Workshop explores benefits, practicalities of gardening with native plants

RETURN OF THE NATIVES: A great spangled fritillary butterfly perches on butterfly weed, one of many Western North Carolina native plant species that will be discussed at an upcoming Buncombe County Master Gardeners presentation.

Western North Carolina holds the distinction of being one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. And it’s home to an abundance of naturally occurring native plants that have evolved and adapted to local and regional soil and climate conditions over a period of geologic time.

“The destruction of natural habitat is the greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide,” notes the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook. “As natural areas disappear, residential landscapes become more important sources of nourishment and habitat for the many species needed to support healthy ecosystems.” A Thursday, Aug. 16, workshop, Native Plants in Your Garden, presented by the Buncombe County Master Gardeners, will introduce gardeners to the horticultural and environmental benefits and practical considerations of implementing plants native to Western North Carolina.

The presenters will be Bill Jones and Shelby Singleton Jackson of Carolina Native Nursery in Burnsville, one of the state’s largest wholesale and retail native plant growers. Jones, who founded the business 16 years ago to aid in the preservation of native species, will speak about the ways WNC native plants have evolved and how to use them to create environmentally friendly landscapes that conserve water, require minimal pesticides and fertilizer treatments and can withstand cold and drought conditions.

Jackson will continue the discussion, highlighting some of the more popular species for WNC gardeners. There are native plant varieties, she says, to meet many horticultural needs. “Flame azaleas only grow in our higher elevations and have a unique orange color,” says Jackson. “Oak-leaf hydrangea is a long bloomer with beautiful fall color in addition to showy, white flowers. And butterfly weed is always an important pollinator.”

Donna Sapp, Speakers Bureau chairperson with Buncombe County Master Gardeners, says, “Native plants is our most requested, asked for program.” Since space is limited for the event, preregistration is necessary.

WHAT: Native Plants in Your Garden
WHERE: Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Office, 49 Mount Carmel Road
WHEN: 10 a.m.-noon Thursday, Aug. 16. Free, but space is limited. To preregister, call 828-255-5522.

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About Jennifer Jenkins
Twenty five years in advertising and marketing as a graphic designer, art director and senior copywriter. Ten years in publishing as editor of lifestyle magazine and weekly columnist and contributing writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

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