Asheville, NC — Native plants have co-evolved with native insects and other wildlife and depend upon each other to survive. For example, Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants because this is the only species of plant that their caterpillars will eat. No milkweed, no beautiful Monarchs. As gardeners and nature lovers, we can undo a lot of environmental damage that has taken place through the use and spread of non-native plants. Once you start transitioning to native plants in your landscape, you’ll be amazed at the increased number and variety of birds and beneficial insects that show up. Here’s the place to begin:
GOAL: Bring back the pollinators one yard at a time!
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville (BGA) is a 10-acre non-profit dedicated to the promotion and conservation of plants native to the Southern Appalachians. We garden organically and exclusively with natives, which is a pretty radical mission for a public gardens — although it shouldn’t be (Step #2 below explains why). The BGA opened in 1960 and provides the community with a place to see more than 600 native plants in their natural plant communities year-round. Although it is located on UNC-Asheville’s property, the BGA is not funded by the university or other governmental entity. Rather, we operate through membership, donations, occasional grants, and Visitor Center sales. This is a living museum of Western North Carolina’s natural plant heritage. Membership ensures that this native plant sanctuary will continue through the generations. Plus, you’ll get our quarterly newsletter and discounts on classes.
Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife With Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy is a must-read for anyone concerned about the environment. Tallamy, an entomologist, uses clear, easy-to-understand language and beautiful photography to describe the disturbing loss of pollinators and native flora and fauna. Then he explains how gardeners can use native plant landscaping in our yards to reverse this scary trend. Get started right away: Tallamy’s website features a list of woody and herbaceous plants that his research has proven “best bets” at attracting butterflies and moths in the US mid-Atlantic region.
PLEASE NOTE: Keep in mind that while the following plant vendors sell native plants, some also sell plants native to other regions besides Western North Carolina. And of course, even in a particular region, floras may vary. If in doubt, contact the Botanical Gardens at Asheville (firstname.lastname@example.org) or consult “Flora of the Southern & Mid-Atlantic States” by Alan Weakley. Also, be cautious when buying from nurseries that don’t specialize in natives — many are selling plants that are invasive. (Not all non-native plants are invasive, by the way, and some native plants can be aggressive. More on that in a future blog post.) Finally, only buy from reputable dealers — poachers will often sell stolen plants online or at flea markets.
Native Plant Sources for Western North Carolina Gardeners:
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville — This scrappy, amazing 10-acre native plant sanctuary near downtown Asheville hosts two native plant sales a year (spring and fall); members get a 10% discount on plants raised by the Botanical Gardens and located under and next to the gazebo. I’ve included an asterisk (*) next to the native plant vendors who generally attend the BGA’s plant sales.
Carolina Native Nursery * — Located in Burnsville, NC, Carolina Native Nursery specializes in native shrubs and perennials.
Elk Mountain Nursery — This Alexander, NC, retail grower offers a wide variety of of perennials, shrubs and trees native to the Eastern states. They only sell at their nursery or at regional plant sales.
Gardens of the Blue Ridge — This Newland, NC, nursery specializes in wildflowers, ferns, native orchids, trees and shrubs.
Natural Selections Nursery * — My friend Pat Sommers specializes in herbaceous perennials and ferns of the Southern Appalachians that she raises from seed, spore, cutting or division.
Prairie Moon Nursery (online vendor) — This Minnesota nursery sells native plants and seeds for restoration and gardening. Their catalog is gorgeous and packed with great information. Online, they provide a range map to tell you if the plant you want to buy is native to your area.
Prairie Nursery (online vendor) — Located in Westfield, WI, this mail order company offers a first-rate selection of native plants and seeds. They also have a range map to tell you if the plant you want is native to your area. They also have pre-planned gardens on order — for instance, they will sell you all the plants you need to start a garden to attract Monarchs.
Red Roots Native Nursery * — This is a wholesale nursery located in north Buncombe. I’ve included Red Roots on this list in case you are a retailer looking for a native plant source.
Sandy Mush Herb Nursery * — Located in Leicester, NC, the good folks at Sandy Mush offer all kinds of plants and have quite a few native plants among the mix.
Sow True Seed — This Asheville-based seed company sells open-pollinated, non-hybrid, gmo-free seeds featuring heirloom, organic, and traditional varieties. This link will take you to their milkweed seeds.
Mountain Mist Nursery * — “The deciduous native azaleas or wild azaleas that we grow are native to the East Coast of the United States. Our goal is to produce plants as they reproduce in nature, from seed, some are by cuttings, from those that will root.”
Thank you Ben Gillum, of Keller-Williams Realty in Asheville, N.C.