By Kim Merritt / Fredericksburg Today
There’s a new native plant display at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds this year.
The Central Rappahannock Natives Plant Display Garden features plants that are originally from this area.
This garden display is the work of several local garden and horticulture businesses and groups, according to Plants Map co-owner Tracy Blevins.
“This is a cooperative effort between Roxbury Farm and Garden Center, the Master Gardener Association of the Central Rappahannock Area and Plantsmap.com in support of the new Plant Central Rappahannock Natives Campaign, “ Blevins said.
Andy Lynn, manager of Roxbury Farm and Garden Center, is excited about native gardening.
“Native gardening will be the next big thing,” Lynn said.
Laura Westermeier, master gardener and curator of the display at the Fairgrounds, said the benefits of using native plants varies.
“It supports the local wildlife,” Westermeier said. “As long as you pay attention to what the plant’s needs are, then it’ll be the right plant in the right place. And some of them are really pretty and very fragrant. Sometimes, once the plants get established, you don’t really have to water them.”
Lynn said that many times, invasive plants are invasive because they are not native to the area, and without any natural threats or predators, they can become problematic. He says that native plants have more of a natural balance with the local ecosystem and normally don’t become invasive.
“You can expect to see plants that are in some of the younger stages of their life cycle at the Fair, but some of them have already started to bloom,” Westermeier said. “There’s a beautiful purple passion vine on display at the fair.”
She said it started blooming a couple of days ago.
Westermeier is working on the Plant Central Rappahannock Natives Campaign. The campaign’s website has a listing of places (mostly parks) to look for native plants. They also offer a free PDF book with information on many different plants which are native to the Rappahannock area.
You can get a free hardbound version of that book at their display table inside the “Home-Ec” building at the Fredericksburg Fair. If you can’t get to the fair to pick up the book, they also offer it for free at the Stafford Master Gardeners plant clinic on Saturdays through September 15 at the Farmer’s Market in Hurkamp Park in Fredericksburg. In order to get the book for free you must reside in the City of Fredericksburg, Stafford County, Spotsylvania County, Caroline County, or King George County.
Lynn said the display at the fair came together at just the right time. He was contacted by fair officials about putting in a display at the fair around the same time that Westermeier approached him about her involvement in the Plant Central Rappahannock Natives Campaign. Roxbury Farm and Garden Center donated all the plants and ordered plant tags for the display from Plantsmap.com, and Westermeier is the master gardener who worked to bring the project together.
The PlantsMap.com tags have QR codes. If you scan the QR codes with your phone, it will navigate to PlantsMap.com. There you will find more information about the plant you have just scanned, complete with images, life cycle information and plant preferences like sun and shade preferences and wet or dry soil preferences.
The exhibit is the second exhibit building on the right, as you go in through the main gate.
If you are thinking of using natives in your own garden or landscaping, Blevins said you still have to understand how it fits in your garden.
“Just because a plant is considered ‘native’ in a very broad sense because it is native to North America, does not mean it will do well in our area,” Blevins said. “Visiting other native gardens in your area and learning what grows well here will help you get a good start. Plants that like full sun will still need sun. Plants that are native still need to be planted in the right spot for their best success.”
If you don’t get a chance you see the display at the fair, Westermeier and her husband will also give a talk about native gardens at Salem Church Library on August 22 at 7pm.