Sunday, December 1, 2019

To the Rescue!

Today I had a rare opportunity to participate in a plant rescue, organized by the Southern Piedmont Chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society.

A plant rescue is the term used for an organized effort to save plants from destruction by demolition, construction or development of the site where the plants are growing. This particular residence is slated for demolition.


Many rescues take place when highway construction threatens to destroy the habitat where the plants are growing. In this case, the plants were growing in a residential landscape not far from the middle of the city of Charlotte.

Merely blocks away, thousands of people were gathered to watch the Carolina Panthers lose to the Washington Redskins, screaming, yelling, cheering.

The gathering I participated in was much different. Only six people were allowed to take part, and I feel very fortunate to have been included in that small number. Most of us had never met, but we were all there with the purpose of saving these plants, many of which had already been saved years ago from an area that was to be flooded to form Randleman Lake, on the Deep River.

The ground was very moist as a result of the heavy rain that had fallen the previous twenty-four hours. This made it a dirty job, but the rewards were many.


Of the twelve varieties of native plants that were said to be available, I was able to come away with fine specimens of six of those. Some I already have in my garden, so I left those for others.

Our group was a very sharing bunch. I think we all dug plants that were then divided and shared among the rescuers. I don't remember all the names, but I felt at home among them. Plant people are like that.

One of the rules of a plant rescue is that the plants may not be sold. One can plant them in their own garden, share with public gardens or pass along to NCNPS chapters for further distribution.

My six varieties will be added to my personal collection of native plants. If they grow successfully, I hope to be able to propagate from them in numbers that will allow me to list them for sale with the other selections I can offer.

The six varieties I collected today are:

Sanguinaria canadensis, common name of Bloodroot, which is a native perennial plant that grows less than 1 foot tall. It prefers to grow in a shaded area that receives less than two hours of sun a day. The white flowers appear in March and April and can be found throughout the state of North Carolina.

Bignonia capreolata, or Crossvine, is a native perennial woody vine that can grow up to 50 feet in a season. It will grow in sun or part shade. The flowers are yellow and orange and appear in April and May. The vine is most at home in the Piedmont areas of North Carolina.

Asarum canadense, or Wild Ginger, is a perennial native that grows less than one foot tall. It prefers shade to part shade and has brownish blooms in April and May.

Podophyllum peltatum is commonly called Mayapple. It grows from 1 to 3 feet and has white blooms in March and April. It can grow throughout the state.

Polygonatum biflorum is called Solomon's Seal or True Solomon's Seal. It is a shade-loving perennial that will grow up to three feet and blooms are white and green, appearing from April through June. It can be found throughout North Carolina.

Achilllea millefolium or common Yarrow is a plant that I already have in production. The clump I dug was being ignored, so I brought it home with me. The white flowers appear from April into October. It likes full sun and dry soil.

The photos used this week are not my own and I do not claim ownership.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Don't take it for granted

If you are fortunate enough to reside in rural area I would like to say, “How lucky for you!”

You, my friend, are among the most fortunate from the point of view of nature. If you've lived there forever it may not be as noticeable, but you are living in a fantasy land of native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, along with the creatures that live among you.

Now that autumn is coming to a close it is a bit more obvious that the bare limbs are showing their elegance, which is a wonderful experience. While the leaves of deciduous growth have already or are in the process of dropping from the trees you can rest assured that nature is in control.

Those leaves, whether in a forest or your own backyard are enriching the earth for future growth. They decompose into rich soil and loam, ready to be converted by the likes of insects, worms, fungi and millions of bacteria.

When I was a child I remember hearing adults talk about going “out into the woods” to dig some soil or a tree seedling or other small plant. You never heard them say they were going “out in the yard” to do so. Unwittingly they were confirming the fact that trees and other plants make good soil for growing the life that sustains us.

I have recently seen some posts online about leaving the leaves on the ground for the creatures that live there. One in particular has the headline, “These Animals are Made Possible by Fallen Leaves.” It was published by a site called healthyyards.com. I'll share the meme here.

The site encourages more of a co-existence between nature and the mega-poison practice of using poisons and unneeded fertilizers to present a lush, “weed-free” lawn.

Lawn. As a disclaimer I would like to say that, in my earlier years, I was guilty of falling for the practice of the perfect yard. I sprayed, spread and mowed and pruned as a living, providing the perfect yard for others.

At the time I didn't realize the damage I was doing to the environment, not to mention myself. I regularly attended classes on the proper use of pesticides in order to legally apply them to the properties of others.

However, any Tom, Dick or Harry can go down to the local big box store (and some little box stores) and legally purchase a lethal cocktail of these substances to their heart's content.

Uh oh. I've strayed a bit. That subject is for another day.

Anyway, back to the fortunate.

I have many friends who are lucky enough to take the time to explore the trails, streams and waterways of our area. I do envy them. They get to see things that many can only dream of. I do get out from time to time, but only close to home and for short walks in the wooded areas.

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with loads of natural beauty, please don't take it for granted. Let your eyes stray past the roadsides and appreciate the beauty that many merely pass by each day without seeing it.

And if you have the time and ability, get out of the car, or off the porch, and enjoy nature. Don't take it for granted.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Etched in Stone

It was a bittersweet moment when Daniel and I loaded the last pieces of our retail space onto the trailer for the slow trek back home. The old trailer wobbles pretty bad unless the speed is right at 48 or 49 miles per hour. Lots of dirty looks from those whizzing by in the passing lane, but they'll get over it. I did.

Even though it is the prime time of year to plant native trees and shrubs, most people don't think about it when the weather goes from cool to downright cold. Everyone's thinking Christmas now. Sales have dwindled to nearly none, and it was time to finish up.

The wind was whipping as we took the frame for the shade house apart. Daniel was a huge help, being young and strong, not the aging, aching old man that I'm becoming. We took everything from the site except an old chopping block that worked as a plant stand. It will require a trip of its own.

Ordinarily the frame and display tables would stay in place over the winter, ready for the spring rush. But this time it's not ordinary. It's the last go round for this spot.

I've been fortunate to have the space available for retail sales. The plants are grown in the small nursery then taken over for sale. We tried to beat the heat and water, although sometimes the plants have suffered from hot, dry days.

No, this time the spot is gone. The place we've been selling through will be uprooting after Christmas, moving to a new location. A location that doesn't have space for an outdoor plant sales area. It has made me sad, already missing the space that has provided this opportunity for the past few years.

It's time to do different. Sure, small houseplant-sized succulents and the like can be briefly displayed for sale indoors, but the primary plants: larger, sprawling (in some cases) plants in containers measured by gallons, not inches, will have to be marketed differently.

That's the focus of life lately. I am considering several options, but nothing is etched in stone yet. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Winter's Coming

Winter weather arrived this week, in a good way and a bad way, depending on how you look at it.

I have so many tasks piled up from the past growing season, what many would consider bad has actually been good for me. I am reducing some of the work that needs to be done.

It's all because of my plant-collecting gene. What I like in the plant world is not necessarily what others prefer, so I buy in a lot of plants that grow more as annuals instead of focusing 100% on the natives I love.

Take dragon-wing (or angel-wing) begonias. For the past two seasons I have bought in hundreds of plugs to pot up, only to have the finished product sit in their pots, unsold, for months.

It's no fault of the begonias. They're pretty. They grow. Some grow big. But I've only got room for so much.

Succulents are a different story. While I have only one native variety, which I haven't offered for sale yet, I also have others that can take the cold, along with some that can't.

Now, the bad thing to some people is the fact that I make no effort to save the plants that aren't col-hardy when the freezing weather rolls in. We do have some “house plants” that my wife cares for that make their way indoors, but these others I let turn to mush.

All is not lost, however.

The mushy remains and the soil in their pots are recycled into the raised beds that I prepare for growing native stock plants.

And that's a good thing!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Native Plants and Ethics

One wouldn't normally think that there is a connection between growing and gardening with native plants but, surprisingly, there is a very important relationship between the two.

Recently I have been mulling over ethically-grown natives compared to the misinformation that seems to be prevalent in general.

As a member of the North Carolina Native Plant Society (NCNPS), I am constantly learning about the ways that our natives are being promoted for the good, versus the bad side of growing and gardening with natives.

NCNPS has a Code of Ethics that is divided into four categories, the first being Voluntary Codes of Conduct For The Gardening Public. Last updated in 2002, the codes may be found at https://ncwildflower.org/guidelines/gardening.pdf.

Another category covers organized group hikes, or walks, to see and discover native plants in their natural habitats. The NCNPS Guidelines for Walks may be seen at a word document that is linked at https://ncwildflower.org/about/ethics.

The third category is mostly for NCNPS members that participate in plant sales and auctions. That word document link may also be found at https://ncwildflower.org/about/ethics.

The final code is the one that I want to discuss a bit more in depth: Guidelines and Ethics for Collection of Native Plants.

The reason this has been on my mind is the result of a minor incident that I did not witness, but of which I was informed several days later.

As I wrote in last week's blog, I sell my plants through a third party arrangement. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to be able to do so, but it's not always easy for the seller.

Apparently a customer challenged the salesperson on the origins of the American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) trees that are offered for sale.

Because that customer had only seen the Japanese Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) offered for sale elsewhere it was assumed that the trees that were for sale had been poached “from the woods” and put in nursery containers for sale.

Nothing could be farther from the truth and it horrifies me to think that I would commit such an atrocity in the name of commerce.

For the record, that particular crop of persimmon trees that I have been selling were purchased as bare-root seedlings from a well-respected, licensed wholesale native plant nursery. This is true for many other plants that I have been selling. As a still-new producer of native plants, it is necessary to bring in older, more mature seedlings to try to fill the gaps until the plants I am propagating are of saleable size.

At NO TIME have I ever, nor will I ever, dig native plants from the wild in order to sell them. It is highly unethical!
I'll leave it there for now, but this issue may come up for discussion again in the future.

I just want to let everyone know that they can rest assured that any plant offered for sale by Uwharrie Mountain Native Plant Farm has been grown specifically for that purpose and have been grown since seed or cutting in a nursery setting.

The photos are of the 2019 collected persimmon seeds. No puddings were harmed in the collection of these seeds.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Up in the Air

My initial intent for this blog site was to use it as a home page for Uwharrie Mountain Native Plant Farm. I've since discovered that it best serves as a point for updated and short-notice information.


In an attempt to remain more current I am going to strive to make regular posts here while working on a dedicated, actual, honest-to-goodness web page. Hopefully the new page will debut by the time new growth begins in the Spring.


When that happens, my followers here will know it as the URL currently points to this blog. The new page will sport a direct link to this page.


Up in the Air


The title of this writing explains my attitude toward my business at this point. There are several things going on that will determine which way UMNPF will go into the future.



1. I am striving to increase the offerings of native plants to my community. Right now I am limited by a lack of space in my current nursery, being located in the backyard of a residential lot. This location prevents me from conducting retail business from the site, not as much because of the location, but because our driveway is shared with our next-door neighbor. Out of respect for the neighbor's privacy all retail sales have been done through a third-party retail business.


2. I have recently learned that the third-party retail business, through which all sales have been conducted, will be relocating after the first of the year. Unfortunately the new location will not offer the outdoor space needed or the security behind a locked gate that I currently enjoy.


The ideal solution to these problems is not so easy to remedy. I have been driving main roads and back roads throughout the Uwharrie Mountain area in search of a small parcel that could host a small agricultural enterprise (i.e. the nursery). The location would have a working well, small pond or other surface water suitable for irrigation; access to electricity for pumps, lights and a small office; and be a reasonable distance from my home to commute.



A couple of cleared or clear-able acres would offer all the space needed. An old mobile home lot would be wonderful. I don't want to have a huge nursery, but one that I can pretty much manage on my own. As I'm nearing the 60 years old mark I don't foresee the time or energy needed to aim for a large plot. I should have been doing this 30 years ago!


So, it's all up in the air. I'll continue to add to and grow the selection that is currently offered and we'll see where the road leads. It all works out for the best in the long run.

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Sad Day for our Native Neighbors

Yesterday, as I was exploring the gravel back roads of our little community in the Uwharries, I was excited to run across a stand of native Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint growing in the power line right-of-way beside the woods. I was excited because I had never seen it growing locally, except for the transplants I have in my beds, that I was given by a friend who lives about an hour away.


This morning, before 8:00 am, I was awoken by Cindy yelling for me to look out the window. Two pickup trucks were slowly making their way down our lane, tanks on the back, followed by two men with backpack sprayers walking along the roadside.

They suddenly jumped onto the back of one of the trucks and sped past our house, further down the lane, not spraying immediately in front of our home (thankfully, we have beehives).


I quickly dressed, discussed the incident with Cindy, then got in my car and drove in the same direction they had gone.

I caught up with them on the next gravel lane over. When I pulled up alongside one of the trucks I didn't have to say a word because the driver immediately started telling me they were spraying along the power lines. I asked him what they were spraying. He misunderstood and replied, "just along the sides under the power lines.""

I restated my question to "what CHEMICAL are you spraying?"


"Roundup," he replied.

Cindy and I have spent the past several seasons watching the native flowers grow, excited to find some we'd never found locally before. Saw Indian Pink this year for the first time here, enjoying the Green and Gold, Joe-Pye, Butterfly Weed and others.


We were somewhat concerned when Randolph Electric contractors came through during the winter, grinding and chewing up the same rights-of-way that are now being sprayed. My take on it was that it would bring up seeds from below the surface that may have been laying dormant for years.

Sadly, they had already sprayed the area where I discovered the Mountain Mint, just yesterday.

I'm really sad as I write this. These small native gems, that will never ever grow tall enough to impede the electricity, are being sacrificed.


It seems to me, if they can walk along the right-of-way and indiscriminately spray to kill everything in sight, why can't they just as easily trade the backpack sprayers for Swedish axes and just target the small tree saplings that would grow into the lines in future years.

Will the invasive Paulowinia that has been growing back every year near the Mountain Mint succumb to the spray?


I have my doubts.

To the Rescue!

Today I had a rare opportunity to participate in a plant rescue, organized by the Southern Piedmont Chapter of the North Carolina Native Pla...