Free native plants, nationally known author & more at Plant for Nature!

common ninebark courtesy Dow Gardens, Bugwood
While most of the native plants in the giveaway at Plant for Nature! are perennials, there will be two shrubs: spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and the shrub shown here, common ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). It gets 5 to 10 feet tall and wide, and blooms with these white flowers in May to June. It likes sun to part shade. Ninebark provides great cover for birds and attracts many native bees and butterflies, including the ninebark pygmy moth. Photo courtesy Dow Gardens, Dow Gardens,

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Get a free native plant, hear the author of The Humane Gardener, and find out more about how you can create a wonderful garden that works with nature rather than against it.

It’s all part of the event Plant for Nature! to be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 4 at the WNY Welcome Center, 1999 Alvin Rd., Grand Island.

It is hosted by the Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment, which received a grant from the Tonawanda Community Environmental Benefits Fund, which addresses public health and wellness in a broad way as part of the Tonawanda Coke settlement.

Why you should plant for nature

Butterflies, birds, insects and other wildlife need food and shelter. They can find what they need in wild areas, but those areas are being taken over by human development. And the developed areas generally don’t offer what wildlife needs.

But gardeners can help.

The native plant giveaway at Plant for Nature! is an incentive for people to create “stepping stones” for wildlife in their neighborhoods. While neighborhoods don’t have acres of land filled with plants that offer wildlife everything they need, something as simple as adding a native plant to your garden, or planting a native in a pot for your apartment balcony, can help support the ecosystem. If your neighbor adds a native plant and another neighbor farther down the block does the same, they create more stepping stones across the landscape for wildlife.

“Collectively, it makes a difference,” said Dave Reilly, Ph.D., co-founder of Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment. “One native plant leads to three or four” when they spread, so more plants are available to wildlife.

A wide variety of plants will be given away at the event.

“I hope neighbors get different plants, then divide their plants and share,” said Reilly said, who teaches environmental policy at Niagara University.

Reilly and Nicole Gerber, the other co-founder of Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment, give presentations to many groups.

“I like that people want to help nature,” said Gerber, who holds a doctorate in biology with a major in plant physiology. “We talk to people, and they may live in the city and have just enough room to put pots out, but they’re excited because they saw butterflies!

“Each little bit we do helps in some shape or form. It’s so rewarding.”

Gerber and Reilly are a married couple who live on a 33-acre former farm, the historic Alt Family farm, in Grand Island. The land has been in Gerber’s family for six generations. It’s a meadow now and the couple wants to protect it and ensure that it remains wild.

Nancy Lawson & other speakers

Nancy Lawson, author, habitat consultant and national speaker on garden ecology, will give her presentation at noon.

She is author of The Humane Gardener, which illustrates simple principles for attracting wildlife as well as peacefully resolving conflicts with all the creatures who share our world. The book has received praise from Sierra Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; The New York Times; Mother Nature Network, and many others.

You can buy her book and have it signed at the event. See the list below.

Check out her posts on her website. There’s one titled, “Deer eat my garden­—and it flourishes.”

The other speakers are:

  • 11 a.m. Michael Klepp from The Plantsmen Nursery will talk about the plants being given away.
  • 1:15 p.m. Emere Nieves of Gardeness, an accredited organic land care company, will speak on soil health.
  • 1:45 p.m. Mary Jo Graham of Oakmoss Education will speak about our ecosystem.

Native plant giveaway

There will be information on each of the native plants that will be given away. Plants are from The Plantsmen Nursery, a family-owned nursery located near Ithaca. The plants are:

  • Ageratina altissima – white snakeroot
  • Apocynum androsaemifolium – spreading dogbane
  • Asclepias incarnata – swamp milkweed
  • Asclepias syriaca – common milkweed
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum – boneset
  • Lindera benzoin – spicebush
  • Lobelia cardinalis – cardinal flower
  • Lobelia siphilitica – great blue lobelia
  • Monarda fistulosa – wild bergamot
  • Oligoneuron rigidum – stiff goldenrod
  • Physocarpus opulifolius – eastern ninebark
  • Pycnanthemum muticum – short-toothed mountain-mint
  • Rubus odoratus – flowering raspberry
  • Solidago nemoralis – gray goldenrod
  • Symphyotrichum novae-angliae – New England aster
  • Verbena hastata – blue vervain
  • Veronicastrum virginicum – culver’s root

Next week a sale to benefit the Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at the historic Alt Farm, 2489 Whitehaven Rd., Grand Island. Native plants and wildlife-beneficial plants will be offered in the sale.

Local environmental organizations

“We approach gardening in a holistic way,” Reilly said. “With us, it’s not just about connecting with nature, but connecting with people around us and in our community.”

The Plant for Nature! event has pulled together representatives from a large group of local environmental organizations– many that I wasn’t familiar with. Take a look at how people are working together to help our ecosystem in Western New York:

2 Comments on “Free native plants, nationally known author & more at Plant for Nature!

  1. I cannot stay for the entire day, will I still be able to get a native plant for my garden?

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