Favorite sons: Native plants personalize gardens

If your knowledge of local flora begins and ends with the dogwood, then the Virginia Native Plant Society has something to teach you. Actually, the local Jefferson Chapter of the VNPS will be doing more than educating Sunday, April 27, at the 5th annual Natural History Day at the Ivy Creek Natural Area.
As those who’ve been showing up early each year to get first dibs on difficult to find natives like Columbine, Maidenhair ferns, and Purple Coneflower know well, the highlight of this springtime celebration is the sale of potted wildflowers, trees, and shrubs orchestrated by the members of the local VNPS and the Ivy Creek Foundation. Several local environmental organizations will also be on hand with info and activities focusing on everything from butterflies to animal tracks to summer nature camps.
As the name suggests, the VNPS is dedicated to the worthwhile cause of preserving Virginia’s wildflowers and other native plants.
“We’d like to see Virginia look more like Virginia,” Jefferson Chapter President Phil Stokes says. The 120  members gladly expend time and energy potting plants (grown primarily in their own gardens) for this sale, their only fundraising event. 
Of special interest in this year’s sale are dozens of specimens rescued from the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area-– Jack-in-the-pulpit, Trillium, White wood Aster and Solomon’s Seal, to name a few. All in all, you can expect to find about 700 plants and 50 different varieties.
In addition to wildflowers, there will also be trees and shrubs such as Spice Bush and Flowering Dogwood. And if you’re into grass (ornamental, that is) like I am, you’ll want to find out more about native grasses like Big Bluestem and Indian Grass. Expect some surprises, too.
I didn’t realize until my conversation with Phil Stokes that the omnipresent, quick-growing Leyland Cypress is actually foreign to this area. Or that I could grow wild ginger or persimmons in my very own backyard.
Now I have native plant fever. If you care to join me on Sunday, Phil and the other VNPS members will surely share tips on transforming our gardens into Virginia gardens. Why not start with some Virginia Blue Bells for $4? Early bird gets the... well, you know. 

Natural History Day takes place at the Ivy Creek Natural Area on Sunday, April 27, from 1-3pm. Ivy Creek is located off Earlysville Road, 1.2 miles from the Albemarle High School. Free, unless you plan on bringing home a truckload of trillium. Call 973-3337 for more info. E-mail Phil Stokes for info on joining the local chapter of the VNPS – phils@hoos.net.

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