James Farm 'going native' for annual plant sale

Interested in finding out which plants attract butterflies or which ones are low maintenance?

The Center for the Inland Bays is inviting everyone out to their annual Native Plant Sale on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at James Farm Ecological Preserve on Cedar Neck Road near Ocean View.

Each year, anywhere between 300 and 400 people come out, depending on the weather, to enjoy information booths, food and, of course, many native plants available for purchase from local nurseries.

“Five nurseries will offer thousands of native plants – trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses and flowers – along with advice and expertise,” explained Sally Boswell, education and outreach coordinator for the Center for the Inland Bays.

Boswell said East Coast Garden Center in Millsboro will offer hundreds of popular native trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Bethany Garden Center, now owned by horticulturist Chantal Bouchard, will offer a wide selection of natives.

Environmental Concern, a nonprofit nursery from St. Michael’s, Md., and a staple at the annual event, will have more than 50 varieties of plants for rain gardens, woodland gardens and gardens by the sea; and Envirotech Environmental Consulting from Lewes, experts in pond management and restoration, will bring pools filled with plants that love water.

In addition, Roots Nursery in Selbyville will be back again, for their second year in the event.

Food will be offered by Good Earth Market in Clarksville, and Sussex County Master Gardeners will offer “Plants for a Livable Delaware,” a brochure that provides information on native alternatives to popular non-native plants, and will be selling soil testing kits. Also, the Delaware Nature Society will be demonstrating how to create a certified “backyard habitat.”

New to this year’s event are representatives from the Department of Agriculture and the Delaware Beekeepers Association, highlighting the importance of the different pollinators of native trees and plants.

Honeybees, as well as butterflies, flies, ants and wasps are all pollinators, and recent reports have shown that there has been some decline in the number of pollinators.

“It’s something for people to be aware of,” said Boswell. “Certain species are very dependent on food sources in this area. There is a connection between native animals and plants – particularly our pollinators – and not just for fruits and vegetables and our backyard gardens, but for commercial agriculture, as well.”

The CIB will have rain barrels available for those who pre-ordered them, and Boswell added that there could be a few left for sale, on a first-come, first-served basis. She said she was pleased with the interest in the rain barrels and people’s knowledge and appreciation for water quality issues.

Also, Gardening for the Bays garden aprons will be on sale again this year, as will Gardening for the Bays T-shirts, in both long- and short-sleeved varieties.

For the gardener who is leery of native plants, or who is simply skeptical of the unknown and not quite ready to give up their irises or daffodils, the event offers reasons come and check out what all the fuss is about.

Boswell said it doesn’t have to be “all or none,” they are simply trying to get the word out about the importance of native species and the damage that some non-natives can do.

“It doesn’t have to be ‘all native all the time,’” she said. “I don’t have all natives in my garden – mainly because I bought an existing house with an existing garden. As people incorporate natives in their gardens as much as they can, it is going to be a positive to our watershed. We have many beautiful native trees and shrubs, a real wide diversity.

“We are not saying ‘rip out all the non-natives,’ we are just asking that people begin to notice and be knowledgeable about those non-natives that are harming our native habitats. It’s pretty easy to see, and if people just begin to be aware of non-native species that are destructive – that’s what we really hope for.”

For more information, call Sally Boswell at (302) 226-8105 or visit www.inlandbays.org online.