruit; and a variety of evergreens, including pond pine, longleaf pine and the familiar Eastern red cedar, with waxy blue-gray berries that attract flocks of cedar waxwings.

Even in this frozen state, the garden serves as a model for the Sustainable Sites Initiative, introduced in November by the United States Botanic Garden, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The 179-page report, produced after three years of research by a diverse group of architects, landscape architects, ecologists and engineers, includes proposed guidelines for creating sustainable landscapes, as well as diverse examples of successful restoration projects, from Point Fraser, in Perth, Australia, where a toxic wetland full of heavy metals now supports native plants and wildlife, to the Queens Botanical Garden, in Flushing, N.Y., where harvested rainwater feeds into ornamental water gardens, and gray water from sinks, dishwaters and showers is cleansed by plants and used to flush toilets.

Full Story: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/08/garden/08garden.html?_r=2