Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed

Because our nursery has very limited space in our backyard, we have to carefully consider several factors when deciding which plants to grow and sell.

First, we want to produce species and varieties have been proven to be excellent for pollinators, either from our own experience or through pollinator trials conducted at the Mt Cuba Center in Delaware or other pollinator research programs.

Most of the time we choose regional natives, often the straight species that was developed by nature over time. (See our post titled “Why Should I Plant Natives?”) But if pollinator trials or experience in our own garden has shown that a particular native cultivar is just as good or even better than the straight species, we may include them, too. We rarely include double blooming hybrid varieties, because pollen, nectar and scent can be lost during the hybridization process.

Most of our plants are perennials. However, we don’t include shrubs or trees, because they take up too much time/room in our limited space. Occasionally, our choices may include a few annuals – especially if the variety generously reseeds itself, so that you do not have to buy new replacements every year.

A high percentage of pollinator plants bloom mostly during summer.  Because pollinators need abundant sources of food all the way from early spring until late fall, we make a point to add some varieties that will provide pollen and nectar during the critical cooler seasons.

Most of our plants have green leaves since the Mt Cuba center has proven that caterpillars and other leaf eating insects aren’t able to eat as many of the purple colored leaves due to the natural chemical defenses in them. But you can plant a few of the purple leafed varieties in your garden (and some non-natives, too), as long as you have at least 70% of your plants that are green leafed natives, so that enough caterpillars can grow to produce butterflies and to feed your local song birds.

Because clay soils are so common in our local region, a species or cultivar that performs well in clay or clay loam will have a higher priority in our nursery than plants that require very well-drained sandy soils to thrive. We also focus on plants that, in general, are easier to grow and maintain.

Our plants are never harvested from the wild. In addition, the plants must not be on the invasive list of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (see If a particular plant we offer is added to the invasive list in the future, we will discontinue selling that species or variety.

We don’t use chemical insecticides on any of our plants. This includes neonicotinoides, which can harm bees or other pollinators.  We also don’t buy from wholesale nurseries that use systemic insecticides on their plants.

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