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Native Plant Nurseries: Butterfly Alley

"Where Success is Measured in Butterflies!"

native blue hyssop
blue hyssop in mid-summer

Last summer while vacationing in idyllic St. Mary's County, a peninsula between the Patuxent and Potomac rivers, I made a grocery store run. I was driving along a two lane road when I had a cartoon moment. You know the one -- the driver applies the brakes, turns around and pulls over for ... you guessed it, native plants! It would have been hard to miss this enchanting roadside garden.

Butterlfy Alley native plant stand sign

Butterfly Alley -- could there be a better name for a nursery?! Turns out this absolutely charming demonstration garden and retailer of native plant plugs is the creation of Carrie Krier. Started three years ago, she and her two partners have one over-arching vision -- to keep it fun! That means they open for sales three days a week in two seasons only -- spring and fall. The spring season opened April 1st. The garden is always open to visitors though. Carrie encourages us to stop by anytime!

Why plugs? They want to encourage everyone to garden with native plants. Plugs are affordable and easy. A walk through their demonstration garden planted with plugs just three years ago tells the entire story.

native plant demonstration garden
Butterfly Alley's demonstration garden in mid summer

The garden sits to the front of the lot and surrounds a stately Eastern Red Cedar tree. The teams' favorites? There was a lot of hemming and hawing as it is so difficult to choose! Mountain mint (Pycanthemum tenuifolium) for the sheer number of pollinators and easy care. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), or Monarch's delight, for the brilliant orange color. Spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata) for the unusual architecture of the flowers.

If you garden in full sun or part sun and love perennials, this is a garden to see. If you ever doubted the power of planting with plugs, this garden is a must see! There is an often quoted gardening adage: in year one, plants sleep. In year two, they creep and in year three they leap! If you plant plugs, you will literally see this in action. If you visit Butterfly Alley's garden, I think you will be amazed at how mature it looks, three years in. Check out this post for more information on plugs.

Native shrubby St. John's wort (Hypericum prolificum) is used as a low mounding flower to the front of the borders. Shrubby St. John's wort grows in full sun to part shade, flowers through summer, can form a lowish hedge or border, bees love it. Please note, many garden centers sell ornamental St. John's wort which looks very similar. Look for the latin name or go to a native plant nursery to make sure you are getting what you want.

Butterfly Alley's spring season will end mid to late May, depending on inventory. Fall season starts after Labor day until mid to late October, depending on inventory. Stop by to visit the garden anytime. As Butterfly Alley likes to say -- keep it fun!"


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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