By Emily Hirsch
Spring has arrived early, and it’s time to make your garden and yard part of your life once again. What plans do you have this spring for your garden or landscape space? Are you looking for affordable plants that require little care or do you want to enhance your space with plants that will attract songbirds? Do you need plants that will grow in a shady or wet spot? Maybe you have a conservation purpose in mind.
From large to small trees, and shrubs to groundcovers, native plants may be the answer. Native plants help improve water quality in our watershed and provide needed shade to keep salmon-bearing streams cool. Their roots help to control soil erosion and soak up rainwater. Best of all, they help to expand wildlife and pollinator habitat in areas where original forests are no longer intact.
Native plants are as low maintenance as it comes, because they have been adapting to our region for thousands of years. Their close relationship with our region’s soils and climate means native plants are hardier and less susceptible to disease and pests than imported plants. Once established, they require little water and minimal care, saving you time and money.
Whatcom Conservation District’s (WCD) Annual Native Plant Sale and Expo is a great source for native plants. This year’s sale will be held Saturday, March 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Whatcom Community College’s Roe Studio. Around 40 native species will be available. New this year are wild ginger and red columbine.
Many native species are excellent for creating wildlife habitat in your own backyard. Cascara trees have white flowers and dark purple berries and are a favorite among many native butterflies and birds. Snowberries are an excellent winter forage food for resident birds because their fruit persists long into the winter months. In the late summer through early winter, Pacific crabapples are a popular food source among purple finches and black hawthorn berries are a hit with cedar waxwings. Baldhip rose, oceanspray, and red osier dogwood are also available and can form shrubby thickets that help provide safe habitat for nesting.
Most of the plant species offered at the sale are bare-root, conservation-grade plants, which means they are graded on their ability to survive rather than their appearance. The plants are on average of one to two years old, under 24 inches tall and can easily fit into any vehicle or even on a bike. Grown by local and regional nurseries, individual plants range in price from $0.85 to $3 each. A wildflower seed mix, compost and bamboo stakes are also available for purchase. Recycled plant protectors or “blue tubes” will be available free as supplies last.
The purpose of WCD’s annual plant sale is to provide education and promote environmental stewardship in our community. The sale is a family-friendly event with face painting, music and one free native plant for every child in attendance. Food will be provided by Meridian High School FFA boosters.
For a full list of native plants for sale, visit whatcomcd.org.
Emily Hirsch is the resource specialist for the Whatcom Conservation District.
NOTE: This date of the native plant sale was corrected, and inside-out flowers were removed from the list of new plants.