By Stacey Wildberger
As usual the summer passes by quickly and we are preparing to welcome fall this month. The good news is that fall is the best time of the year to plant! We are having our 3rd annual Native Plant Fest and Sale on September 21st (9 AM to noon in the field behind the Cape St Claire clubhouse), so there will be a great selection of native plants suited for your Cape landscape right in your own backyard! Why is fall the best the time of the year to plant? The benefits to planting this time of year are numerous. The cooler weather means less stress on the plants, less watering for you to do and they get a head start on getting established for next year. There is also less insect and disease pressure and fall-planted blooming plants provide support for pollinators. Of course the cooler temperatures also mean a more pleasant planting experience for the gardener! We are going to have plugs, quarts and gallons in a variety of plants from A-Z (aster to zizia!) Let’s explore the plants we will have (subject to availability) at the sale. You can see a complete list with hyperlinks to full descriptions on our website https://capeconservationcorps.org/events/event/fall-native-plant-fest-sale/
Let’s talk about plugs first. This year we have ordered plugs from North Creek Nurseries for a variety of our plants. They will be available by the flat and ½ flat. A plug is a plant grown in cells of a planting tray and are a great way to get your garden started quickly. The LP50 (50 plugs per flat) are 5” deep by 2” square and the LP32 (32 plugs per flat) are 4” deep by 2.22” square. Plugs will typically reach flowering maturity in their first year of planting. They are quicker and more reliable than seeds, getting established in weeks rather than months. They are an inexpensive alternative to larger sizes. So, if you want to buy a large number of plants as groundcover or for large areas, you get more bang for your buck. We will have Carex, ferns, and several ground covers available as plugs. We will offer 3 ferns, Marginal Wood fern and Christmas fern for drier, shady areas and the beautiful Cinnamon fern that prefers a moister site. Carex and grasses offer a beautiful structural element to your landscape and we will several varieties for all types of conditions. One of my favorite Carexes is the soft flowing Carex pensylvanica; it thrives in part to full shade, dry to medium moisture. This low growing sedge with its soft, delicate arching leaves will make an excellent ground cover. Another highly adaptable sedge is creek sedge. It can tolerate full sun to full shade, moist to dry coil conditions as it works as a slope stabilizer or as an edging to a garden path. Every garden needs the work horse ornamental native grass Little blue-stem. This upright grass will not only add structure to your garden in the summer months but the fall and winter beauty of this grass cannot be beat. It will thrive in poor conditions, full sun with dry to medium suits it best! Just 2-4” in height it will be a perfect addition to your landscape. If you are looking for a taller grass that will not flop as some tall grasses do, then the switchgrass “North Wind” is the plant for you. This 4-6’ tall ornamental native grass will do well in full sun to part shade, its beautiful seed head will provide for migrating birds. We will also have 5-6 groundcovers as a plug. My favorites are Plantain Pussytoes, the host plant of the American Lady butterfly will make a beautiful groundcover in sun to part shade, dry soil. The white (male) or tinged pink (female) bloom is so delicate and resembles a cat’s paw. Another favorite I have talked about before, and that CCC planted in the Serene Ravine to combat invasive garlic mustard, is Golden Ragwort. It grows and spreads easily to naturalize areas of your yard in a range of conditions, but will thrive in part shade with medium to wet soil. Although it gets a delicate yellow flower on a 2’ stalk in early spring the best part of this plant is basal foliage that will stay green all year!
The sale will also feature many herbaceous perennials that will offer many years of flowering beauty. It is important to have something blooming during all seasons to support our pollinators. We will offer a wide variety of spring, summer and fall bloomers. Everyone loves to plant for Monarchs and we will offer 2 popular milkweeds, the host plant for the Monarch, Swamp Milkweed and Butterfly Weed. However, in the fall, the Monarchs need fall blooming plants to prepare for the long migration ahead. Our selection of fall bloomers include several varieties of asters, and goldenrod for all conditions. The White Wood Aster will work in the shadier areas of the yard, while Smooth Aster, New England Aster and Aromatic Aster will give you beautiful purple color in the sun. Asters will attract a large variety of butterflies. If you pair them with the yellow goldenrod you will have a stunning fall combination. Our selections include Blue Stem Goldenrod that will tolerate poor, dry shady areas as well as full sun, Sweet Goldenrod will tolerate the same conditions but will thrive in full sun as will the arching stems of wrinkle-leaf “fireworks”, a pollinator magnet. Another great pollinator plant that I cannot say enough about is Mountain Mint. Although it can behave as mints do, aggressive spreader, the benefits this plant can add to your garden cannot be topped. I have seen a greater variety of pollinators on this plant than on any other plant I have. The Swallowtails were so abundant this year and the top plant they were drawn to in my yard was Joe-Pye Weed. We will have smaller cultivar (‘little joe”) that will attract those large butterflies to your yard. My sleeper pick that many people aren’t familiar with is Blue Mistflower. This delicate plant offers a showy blue bloom from July to October and performs in a large variety of conditions, spreads by seed and rhizomes but it is easy to pull and share with friends. It will weave its way through the taller perennials as it attracts butterflies. We will have many more beautiful natives plants to enhance your landscape and add value to our ecosystem.
In addition to the sale of plants many experts will be on hand to help you select the best plants for your conditions. Chris Pax, a Cape resident and landscape designer will be there to give you a tour of the plants and guide you in selecting the best combinations and ones suited for your growing conditions. Visit her website to see the services and classes she offers https://www.annapolisnativelandscape.com/. The landscape designer, author of The Humane Gardener and blogger Nancy Lawson https://www.humanegardener.com/ will explain the relationships between the native flora and fauna. She too can guide you in your selections. Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, Watershed Stewards, and Adkins Arboretum will all be ready to answer your gardening questions. Find out how your yard can become Baywise Certified from the Watershed Stewards Baywise folks! We look forward to seeing you September 21 and helping with all your fall garden needs!
And remember, we are pricing all plants at cost (plus shipping and sales tax, all included) to encourage everyone to add native plants to their yards. You will not find lower prices anywhere !