Master Gardeners Report Rising Local Enthusiasm for Native Plants

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The Talbot County Master Gardeners are gratified to find so many in our community becoming interested in native plants. We consider native plants vital as food and shelter for songbirds, bees and other important pollinators. Research shows that populations of pollinators are dwindling often because they cannot find nourishment in the exotic, non-native plants that have become popular in landscapes over the last century.

Master Gardeners promote native plants because in addition to being eco-friendly, they are beautiful, require low maintenance once installed, and ultimately benefit our Bay.

One afternoon in early January, the Talbot County Master Gardeners invited the public to view Hometown Habitat — Stories of Bringing Nature Home, a documentary produced by independent filmmaker Catherine Zimmerman to focus on native plants. An audience of 97 locals joined us in the Van Lennep Auditorium at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum to view the film designed to inspire everyone’s spring planting. The five segments of the film that were shown detailed exemplary native plant projects around the country, including along the Chesapeake Bay. The audience held its enthusiasm to the very end, with a majority staying for an extra hour not only to enjoy a complimentary array of sweets and savories served with tea and coffee, but also to participate in a brisk Q & A session. It was led by Master Gardener and CBMM volunteer Mary Sue Traynelis.

Photo: Master Gardeners on a Bay-Wise consultation last summer (l. to r.): Sharon Morrison, Mary Ellen Olcese, Kathi Bangert, newly-certified Bay-Wise Property Owner and Master Gardener Cathy Schmidt, Talbot Master Gardener Coordinator Mikaela Boley, and Mary Revell.

Following the informative session, 26 people signed up for free Bay-Wise consultations of their properties. Teams of Master Gardeners will provide these site visits to answer each landowner’s particular questions and offer suggestions for addressing landscape issues both informally and later in a written report. Lists of appropriate native plants will be included in each report. Properties that qualify will receive “Bay-Wise Certification” and may display a distinctive “Bay-Wise” insignia.

Some audience members expressed further interest by registering for the comprehensive Master Gardener Basic Training program, which utilizes experts from the University of Maryland system. The 9-week course, located at the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center at Chesapeake College, runs Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings starting February 21 until April 27. The course trains volunteers in a wide variety of topics, including ecology, botany, soil science, entomology, and much more in an effort to instill environmental stewardship and community outreach. The $200 fee covers cost for the Master Gardener Handbook and materials.

For further information on Bay-Wise and Master Gardener programs, as well as native plants, contact Talbot Master Gardener Coordinator Mikaela Boley at 410-822-1244 / mboley@umd.edu.

Our apologies to our many neighbors who were unable to obtain reservations to the January movie event. It was booked to capacity well in advance. Appreciative of this high level of interest in native flora, the Master Gardeners hope to present additional events of this type for the public in the future.

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