I’ve been in the plant business for a few years and up until I started Bloomin’ Crazy, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “native” plant. We used Florida friendly plants that (I think) are dictated by industry standards which seems to revolve around availability and whether they hold up in our heat. As a business owner, I now have the freedom to steer away from cookie-cutter landscaping and begin the process of educating myself on natives. Books have been a great help but I learn by being around people who are willing to share their knowledge so I attended my first FNPS meeting this past month. They were going to have their plant sale and I thought it would be an opportunity to get to know the members and spend some time familiarizing myself with the plants.
I do cherish my weekends as my own and was a little hesitant to give up a day but I have to say, I couldn’t have had a more pleasant day.
The weather is starting to cool down and as I drove out to the nursery there was some fog still settled in the low-lying fields. The sky was already brilliant blue, hinting that it would be a perfect day to spend money on plants!
I’m not what you would call a “social butterfly” and when you add to that the fact that I’m not familiar with native plants, I felt safe signing up to help the customers get their purchases loaded in their cars and to make sure there were wagons available for the big hauls. These tasks wouldn’t force me out of my comfort zone and I was still able to be involved. The only thing was, the other members and the customers were so nice, I somehow drifted over to the greeting area. Chatting with the new arrivals, letting them know the lay-of-the-land and directing them to other areas of interest. Audubon was set up as well as Around the Bend Nature Tours.
She wasn’t our first customer but I would say she was our most colorful. Sammy (above) was a quiet character and spoke only when spoken to. She was content to ride around on her humans wagon, and when she felt no one was watching, she would sneak a nibble from one of the plants in her cart. When it came time to go and plants were loaded up, she could be heard from inside the car telling everyone bye-bye, bye-bye.
This (above) is what we lovingly refer to as “a snow-bird”. He and his wife had just returned and as usual, when your away for the summer, the landscape needs attention. He said he didn’t want the lawn-guy to do it because “they always use the same old stuff”. As we loaded the containers of Beautyberry, Coontie, Blazing star, and sunflowers into his car, I imagined how their property would definitely stand out from his neighbors this year.
The morning hours were busy and about noonish, there was the usual lull, so I made my way out to take some pictures.
If you have the notion that natives are boring, just forget it! So much life going on if you look. You really didn’t have to look far because so many of the plants were blooming and they were alive with butterfly’s…
and other assorted creatures.
Things were winding down and I it was time to decide which plants I would take home. Yes, I could have put the blinders on and used some restraint but I’m weak and there just isn’t any fun in that. I could easily spend a ton of money on plants but I limited myself to three. Cassia privet, Frog fruit and Corky stem passion vine. The Cassia is gorgeous, full of yellow blooms. Not to be over-looked, my other two selections may not put on the show the Cassia does, but they are great butterfly host plants and if you get right in there and look at the blooms, they too are beautiful.
For me, this is what gardening has become. Gone are the days of planting just for appearance. Yes, appearance matters, but planting with a purpose is important too. Using native plants will bring back a bit of what exotics have replaced and if you’re gonna plant, why not use plants that give our wildlife a little boost?
If you are interested in discovering the benefits and the beauty of native plants, find out if where the native nursery is in your area and take a trip out there. They are usually small, local growers who are knowledgeable about the plants in that area. I have found the staff are much more willing to take time and help you out with any questions you may have. Break the habit of the big box stores and support the local economy… go native!