Native plant sale on Saturday

My native plant sale is set for Saturday, two days away, so I’m hard at work getting everything ready – moving the star performers and choice acquisitions into prominent positions and relegating the less sightly (but soon to recover, I hope) to the holding area.

As my property matures, I’m finding my focus is moving away from trees – which is how I started in this business, growing trees from seed and finding I had more seedlings than I had room for – to herbaceous perennials.

That's because I’ve planted most of the trees I want, although I remain on the lookout for the rare and unusual (I would love some Cucumber Magnolia seed). I’m filling in with shrubs because of their immense value for wildlife habitat and food, but now, through my work at Tiny Marsh, where we are undertaking eradication of Garlic Mustard, I'm learning more about what should grow on the forest floor.

Our group there needs to know because we propagate and purchase native perennials to use in replacement planting and we don't want to introduce plants that don't belong. That's the great thing about the biological inventory being undertaken by naturalist Bob Bowles, which is turning out to be an invaluable education in the natural flora of our area. I’m one of about 20 people who volunteer to help with the inventory and we were blown away by the beauty of the Marsh when we were out on a field day on Monday.

The Trout Lilies, Trilliums and other spring ephemerals we enjoyed on our visit in early May are fading, but among those newly in flower were Yellow Clintonia (a lovely lily with smooth broad leaves), Sarsaparilla, which holds its globe-shaped flowerhead on a separate stem under the smooth curve of the foliage and Mitrewort, a delicate spike of white flowers that would go unnoticed by the casual passer-by – but an amazing sight under glass, each petal finely dissected like a snowflake.

Others included Jack in the Pulpit, Canada Mayflower, Starflower, Solomon’s-seal, False Solomon’s-seal, Starry Solomon’s-seal and Red Baneberry. I had to leave the field day early, so I missed some interesting plant sightings: Fringed Polygala, Goldthread, Starflower, Indian Cucumber-root and Three-leaved False Solomon's-seal.

(Of course we list far more than plants in our inventory – the day’s highlight was a wonderful display of newly hatched dragonflies and damselflies, hanging off branches like Christmas decorations and rising in clouds each time we disturbed a clump of vegetation.)

Although we can have fun creating and recreating natural settings in our own gardens, there is just no substitute for going out and seeing these plants growing as they choose. Unfortunately, most of us have our eyes blinkered and our ears closed as we travel through our natural spaces - and I count myself as having been one of those. It takes a knowledgeable observer like Bob to open up a whole new world of beauty we've been missing. But once learned, it's a lesson never forgotten - and always there to be passed on to others who want to see. 

Here's a link to a full list of plants that will be for sale on Saturday. Below, a few of those that I have in some quantity:
Perennials, shade: Great Solomon's Seal, Virginia Bluebelll, Shooting Star, Wood Aster, Culver's Root, Wild Ginger, Sensitive Fern, Ostrich Fern.
Perennials, sun: Rose (Swamp) Milkweed, Obedient Plant, Pink Turtlehead, Blue Flag Iris, Smartweed, Cardinal Flower.
Perennials, dry sandy sun: Blue Lupine, Pearly Everlasting, Sundrops.
Shrubs: Chokeberry, Spicebush, Fragrant Sumac, American Elderberry, Red Osier Dogwood.
Deciduous trees: Northern Catalpa, Hop Tree, Basswood, Honey Locust.
Conifers: Canadian Hemlock, Balsam Fir, White Spruce.
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