Springtime, officially beginning on the vernal equinox, has arrived. Our days are now officially longer than nights, and the birds of Maine are letting us know with their songs. As the temperatures rise and the soils warm, germination and growth of our native plants begins.
Historically, with abundant precipitation in the months from April to June, spring has been a great time to establish gardens. However, the past few years in Maine, we’ve experienced drier than average conditions which have challenged this conception and prompted many to switch to fall plantings. That said, spring is still a great time to begin implementing the garden you’ve been planning over the winter.
When considering what native plants to add to your landscape, mainenativeplants.org is a great resource, showcasing many of the plants we grow and sell here at Maine Audubon.
Some of the Maine native plants on our mind right now:
Sugar maple, Acer saccharum, is the most widely distributed tree species in northeast hardwood forests. In addition to soothing our sweet tooth, sugar maple provides critical habitat to mammals, birds, and invertebrates, while also adding important nutrients to the soil through its leaf litter.
Pussy willow, Salix discolor, is a shrub species found along wetland edges, often in full sun. It’s one of the earliest species to bloom. Its flowers—called catkins—are petaless and without fragrance, like birch and beech. Only the male plants have the fuzzy flowers. While providing an important nectar source to some early pollinators, its pollen spreads primarily by wind, less by pollinators. Additionally, it’s a larval host to more than 18 butterflies and moths.
Lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, like sugar maple is one of the most iconic native plants of Maine. Its fruit is prized by humans and animals alike, while its flower provides critical nectar and pollen to early season pollinators. This hardy groundcover should be added to any landscape with well drained soils. It is also host to more than 290 caterpillar species!
Garden maintenance reminder: resist garden clean-up in April! Many bees and invertebrates still require last year’s growth and leaf litter to keep warm on our cool April nights. Plants also benefit from the natural mulch through this period. Generally, if you must cut back and remove materials, it’s best to wait until early to mid May.
Our 2023 Native Plant Festival & Sale will take place on Saturday, June 17, from 9 am to 3 pm. This year we will have 19 new native plant species available, making our overall availability well over 100 species. The festival will occur rain or shine, and is a wonderful family friendly event. This year you can expect an abundance of native plants, music, food trucks, and presentations by regional partners and experts on native plants. Please join us with your family and friends and stay tuned for announcements on our website at mainenativeplants.org.