Although winter is far from over in New England, there are a few indications that spring is around the corner. One sign occurred yesterday when I attended a lecture on Native Plants given by Peter Van Berkum of Van Berkum Wholesale Nursery in Deerfield NH. A packed room welcomed the speaker to Churchill’s Gardens in Exeter NH.
He began by asking the audience, “What is a native plant?” There were no shout outs but I heard a few different answers quietly spoken around me. “There is no wrong answer,” he said. Some define native plants as Continental, as belonging to a continent. Others interpret natives as Far-Regional, or as Near-Regional, and some limit the ecoregion to County. The definition from the website of the New England Wild Flower Society is simply “…plants growing in North America before European settlement.”
An interesting talk about native plants accompanied by a colorful PowerPoint presentation entertained the knowledgeable listeners. Whenever a question was posed, this group was not stumped. Although there were natives such as wild cranberry and delphinium and marsh marigold and an array of asters that were not easily grown in my Virginia zone 8 gardens, it was good to hear so many natives in Virginia were also New England natives. There was my good friend, Joe Pye, and the familiar Bee Balm, False Solomon’s Seal, native ferns, ironweed, native sedge and many more.
If I would like to further my education on New England natives, the book he recommended is Flora of the Northeast, A Manual of the Vascular Flora of New England and Adjacent New York by Dennis Magee and Harry E. Ahles.
Check out the website for Van Berkum Nursery where propagation is the name of the game. The story behind this dynamic multi-talented husband/wife team is inspiring….. and don’t miss the charming video with Peter Van Berkum supplying the foot-tapping background music. The nursery specializes in shade plants that are indigenous to New England. They have 4 interesting collections: New England Woodlanders, Appalachian Woodlanders, New England Meadows, and Wicked Ruggeds.