Buying Native Plants: Cheaper and Greener
I stood out in the rain on Saturday looking at plants. No, I haven't completely lost my marbles. I was drawn to one of the native plant sales that crop up every fall around my neighborhood. It was worth a little bit of wetness to catch some of the deals on native plants in Parkfairfax and Green Spring Gardens, both in Alexandria.
Native plants, which are grown in the community, have become quite popular over the last few years. They require less water and maintenance, they attract more birds, they thrive better in the local region's clay soil and they're often cheaper than what you'd find at Home Depot or Lowe's. I saw Asters, flowering plants, for $3, large aloe plants in decorative pots for $10 and all kinds of cactus plants for $4 to $8.
"Native plants are becoming trendy because they're cheap and fun and your garden becomes like a science experiment," says Scott Knudsen, an Alexandria resident who organized the Parkfairfax sale.
Here are a few tips I picked up while browsing these two sales:
Tip #1: Finding out where to buy native plants is more challenging than making them grow in your garden. These sales are still relatively obscure but you can find them advertised in the newspaper in early spring and fall. Green Spring Gardens sells native plants throughout the year and includes a big sale during its fall festival. The Virginia Native Plant Society also has resources for finding out about local sales.
Tip #2: Be open to trying new plants, even ones you may have never heard of. Since they're relatively cheap, it won't be a huge financial loss if they don't work out. And since they like our soil, they have a pretty good chance of surviving.
Tip #3: Ask lots of questions of the people selling native plants. They know a lot and are willing to answer all kinds of questions about their product. They'll even be able to tell you which plants are most appropriate for your garden based on how much sun and moisture it gets.
Tip #4: Write down as much as you can about what you buy. These kinds of plants won't have handy little tags explaining how to care for them but most vendors have display signs with lots of information about what you're buying.
Tip #5: If you miss a native plant sale, the Virginia Native Plant Society has some recommendations for nurseries that sell them.
Have you bought native plants? Where did you get them and what worked well for you? Where did you find the best deals on native plants? Post a comment below.
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