It has come and gone. My first Cullowhee Native Plant Conference experience! And what an experience. First, I got the dates wrong, and so found myself at an empty residence hall on the campus of Western Carolina University, scratching my head, and re-checking the schedule to see that I was a week early.
When I finally arrived, it was too late to present my poster. But I did show it to a couple of folks, and later to my loving family! Please do ask about my experience with native legumes (= nitrogen-fixing plants) in the market garden.
There were lots of seminars and lectures to attend, a couple of outings, and lots of like-minded plant enthusiasts to exchange native plant stories with. I think I was a bit drunk on my own native-legume kool-aid, so I probably didn’t do as much listening as I should have, but here were some take-aways:
- native plants support native insects, which in turn support larger members of the ecosystem, especially birds. Why is this important? The total insect population is down 40% (since when? need to fact-check). We must remember that insects are vital to making the Earth inhabitable for humans. We have 1.4 billion fewer breeding birds (again, needs fact-checking).
- When landscaping, it is becoming easier and easier to replace the nursery standards with native stand-ins: redbud for crape myrtle, for instance. Or plume grass (Erianthus) instead of the switchgrass (Miscanthus), or the phlox instead of the butterfly bush. Each of the native alternatives supports incredible numbers of native animals.
- Finally: “Landscape architects say native plants will be the most popular design element in 2017.” – American Society of Landscape Architects. (Nobody wants to be told what to plant in their yard and garden. It makes the most sense to gently convey the many benefits of natives, and hope people start shifting towards this option).
I did manage to get some plants to put into the garden back home.
When all is said and done, this was an incredible experience, and I am fortunate to have been able to attend. There is hope that this becomes a regular pilgrimage; as our farm continues to host its own unique blend of native plants, we can share and exchange plants, knowledge, and experiences with others from the region.