Over the Garden Fence | Native plant festival comes to Shaver’s Creek

April 26, 2014 

Diane Albright and Betsy Whitman, avid native plant gardeners, recently contacted me to let me know that the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society and Shaver’s Creek are partnering again this year to bring together eight native plant nurseries from across central Pennsylvania in one market place.

More than 350 species of plants — ferns, perennials, shrubs and trees — will be on sale, with vendors and PNPS members at the ready to advise and suggest plants best-suited for your yard.

You’ll find plenty of inspiration and information at several educational programs and walks, including why to plant native trees and how reducing lawn area improves the ecosystem and attracts more birds and butterflies.

Albright and Whitman are the co-chairwomen of the upcoming Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 3 at Penn State’s Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, 3400 Discovery Road, Petersburg. The PNPS is active in promoting the use of native plants in the landscape.

This event will help you celebrate the arrival of spring, the return of many wildflowers and the beginning of another gardening season.

You can enjoy a hike, talk to plant experts and join scheduled educational walks. All programs are free. There will be vendors on-hand that will have native plants for sale, as well as local organic food for sale to feed both the spirit and the body. A portion of the proceeds from the festival will go to supporting Shaver’s Creek, a treasure nestled in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.

What is a native plant in your landscape? A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. In the eastern United States, native species are usually considered to be flora present at the time Europeans arrived and began settling in North America.

Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses, mushrooms, lichen and ferns to wildflowers, vines, shrubs and trees. There’s also trilliums, bluebells, redbuds and hundreds more native beauties. You’ll meet them all at the festival, and after you been wowed by their splendor and diversity, you’ll be blown away by their practicality and benefits to your yard, community and planet Earth.

That leaves you with the delightful task of deciding which ones to take home with you. Make sure to clear the trunk of your car out before you leave home so you will have plenty of room for your new native plants.

Native plants are adapted to the growing conditions where you live so they are often easier to grow and less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Easier can mean less watering, less fertilizing, fewer pests and weeds (so less pesticides and herbicides) and — when you trade a spot of grass for a native ground cover — less mowing and leaf-blowing. All in all, natives can be less demanding of resources.

Native plants are essential links in the life cycle of many insects, birds and other animals. The more native plants in your community, the healthier your ecosystem, and the more likely you’ll attract birds and wildlife to your yard. Plus, many non-native species are invasive and can “jump ship” from landscapes to grow with abandon in field and forest, out-competing and threatening our native plant species.

I would encourage you to visit the PNPS website at panativeplantsociety.org. You’ll find helpful links to national plant databases, native plant resources in Pennsylvania and landscape help. A complete schedule of events and list of plants and vendors is available on their website and on the Shaver’s Creek website, shaverscreek.org/NativePlantFest.

Thanks Diane Albright and Betsy Whitman for sharing the info, and I am sure that many readers will go native and attend the festival and bring some native plants home to their landscape.

Bill Lamont is a professor and extension vegetable specialist in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by email at wlamont@psu.edu.

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