Local plants a focus for nursery

NANAIMO – Dozens upon dozens of native plants can be found at the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust's Native Plant Nursery in Cassidy.

Dozens upon dozens of native plants can be found at the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust’s Native Plant Nursery in Cassidy.

Stock for sale includes trees, shrubs, flowers, vines, ferns and grasses, some of which are edible and all of which can be found growing wild in the mid-Island area.

“There are a lot of native plants that are very beautiful, such as flowering shrubs,” said Gail Adrienne, NALT executive director, adding that people aren’t always aware of them when choosing more exotic plants.

For residents wishing to bring a little local colour and flavour – many of the plants that look good in landscaping are edible – into their gardens, the nursery has extended its hours and will be open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

The nursery operation got its start when NALT staff and volunteers were doing some stream restoration work about a dozen years ago and needed some native plants to put around the bank, said Adrienne. After putting out a call to the community and receiving plenty of stock, the seed of an idea for a nursery was planted.

“It started as a small gathering of native plants in the back garden of a house we were renting in the Old City Quarter,” she said.

Then the provincial ministry of forests gave the group about 5,000 fir seedlings and with nowhere to put them, two Cassidy residents and NALT supporters, Peter and Anneke Van Kerkoerle, offered up part of their property on Frost Road in Cassidy. Six years ago, the group secured funding through a job creation program to build a greenhouse on site and a couple of years later, an edible plant demonstration garden was added.

Adrienne said the group is working to expand the stock available and the number of larger orders the nursery receives – in recent years, the nursery has supplied native plants for the city, the regional district and local developers. She said there are several advantages to choosing native plants over exotic ones.

“Native plants don’t need pesticides, they are adapted to the pests around here, and they also don’t need as much watering,” said Adrienne.

Popular plants include berries, salal, ferns and spring greens. While native plants are much easier to care for, the plants still need to be watered the first year until the roots get established, said Adrienne, adding that once established, people can go away for extended periods of time and not worry about the plants.

Adrienne said people should research which plants like sun and which like shade, as well as how big the plant is expected to get to ensure the right size space has been allotted before putting the plant in the ground.

She suggests stopping by to talk to nursery manager Susan Fisher or looking in resource books to find the information needed to ensure a plant is properly placed in your yard.

And if people don’t have room to grow these plants in their yard and want to harvest edible plants in the forest, they should not pick more than 10 per cent of the berries or greens in an area, said Adrienne.

For more information, please go to www.nalt.bc.ca or www.gonanaimo.com/nanaimo/nativeplants.html.