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Over the Garden Fence: Plant sale offers species native to Pennsylvania

Asclepias tuberosa, or butterfly weed, is a species of milkweed native to Pennsylvania with clustered orange or yellow flowers from early summer to early fall.
Asclepias tuberosa, or butterfly weed, is a species of milkweed native to Pennsylvania with clustered orange or yellow flowers from early summer to early fall. Photo provided

Next week’s Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival and Sale is very active in promoting the use of native plants in the landscape.

This event, sponsored by Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center and the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, will certainly 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, and all programs are free. Vendors will offer more than 300 species of native plants 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.

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 including mosses, mushrooms, lichen, ferns, wildflowers, vines, shrubs and trees. How about trilliums, bluebells, redbuds and hundreds more native beauties? At the festival you’ll see them all 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 the planet. That leaves you with the delightful task of deciding which ones to take home with you.

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 nonnative 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 will be, 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.

The event will bring together eight native plant nurseries from across central Pennsylvania in one market place. You’ll find plenty of inspiration and information at several educational programs and walks, including how to create a butterfly garden and plant native shrubs and trees to attract birds. You’ll also experience the joy of discovery on a self-guided wildflower scavenger hunt.

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