Native Haunts is first and foremost a native plant advocate. Why do plants need an advocate? Even though native plants grow all around us, general knowledge about their function and importance in our world is woefully lacking. By planting natives you are supporting an entire food web, stitching back together our tattered ecosystems. Native plants provide food for pollinators and insect larvae; the latter of which is a critical food source for birds both young and old. In my opinion, native plants are the answer to many of our most pressing environmental problems; loss of habitat and biodiversity, slowing climate change through carbon sequestration, erosion control, water quality, the list goes on and on.
There are many fine shades for the definition of "native". The basic concept should hold true for anyone speaking of natives; native plants are those plants that have grown and evolved here for the millennia before European arrival. Many of our native plants have ranges that span the continent. Take chokecherry; I was stunned to find this growing in the Shoshone National Forest in western Wyoming; this same species is growing in my back yard! If I took the seeds from the Wyoming plants and grew them out, could I say these are native to Maine?
Yes and no. The species is native to Maine but the genotype in this example is definitely not. A genotype is all about provenance, the place in which the plant has grown; the living and non-living factors present in the species environment are a great influence. Chokecherries from western Wyoming grow in a very different climate and habitat then the ones here in Maine. Wyoming is much drier, the soils are basic instead of acidic, pollinating species and animal dispersers who eat the berries are probably different, the symbiotic fungi that live in the soil are probably not the same, even the flowering times and fruit set times are different. The Wyoming plants are adapted to their specific environment, just as the Maine plants have adapted to our higher rainfall, acidic soils, local pollinators, and dispersal agents. Same species, but very different genotypes.
When I first started Native Haunts, one of my goals was to grow all of my own plants, from seed that I collected, from locally growing plants. This worked well until I started running into production problems. Native plants can be hard to grow from seed and with some species I had crop failure year after year. I was quickly running out of plants to sell at the same time that demand for non-varietal native plants was rising. I wanted to be able to supply folks with the native plants they wanted, but just didn't have enough.
After years of deliberation and hesitation, I reluctantly did what almost every other nursery does; import small liner plants from other nurseries to grow out and offer for sale. I hated to do it, but I felt that I had to. It was either sell plants that other people have grown or not have much of anything to sell. I still grow many if not most of my plants, and I don't want to stop doing that part. The plants I import are to supplement the ones that I grow here in Alfred, both in diversity and quantity.
I am selective with the growers I work with; they grow their plants from seed, are non-varietal, and of northern provenance. These factors are important to me and are not negotiable. When purchasing plants don't hesitate to ask, I'll be happy to tell you if I grew them or they were started at another nursery.
Organic nursery production seems to be a relatively new and evolving concept. Most of the literature available on organic production focuses on food crops; many of these ideas can be applied to ornamental plant production, such as-organic fertilizer use, soil health and protection, management of fertilizer and pesticide run off.