Contests, Long Blooming Perennials, Signs & Why.
If you are reading this, you likely garden with native plants or a friend who does sent this to you. Native plants are having a moment here in Maryland. Just check out this article by Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks about Towson gardener Tanya Ray and this article by noted journalist and author Tom Horton about his own garden. You play a part in this moment.
The moment needs nurturing to be sustained. We usually keep it light at Nuts for Natives because gardening is fun, artistic, soulful and so much more. Each person's gardening experience is unique. So why talk about a contest if we are keeping it light?
I have a book given to me by a friend who is a professional pruner about how to garden to attract birds to your back yard. The book is about gardening with native plants. It was written in 1938. While gardening is more popular in the U.S. than ever and native plants are having a moment, most of us buy plants from garden centers and big box stores typically selling upwards of 80% non-native plants. As beautiful and informative as that book written 85 years ago was, it did not stick.
Contests are a way to publicize the fun and reward of gardening with native plants. This is where the Green Towson Alliance 2023 Native Plant Contest comes in. A spread in the Baltimore Sun? Check. Oodles of social media views? Check. High profile journalists covering the contest? See above. Such great work and so many people have been reached. And there is much, much more to do.
In its third year, the contest is open to anyone who has planted a few native plants -- seriously, that's all it takes. There are categories for those just getting started and those who have a garden full of native plants. If you live in Towson and have a native plant, please think about it! The deadline to submit the super easy online application form is July 2nd. Have friends in Towson? Let them know!
In the meantime, I checked back in with past participants about their experience and their favorite native perennial with a long blooming period. So much to share!
Stefan Dehaseth created this garden which has turned into a delight for him, his young family and their pup. Stefan's favorite part of the garden contest was connecting with fellow native plant gardeners and learning more about native plants in the area. He says the positive feedback encouraged him and makes the long process of invasive removal more palatable. Stefan's progress in such a short time is amazing.
Stefan's favorite long blooming native perennial is speckled phlox (Phlox maculata). It is already blooming in his garden. Stefan also says it spreads which he loves. Speckled phlox grows in sun and part shade and prefers soils on the moister side according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Looks gorgeous!
Ashley Reinhart's garden is a bit more formal in the front and a casual paradise in the back. The best part of Ashley's experience with the contest was the opportunity to meet other like-minded gardeners. She says meeting those gardeners through the contest felt really good. It also opened the door to opportunities to share her knowledge and experiences with others. "It’s one thing for me to get on my soapbox and tell people why native gardening is important, but it’s something entirely different for people to approach me on their own and say, “I see what you’re doing here. I'd like to learn more to find out how I can do this, too.” Ashley calls this the ripple effect!
Ashley's favorite long-blooming perennial is blooming right now: Oxeye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides}. The clump she planted spread nicely to form this cheerful view. Ashley says it bursts into bloom every May just when all the early spring blooms are disappearing and, best of all, stays in bloom for most of the summer attracting a wide variety of pollinators. Ashley says oxeye sunflowers are also excellent cut flowers, lasting for a couple weeks in bouquets.
Tanya Ray's new garden is just underway. So far, Tanya says the best part of the Native Garden Garden Contest was the opportunity to share her gardens and stories and quite a story it is!
Tanya offers a top three for her favorite long blooming perennials:
Blue mist flower(Conoclinium coelestinum) July to October
Nodding onion (Allium Cernuum) midspring to late summer
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) late summer to fall
All such great choices for sunny and part shade locations and the blue mist flower and obedient plant will provide flowers into fall.
What about the rest of us who don't live in Towson. After you contact any friends who live in Towson, the answer is signs! While I had a sign long ago from the National Wildlife Federation in an earlier garden, I gave it up. I thought my garden would speak for itself. Hah! No, no it doesn't. Signs are the way to catch people's eye and to let them know what you are doing. It's the way seeds of change are sown. Even if someone glances at your sign and walks on by, you never know when that kernel of an idea may sprout.
All the gardeners above? Yes, they all have signs and, in fact, multiple signs. I'm ordering mine now. Ok, let's review. Live in Towson? There is still time to get your first native plants in the ground and enter. Friends in Towson? Please let them know about this opportunity. Outside of Towson? Display your favorite sign. Already doing that? Add more long blooming perennials to your garden?
Thank you and happy gardening!