Native plant nursery spreads word at garden show

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In tandem with the environmental movement thats hitting the nation, the push for native plants is also making an impact, starting with the battle of the kudzu and spreading into gardens, replacing tulips, marigolds and petunias. Alexandria nursery Nature by Design is part of that battle, and reserved a spot at the American Plant & Bulb Show next week to spread the word on native plants as a plus for the environment and the wildlife in Virginia.

The native plant movement is growing every day, said Wilson. We went into this business because it was the right thing to do, said Randee Wilson, co-owner of Nature by Design.

Native plants have evolved through thousands of years to survive in the Virginian habitat, and to provide food for native species. With the introduction of gardens, fertilizers and rich soils, it is now possible to grow almost anything in Virginia, but some of these non-native plants produce seeds quickly and spread, making it hard for the native species survive. The verities of native species may surprise the average gardener as well. For example, Virginia has native orchids, cactus, and palms.

Some area organizations use volunteers to go through the woods and pull out invasive species, such as the Virginia Native Plant Society.

Popular backyard habitats
Nature by Design has been part of the spring AHS Plant Show. This is the first fall show but it doesnt change their mission. Their display wont be full of fall plants or fall foliage type set ups. We focus on year-round gardening. Wilson said. While the average gardener looks to plant a garden in the spring, actually fall is the best season for planting, Wilson said.

The customer base of Nature by Design has changed with the native plant popularity too. Those making backyard habitats, an environmental program promoted by the Audubon Society, will come in with drawings and plans to create a multi-tiered system, Wilson said. Those making butterfly gardens or bird watchers plant accordingly also. Wilson has gone out to the home owners backyard and help them plan their garden, but there is an extra charge for that. Were a facilitator, he said.

Nancy Burns, the president of the Belle Haven Garden Club and an organizer of the plant and bulb show, has seen an interest in this type of grass roots gardening in recent years. As people in general, want to do more to help the environment, adding plants that thrive in our area is a good first step because natives take naturally. [They] dont need pesticides or excess fertilizers and water, and they attract more bees, she said, via email. Burns has a particular interest in the plight of the honeybee, and has a few rescue hives in her backyard.

The learning gardens at the area elementary schools have spurred a lot of visits to Nature by Design too. They even had a landscape design class from George Washington University come over for the native plants. Barbara May, the National Garden Clubs president, is focusing on Native plants on the national scale as well.

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