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Celebrate spring at the Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival and Sale

The Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival and Sale will be held May 5 in Boalsburg.
The Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival and Sale will be held May 5 in Boalsburg. Centre Daily Times, file

If you're looking to celebrate the arrival of spring, the return of wildflowers and the beginning of another gardening season, the upcoming Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival and Sale is just the place.

The free event will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. May 5 at the Boal Mansion in Boalsburg. Diane Albright, a native plant gardener, said this is the first year at this location and they are excited to partner with the Boal Mansion. She also said that they have added additional vendors and will have more than 350 varieties of native plants for sale, as well as educational walks and presentations. There's also plenty of parking and local organic food concessions.

You can enjoy a hike, talk to plant experts and join in on scheduled educational walks.

So just 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. How about wild columbine, trilliums, bluebells and redbuds and hundreds more native beauties? At the festival you’ll meet 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 planet Earth. 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 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.

In the hundreds of varieties of native plants that will be for sale you will find ferns, perennials, shrubs and trees and Pennsylvania Native Plant Society members at the ready to advise and suggest plant best suited for your yard. You’ll find plenty of inspiration and information in the educational programs and walks, including how to create a butterfly garden and plant native shrubs and trees to attract birds.

I would encourage you to visit the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society website, PaNativePlantSociety.org, for details, schedule of activities, a listing of vendors and a listing of plants as well as helpful links to national plant databases, native plant resources in Pennsylvania and landscape help. If you are short on time, Albright said a neat feature is that you can contact the vendors and pre-order your plants.

Bill Lamont is a professor emeritus in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by e-mail at wlamont@psu.edu.