By Stacey Wildberger
What can we say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? Everything has been cancelled or “postponed” or reimagined. This year nothing has been the same but people have found a way to persevere, find new hobbies, spend quiet time with their families, and escape the hustle and bustle of life. After much thought Cape Conservation Corps is pushing forward for their annual Fall Native Plant Fest and Sale with of course a few modifications. We will of course be following all state and local protocols for social distancing, including requiring masks to be worn. If anything changes before the sale we will make adjustments up to and including online orders with curbside pickups but for now the sale is ON!
We are once again offering a variety of native plants that will bring all the pollinators to your yard, contribute to a healthy ecosystem and create a beautiful landscape for you to enjoy. The selection of plants will include many fall bloomers for show stopping autumn color and fuel for migrating butterflies as well as summer bloomers, ferns, groundcovers, grasses and my favorite group the grass-like sedges. Many of these are host plants for butterflies and moths, offer nesting sites for overwintering insects (the hollow stems of Joe-Pye Weed) and food sources for birds, small mammals and pollinators. We will have sun loving plants as well as many plants ideal for the shady gardens of the Cape!
Ferns- We will have three varieties of ferns this year in a quart size. They will include Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas fern, Athyrium filix-femina Lady fern and Dryopteris marginalis Eastern wood fern. These make great additions to your shaded woody areas.
Groundcovers- There will be several groundcovers to create that “green” layer to reduce our dependency on mulch. Plants make the best “mulch’ to suppress weeds. Our selection includes, Chrysogonum virginianum Green and gold, my favorite work horse that will outcompete invasive plants Packera aurea golden ragwort, Antennaria plantaginifolia plantain-leaf pussytoes – the host plant of the American Painted Lady butterfly. Low growing Phlox stolonifera and Phlox subulata will be on hand for your early blooming needs as well as Salvia lyrata “purple knockout” lyre-leaf sage. Did you know there is a great native Pachysandra- Pachysandra procumbens? Well, we will have it too. While it is a slow grower, it makes a beautiful shade groundcover. We will also have four species of Carex sedges that make groundcovers. My favorite is Carex pensylvanica– perfect for the dry shade.
Grasses- Our selection of grasses include the upright Switchgrass Panicum virgatum “North Wind” which will give structure to the landscape, Schizachyrium scoparium Little bluestem that will withstand the toughest conditions and Muhlenbergia capillaris Pink muhly grass for the beautiful foliage.
There is a long list of early to late summer bloomers that will offer all the nectar the butterflies and other pollinators are looking for from Amsonia, Eupatorium dubium Joe-Pye Weed, Chelone glabra Turtlehead, Echinacea purpurea Purple coneflower, Swallowtail magnet Phlox “Jeane”, Lobelia siphilitica great (blue) cardinal flower, and Vernonia noveboracensis New York ironweed – a towering 6-8’ tall beauty.
What’s a fall sale without fall bloomers? We will have several varieties of Solidago Goldenrod and Asters that the fall migrating monarchs need to fuel up for their long trip ahead. In addition to the butterflies you will see a high number of bees and other insects on these. There are Goldenrods and Asters for the sunny to part shade to shade areas of your yard
Don’t worry we didn’t forget Asceplias sp. Milkweed. We will have two – Swamp milkweed (pinkish) and Butterfly weed (orange). As we know they are the host plants of the much beloved Monarchs but don’t forget there are many species of butterflies and moths that have specific host plant requirements and we will have those too! These include the Turtlehead (Baltimore checkered spot), Pussytoes (American Painted lady), Panicum for a variety of Skippers. Solidago Goldenrod, and Asters are the top two host plants for a number of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). And did I mention the super low prices: quarts $4, gallons $6 and assorted prices of flats of plugs (16-25 count trays? Experts on hand, including Nancy Lawson author and wildlife blogger. See you there (from a distance of course!)