Native plants are the best of both worlds; they bring natural beauty and wildlife to the back yard, but they were also meant to live in coastal Delaware, so they are less likely to need extra water or nutrients.
Their popularity accounts for the 11th year of the Gardening for the Bays Native Plant Sale, on Saturday, May 2, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The nighttime cocktail party also returns on the eve of the sale.
Organizer Sally Boswell of event sponsor the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays called this the “one-stop-shop for going native in your garden,” hosted annually at James Farm Ecological Preserve on Cedar Neck Road in Ocean View.
“The big stores, for the most part — they have not gotten into native plant offerings in their nurseries. So it’s our small, local, independent nurseries that are leading the way in that,” said Boswell.
Five nurseries will sell thousands of flowers, shrubs, grasses and trees.
“Part of our objective is to introduce the people … to the nurseries who sell native plants,” Boswell said. “And nurseries become aware there’s a growing market in native plants.”
Local nurseries participating include East Coast Garden Center in Millsboro, Inland Bays Garden Center in Bethany Beach and Roots Landscaping & Garden Center in Selbyville.
Envirotech Environmental Consulting in Milton will bring water-loving plants for ponds and wetland areas. Another 50 varieties are coming from Environmental Concern, a non-profit from St. Michael’s, Md.
Hailing from the Baltimore area, Boswell had always marked her calendar with native plant sales, but she couldn’t find any in coastal Delaware.
“I just thought that was a real opportunity for us, in part because that’s about the time when, boy, the population really started to explode around here,” she said.
Many newcomers have come from the Piedmont area, which has a different climate, soils and rainfall, Boswell said.
All those people put “new landscaping in the watershed, so it seemed really important for the folks moving down here to learn about what grows well here.”
The Master Gardeners will also share their expertise on going native in the back yard.
Special workshops include Gardening for Butterflies by Ptery Iris of the Delaware Botanical Garden at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and Composting by Pamela White at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
James Farm itself is open all day, but the Sussex Bird Club will lead a warbler walk at 8 a.m. Dr. Dennis Bartow will lead a trail walk at 10:30 a.m.
“You never know what you’re gonna see when you’re out with Dennis,” said Boswell.
At various tables, participants from Delaware Nature Society will show how a garden can provide food, water and shelter for butterflies and other wildlife, while Livable Lawns will teach how to make bay-friendly back yards.
The Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators & Educators will have information on helping injured and abandoned animals.
“It’s just a time when animals are very visible. And people will find animals or see baby animals and wonder if they’re abandoned.” Boswell said. “We get calls a lot, ‘What do we do?’”
Rain barrels will be available for a $40 donation to the CIB. The ‘ready-to-be-installed’ rain barrels can be purchased beforehand at www.inlandbays.org.
People can also support the CIB by purchasing the annual gardening T-shirt or bee houses for the back yard, made by volunteer Dave Ritondo.
At the Children’s Tent, younger visitors have a community art project: painting a rain barrel together.
As always, Good Earth Market will sell breakfast treats, coffee, snacks, sandwiches and organic grilled hotdogs.
“We try to bring back all the things that people enjoy,” Boswell said.
That includes local beekeeper James Carfagno and his glass-encased beehive.
“Everybody loves standing in front of that little hive,” Boswell added.
Grab a cocktail
Supporters and gardening aficionados can start the celebration a night early at the second annual Gardening for the Bays Cocktail Party on Friday, May 1. Under the party tent at James Farm, guests can enjoy “bay-centric” food and beer tastings, early sale plants from the Inland Bays Garden Center and a silent auction of garden items, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets cost $30 beforehand or $40 at the door. All proceeds support CIB projects.
The non-profit CIB formed in 1994 to promote the wise use and enhancement of the Inland Bays Watershed. CIB partners with other agencies for public outreach, education, restoration projects, scientific inquiry and more.