Going Native

Melanie Ruckle Uncategorized

This past weekend I had the pleasure of vending the native plant sale at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, MD. This was Putnam Hill’s first all natives plant sale. As most of you know, at Putnam Hill Nursery we grow all types of plants with our focus mainly on offering a large selection of perennials that, when planted in your garden, will offer beauty throughout all four seasons of the year. These plants are both native and non-native. We have been selling natives since we started the business in 1996. They were mixed in with the non-native plants in the nursery, and we were growing them just for the ornamental value. As the years progressed, the call for native plants became more frequent. People were talking about how they greatly benefited the environment; feed wildlife; are more suited to the climate of the region requiring less care, water, and soil modifying; and fit into the landscape more naturally. Consequently we started growing more natives. By 2008, we had enough natives that we needed to make a native plant section in the nursery. We started growing them in one corner, and they took up about one or two rows. This section would look good for about two months then it would start looking messy, a little too natural. We would say, “there go the natives” and kind of snort. As the years progressed, overly messy offenders were vetted out. I decided if it didn’t look good in the garden, what was the point? Aren’t we part of the environment? Shouldn’t our aesthetics be appealed to as well? Why does it have to look like a thicket? At the same time, more native plants were coming to the forefront, some natural selections that were more suited for gardens became available, and our own trials and errors revealed what does well and looks good for the longest period of time. I started finding plants that I liked first, and found out they were native second. The native plant section started to grow in a new way. Not because it was native, but because it was a really good plant that happened to be native too. What was one or two rows became three to four rows in the nursery. When vending at plant sales, I began to notice that the native plant section was becoming larger and larger. Finally, when it was brought to my attention that there was a native plant sale so close to home, it was clear that Putnam Hill Nursery could easily set up a booth dedicated to only native plants. As we picked our selection, we started exclaiming how good they looked. We actually sounded surprised. We realized how we had developed the idea that if it was native it was going to be messy and homely looking. What we brought together for that sale was beautiful, and all together they made a really nice garden. And, what I have always noticed when bringing natives to a sale, especially when they are in flower, by the end of the sale, if there are any pollinators nearby, they will have found them. Butterflies, bumble bees, and other insects that I have never seen before at a sale come to feast. That is pretty darn entertaining and gratifying.