Our annual event, the Camden Native Plant Celebration & Sale, supports our mission and provides a valuable service to the community. Learn from our founder how Camden’s first native plant sale led to our chapter’s founding and why we are committed to bringing native plants to Camden.
by Amy Jensen, MSW, MNRD; Wild Ones Midcoast Maine Founder; event founder
The reason for the plant sale is multipronged, and came about because of how challenging it was for me, as a restoration ecologist, to find sources in the Camden area for safely grown / true native plants for my personal landscaping project. I went on a mission to find growers and to learn the local ecology, which ultimately led me to The Native Gardens of Blue Hill mentor program, where their founders and marketing director suggested I start a native plant sale in Camden.
The logic was, if it was a challenge for me, it was probably a challenge for others.
- One of the most important reasons to hold this native plant sale is to educate the public about the importance of using properly gown, genetically diverse, seed grown, appropriately ranged native plants. Basically, meaning, organically grown – herbicide, fungicide and pesticide, neonicotinoid – free plants. Most folks who shop at big box stores or large commercial nurseries have no idea that many of the plants they take home are harmful to living creatures which use plants as their source of food, shelter and egg laying. Nor do most gardening enthusiasts know that neonicotinoids can sometimes persist in a plant’s tissue up to 2 years. This means that indigenous creatures we are drawing into our gardens and meadows with native plants, if not properly grown, could make the creatures sick, affect lifespan, and offspring.
- Another reason to hold the sale is to demystify and make native plants more “mainstream” with the general public, and to create a space where attendees can start to explore the use of native plants in their landscapes to create beautifully designed wildlife habitats. Customers have direct access to the best small native plant nurseries in our area, all together. Each vendor is committed to taking time to answer questions and to giving plant selection and location / growing condition advice. They are our mouthpieces for the day, as we provide a centralized location where they can come sell plants and make their businesses more profitable – it’s a win-win as we lift each other up.
- It is also an opportunity to correct some public misconceptions that native plants are messy looking, or not showy enough to win a place in a “fancy” or “showcase” New England perennial garden. It’s an opportunity to offer through our vendors, expert advice on how to get the look the customer is wanting, while simultaneously supporting indigenous insects, birds, mammals and other creatures, many of which are now experiencing populations declines due to human activity.
- We also get to teach the public about the practical aspects of using native plants. Average citizens who are not “into” native plants, often have no idea that they can save time and money, reduce water consumption and pollution, reduce or eliminate mowing and chemicals, all the while supporting conservation efforts, and creating wildlife habitat in the face of planetary insect and wildlife extinction.
Goals: In the Short term, our goal is get folks introduced to and hopefully buy a few native plants the day of the sale. We provide what might be a person’s very first positive experience with native plants. We provide a festive and inviting several-hour celebration which draws in people who might not otherwise ever have exposure to properly grown native plants, or get to learn about their many virtues.
The sale is held in a purposely high-profile public venue with a rich history of native plant landscaping. The Camden Public Library Amphitheater is a National Landmark, and the majority of the original plants in the amphitheater were sourced within a 20 mile radius of Camden. What could be more perfect? It is, of course, also our goal for the day, that many native plants go home with folks and get planted in surrounding gardens.
Another goal I touched on before is to introduce the public to the growers with the goal of increasing their customer base and sales.
Some longer term goals of the sale are to change outdated mindsets about native plants – and hopefully even within the landscape business community; to increase customer demand for properly grown, true natives (versus a dependence on “nativars”, which is now a common problem as well as point of confusion), and to increase the percentage of native plants in local gardens n the Camden area to a level closer to Doug Tallamy’s recommendation of 70% natives.
Join us for our 2nd annual event and purchase sustainably-grown native plants from local vendors in the beautiful parklike setting of the library’s harborside waterfront outdoor amphitheater in the heart of Jewel of the Midcoast.