Saturday, the Georgia Native Plant Society is hosting the sale of more than 3,500 native plants, all suited for growing in metro Atlanta gardens. The sale at MacFarlane Nature Park in Marietta helps meet a society goal of encouraging homeowners to incorporate more native plants into their yards, as well as to leave native plants in place if they are lucky enough to have undeveloped areas on their property.
What is a native plant? Definitions vary, but generally a plant is considered native if it grows naturally in a particular region. That excludes plants that have been introduced by people to an area.
“Native plants support our local environment in more ways than we know. Indigenous plants, the ones that grew up here, can help individual gardens support nature just as much as wild areas. And the bugs and birds they attract can help bring our kids back in touch with nature right in our own backyards,” said longtime society member and past president Ellen Honeycutt.
Her own Cherokee County garden is filled with plants that thrive in our sometimes challenging gardening conditions and provide food and shelter that perfectly suits Georgia wildlife. Many came from participating in the society’s frequent plant rescues, but others are purchases made at the annual sale.
“At the sale, I’m usually looking for larger shrubs and trees, plants that are difficult to rescue from construction sites,” Honeycutt said. She has her eye on mountain laurel in this year’s sale.
Regulars at the sale know they need to arrive early to get the best choice of some favorites like native azaleas and trilliums.
“Those are the plants that go first. People line up waiting for the 10 a.m. opening. They grab their particular favorites, put them in our hold area, and then go a little more leisurely shopping,” Honeycutt said.
One of the pleasures of native plants is the way their names tell a story all their own. Bloodroot will bleed like its namesake if you cut its roots. Hay-scented ferns and sweetshrub (sic) leave no doubt your garden will be sweetly perfumed. Button bush and bottlebrush buckeye describe their flowers precisely. And once you’ve identified a Jack-in-the-pulpit or mouse-eared coreopsis, you’ll be able to find those plants in any garden.
“The plants for the sale are gathered each year from a variety of sources: donations from members’ gardens, rescued plants, donations and purchases from local nurseries and plants grown from seed by members,” Honeycutt said.
Members are indeed the source of the bulk of the plants for the sale, dividing from their own gardens, growing plants especially for the sale and doing the hard work of collecting plants from sites where the society has been given permission to remove plants prior to construction.
What’s in abundant supply for the sale this year? Among other things, you’ll find lots of bloodroot, bird’s foot violets, spice bush, ferns, columbine and azaleas. There will be plants for every garden location, whether sun, shade, dry or wet, including perennials, shrubs, trees, groundcovers, vines and even bog plants. Most are plants not available at local nurseries and garden centers.
If you need advice on what plants will do best for you or be right for a particular location or purpose, dozens of volunteers will be on hand to help out.
Just remember when you get your new plants home, “native” does not mean “no care.” Like any new addition to your garden they’ll require a site that meets their preferences for drainage and light and careful watering during their first year.
Georgia Native Plant Society Spring Plant Sale
Saturday, April 14. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Cash and checks only. McFarlane Nature Park, 280 Farm Road, Marietta 30067. For more information: www.gnps.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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