Friday, May 1, 2009

Purchasing Plants for Preservation

A hushed “awww” was just audible when the senior botanist pointed to the image of the baby.

A baby Asplenium rhizophyllum.

You know you’re in company of true plant lovers when the crowd “coos” at an image of a baby walking fern, born on a rocky cliff in Pennsylvania.

The senior botanist was Dr. Ann Rhoads of the Morris Arboretum, University of Pennsylvania, and author of “Trees of Pennsylvania.” Manada conservancy members were treated to a talk by Rhoads, during their native plant sale members night at Meadowood Nursery, Friday. She explained ways of identifying plant communities in our forests.

Purchasing Plants for Preservation

The community gathered at the sale marveled at the plant selection and quality of the native plants grown by Meadowood Nursery to benefit the conservancy. One patron said she was amazed by the growth of the nursery over four years.

I was amazed by the fascinating variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials that are native to Pennsylvania. Strolling the immaculate grounds of the nursery, I felt I was in a mid-sized garden center where the plants held all the possibility of any landscape plants anywhere.

It is possible to sculpt your landscape in a creative and interesting way using native plants. Go by the sale Saturday, 5/2/2009. You’ll see what I mean.

Purchasing Plants for Preservation

As part of member's night at Manada Conservancy's Native Plant Sale, two owls were released back into their habitat after being rehabilitated. They were of different personalities and flew in opposite directions. The crowd was of one mind, however. Everyone was delighted to have a close up view of such a regal bird returning to the woods.

Purchasing Plants for Preservation

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why Native? Here's why

Sitting down to write something about native plants feels like trying to write something about plants.

It’s far too broad a subject. And one, on which, I have a lot to learn. Luckily, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know a few native plant enthusiasts and I want to share some about what I’ve learned about native plants so far.

Many of us know that plants native to a specific area grow particularly well, because they are genetically suited to the specific growing conditions having evolved over centuries to prosper in that specific climate. It is right plant, right place cubed. We’ve heard the arguments that natives are easier to grow.

We also know that because native plants naturally prosper, they require no chemicals to thrive. Good arguments for natives can be made on a purely economical basis. Native plants cost less over time because they don’t require chemicals or, once established, as much or any watering.

Why Native? Here's why

Some just prefer the aesthetics of native plants. Little brush strokes of purple from native Redbud flowering, can be seen though our Pennsylvania woodlands right now. Successful landscapes often draw inspiration from nature. A beautifully fragrant and graceful flowering Clethra alnifolia fits much better in a wooded landscape as compared to a Hydrangea paniculata sporting 12 inch blooms. In some ways, we’ve bred our plants to be showy to the point of gaudy.

But it seems protecting nature, both by avoiding chemicals and providing food and shelter to wildlife, is igniting passion right now and convincing folks that gardening with native plants is crucial for our ecosystem.

From the soil, to the birds, to the insects, “Nature contains incredible layers of relationship.” Said Jan Getgood, of Meadowood Nursery, an all-native plant nursery near Hummelstown, PA.

Getgood says as we’ve re-arranged mother nature in our developed areas by introducing non-native species, we’ve impacted the biodiversity that has historically relied on native species.

Boiled down, certain insects only feed on certain plants. Birds for instance, search for certain insects; often in spring, caterpillars. Native oak trees, for example, support the most butterfly and moth species, over 500, who lay their eggs in oaks. Those eggs become caterpillars and feed the majority of migrating birds.

Birds need the protein provided by insects to feed their young. While birds gain sustenance from seeds and berries, that’s not enough to support their offspring.

Why Native? Here's why

Native shrubs can also benefit birds. “Spicebush is a Mcdonalds for birds”, said Judy Bono, a York County Native plant expert during a talk at Penn State Master Gardeners “Garden Wise” seminar. Spicebush is also a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.

Butterflies and other insects search out only select plants – known as host plants- to lay their eggs. The monarch butterfly only lays in milkweed.

Bottom line is, fewer native plants, mean fewer insects, which means fewer species of birds.

It is a complex system. Luckily, Doug Tallamy is in town to explain. Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature home” will be at the Manada Conservancy’s Native Plant sale hosted by Meadowood Nursery. The sale is Saturday, May 2, 2009, free and open to the public. There is a Friday night event at the Nursery for members.

For more information on the sale and directions:

More on starting with Native Plants and Doug Tallamy to come.

Why Native? Here's why