CIB to host 10th annual Native Plant Sale this weekend

Date Published: 
May 2, 2014

This Saturday, the Center for the Inland Bays will hold its 10th Annual Gardening for the Bays Native Plant Sale.

On May 3, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the James Farm Ecological Preserve near Ocean View, the CIB will host five nurseries selling thousands of flowers, shrubs, grasses and trees that are native to coastal Delaware.

“We’ve had about five nurseries since the beginning,” said Sally Boswell, education and outreach coordinator for the CIB. “The nurseries themselves are really helpful in helping people selecting plants — what grows best in shady areas or wetter areas.”

Environmental Concern, a non-profit native plant nursery from St. Michael’s, Md., will celebrate their 10th year at the sale and will bring more than 50 kinds of native plants for rain gardens, woodland gardens and gardens by the sea.

“They’ve been coming since the very beginning and are very education-oriented. People who have not planted with native plants before can get their questions answered and get advice from the nurseries and Master Gardeners.”

Local nurseries include East Coast Garden Center in Millsboro, Roots Nursery in Selbyville and Nature Design of Bethany Beach. For those interested in water plants for ponds and wet areas, Envirotech Environmental Consulting of Lewes will bring pools filled with plants that love water.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is protect habitat in the inland bays watershed. Our native habitats are kind of like tapestries. You don’t know when you start pulling threads out at what point the whole thing collapses. So, we’re always striving to keep our habitats intact.”

Boswell said that, as society has developed, agricultural fields and infrastructure have slowly replaced the areas where native plants once grew freely. She noted that Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware mentions that balance in his book, “A Case for Native Gardening — Bringing Nature Home.”

“One of the important points he makes in his book is in the past we could count on our native species being harbored in our open spaces — forests and meadows. But as more and more land becomes developed, if we’re going to maintain our native species, we need to, as much as possible, bring them into the areas we can, like our own gardens,” she said.

“It’s important for us to plant them — native plants and native animals, they evolve together. As much as possible, we’re trying to keep the habitats we have here in the watershed intact.”

Prior to the sale’s kick off, a bird walk led by the Sussex Bird Club will be held at 8 a.m., to allow people to see some of the many migrant birds that pass through James Farm each spring, and there will be a “Walk Around the Farm” with field biologist and naturalist Tom Lord at 10 a.m.

“James Farm always gets a lot of migrant birds passing through. It’s a really good place to bird-watch. Of course, early morning is the best time, because they’re more active and easier to see,” Boswell said. “Then we always have nature walks around the farm.”

Juice Box, an Ocean View restaurant that is new to the sale this year, will have food for those attending the event throughout the day, including organic hotdogs from Good Earth Market, which was unable to attend this year’s sale due to a scheduling conflict.

Boswell said rain barrels have been a popular item at recent sales, and this year there will be a choice of rain barrels. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control’s Division of Watershed Stewardship will offer ready-to-use 55-gallon granite-colored barrels made from 25 to 35 percent recycled content for $57.88 each, discounted from $120.

Or, for a $20 donation to the CIB, those who’d like to make their own rain barrel can attend a “how to make your own rain barrel” session at 11 a.m. and take a barrel home with them, complete with directions and a parts list.

“The rain barrels have been really popular for the last few years that we’ve had them. We never ever have enough. We always sell out. So, this year, we’ll have two different options,” she said. “You can take home one of our barrels with an instruction sheet. It has a parts list on it so you can go out and get your own parts and make your own rain barrel.”

New this year, for those gardeners who are just grateful to get something to grow but are still afraid of the pruning shears, Master Gardener Ingrid Hetfield will demonstrate the art of pruning at 10:30 a.m.

“I always figure, a lot of people are like me. I’m always so happy when a plant grows that I don’t want to take anything off of it. It seems really counterintuitive to cut things off of a plant. I think a lot of people are shy about pruning because they don’t know what time of year they should do it, that some should be pruned and others shouldn’t.”

Local beekeeper James Carfagno is coming back again, to show and tell the story of bees, some of the most important native pollinators and considered crucial to backyard gardens and to commercial agriculture.

“This is actually his third year. People really love to stop by there. He brings a contained hive with him,” said Boswell. “Kids love to see that. It’s always a popular thing. So, he’s back by popular demand.”

Gardeners new to native plant gardening can get advice from the experts, including the Master Gardeners and the Delaware Nature Society, who will present their Backyard Habitat Program, with advice on enhancing yards and gardens to provide food, water and shelter for birds, butterflies and other native wildlife.

For the ninth year, volunteer Don Minyon will emcee the event, providing music and entertainment.

“It just adds a festive atmosphere to the day. He does that as a volunteer. It’s been a great thing he’s done for us. It makes it feel more like a party.”

Children will be welcomed at the children’s tent, and everyone is welcome to visit the gift table, where Gardening for the Bays garden aprons and garden gloves can be purchased, with all proceeds go to support the work of the CIB.

Boswell said it has been fun to see the event grow over the last decade, now bringing in as many as 500 people each year.

“This was one of the first projects I decided to do when I started this job 10 years ago. At that time, there was a tremendous amount of people moving down here. Ten years ago, it was still kind of new, this huge influx. We wanted to introduce all these new people coming, planting gardens, doing landscaping, to all the beautiful native plants that we have here.”

Boswell said that, 10 years later, a great amount of community participation and support has developed.

“A lot of people have been coming to it for years, and they look forward to it every year. It’s kind of become a real community event. It has a great spirit about it,” she said. “We have a lot of community participation.”

Boswell said she hopes the weather will be beautiful on Saturday and that everyone will enjoy a fun day on the farm learning about native plants and more.

“It’s just a fun time,” she added.

James Farm Ecological Preserve is located on Cedar Neck road near Ocean View. For more information, visit