Spring is here 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? Are you looking to enhance your space with plants that will attract song birds? Do you need plants that will grow in that shady or wet spot? Or maybe you have a conservation purpose in mind.
Try native plants! From large-growing trees to small trees, from shrubs to ground covers, native plants are the answer. As well as being beautiful in the garden, native plants also help improve water quality in our watershed and provide needed shade to keep salmon-bearing streams cool. Their roots help 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. Once established, they require less water and minimal care, saving you time and money!
Finding native plants is made easy and inexpensive every year with the Whatcom Conservation District's annual Native Plant Sale and Expo. Come celebrate the 20th annual sale on March 23 from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Whatcom Community College's Roe Studio. There will be around 40 different native species available including Alaska yellow cedar, noble fir, western white pine, Garry oak, paper birch, mock orange, red flowering currant, vine maple, evergreen huckleberry, kinnickinnick and much more. One of our new species this year is redwood oxalis. It is commonly found in low-elevation, old-growth forests on western slopes of the Cascade Range. It is used as a beautiful and delicate groundcover for shady garden spots. Another new species this year is the Douglas maple, which is regarded for its brilliant red foliage in the fall and hardy nature.
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 they have berries that persist 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. Three species of rose, Pacific ninebark, and red osier dogwood are also available and can form shrubby thickets that help provide safe habitat for nesting. Don't forget about beaked hazelnuts, which are a favorite food source among many small mammals and the bright blue Steller's jay.
All of the plant species offered at the sale are bareroot, conservation-grade plants and are grown by local and regional nurseries. This means the plants 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. Bare root plants range in price from 95 cents to $4 each.
The purpose of the annual plant sale is to provide education and promote environmental stewardship in our community. Additional vendors this year will include: Plantas nativa, Tree Frog Farm, Sunbreak Nursery, Tuxedo Gardens, Forest Floor Farms, Cascadia Mushrooms and Namaste Gardens. These growers will provide even more plant options, plant-related items and even uniquely designed garden art. Exhibitors this year include the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, PSE Green Power, Washington Native Plant Society, Grow Northwest, Whatcom County Library System, Forest Garden Urban Ecology, and WSU's Master Gardeners and Puget Sound Forest Stewardship Programs. The sale is a family-friendly event with face painting, music and one free native plant for every kid. And with any good celebration the event will also include food, provided by Meridian High School FFA boosters.
For more information please call WCD at 360-354-2035 or visit whatcomcd.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Brandi Widenmeyer, Frank Corey and Emily Hirsch work for the Whatcom Conservation District. Washington State's conservation districts work with landowners on a voluntary basis, providing incentive-based conservation help on private lands. Whatcom Conservation District's website, whatcomcd.org, says the local organization has promoted natural resource conservation since 1946.