In the last few years, as part of our “Bringing Nature Home” (BNH) initiative, Maine Audubon has been in the horticulture business. Psychologically, the growing season seems to kick off each March with the Maine Flower Show…but now is when things really start getting going.
First Plants Sale Plants Arrive
Last week, Maine Audubon received its first batch of plants we’ll have for sale at the Native Plants Sale & Festival on June 16. We order trays of plugs, which are then transplanted and grown for two months in a hoop house. This year, we are joined by our new horticulture intern Chris Fritz, who will be dutifully caring for the plants along with our BNH team.
All of Maine Audubon’s Plants Sale plants are straight species (no cultivars) of species native to Maine, and are naturally propagated (grown from seeds) and managed organically. We work with several vendors throughout the Northeast to ensure this chain of custody, and we will happily share where your plants came from in June.
The first batch of plants included milkweeds, columbine, iris, cardinal flower, aster, phlox, beardtongue, and others. In addition to the usual herbaceous perennials, we’ve added a couple woody species — buttonbush and New Jersey tea — to try out this year. All of these plants will be rooted in 5” square pots and sold for roughly $10 each.
First Sprouts of New Propagation Efforts
Maine Audubon is also venturing into the business of growing our own plants from seed, to be sold and utilized in stewardship projects later in the summer. Our seeds are collected ourselves or come from our friends at Wild Seed Project.
During April vacation week, we noticed the first germination of this year’s batch — seaside goldenrod. Solidago sempervirens is a unique species of the goldenrod family native to coastal Maine. Goldenrods get a bad rap for creating allergens (a myth) and spreading broadly in open areas. However, the genus Solidago is number one among flowers and grasses in our zip code for hosting insects, serving 124 species such as The Asteroid, Brown-hooded Owlet, and Green Leoconycta.
As far as growing, Seaside Goldenrod prefers to stay put and grow in dense clumps. It is adapted to constrained spaces amongst coastal rocks and ledges. This means confinement in our gardens works well, and the unique single-lobed leaves and large flowers are stunning and conversational for the second half of summer. The species’ tolerance for salt spray and even periodic tidal flooding even make it resistant to climate change.
Thousands of Maine visitors and residents see beautiful examples of Solidago sempervirens each summer at The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth. Those plants have been cultivated in a setting in which the species thrives, and they’ll be just as gorgeous and beneficial in your garden at home.
Stay tuned for more news and species information ahead of the 2018 Native Plants Sale & Festival on June 16!