Garden Boom: New gardeners embrace native plantings

Facing a global pandemic drove each of us to find new outlets for complicated emotions, unchanneled creativity, and even just the stress of uncertainty. For some that was baking banana bread or binge-watching episodes of Bridgerton. But Mary Lewis, our Assistant Manager at Herring Run Nursery, noticed another trend—gardening. Spending much more time at home, many people turned to beautifying their space to pass the extra time. People of all ages, living situations, and experience levels flocked to Herring Run Nursery in 2020. “It’s been a savior to so many people,” Mary said. This flood of interest created unprecedented demand for our Nursery team and a unique opportunity to engage our community in upstream water quality best practices.  

Gardening with native plants presents a unique opportunity to transform an outdoor space into a tool for protecting our waterways. In addition to being pleasing to the eye, native plants filter substantial amounts of stormwater and sequester carbon from entering the atmosphere. Their large and complex root systems are adept at filtering pollutants out of runoff water, slowing the re-entry of stormwater into the waterways (helping to prevent sewage backup along the way), and holding onto sediment that would otherwise wash into our streams, rivers, and Harbor.  

Walking into the Herring Run Nursery for the first time, patrons likely don’t expect a lesson in green stormwater infrastructure while they shop. Yet Mary has found that, over the last year, as she teaches shoppers about the benefits of gardening-native, “people get hooked” and continue to return to the Nursery for their hobby gardening needs.  

Time at home has also brought people to the Nursery for another reason—to connect with their community. “People were working from home, and they’d come by to help out,” Mary said—citing a notable increase in volunteers at the Nursery since the start of the 2020 volunteer season. Support from volunteers is critical to the Nursery’s success, and all are welcome to participate. Click here for more information on volunteering with Blue Water Baltimore.  

Such a spike gardening interest is heartening—and we hope this community passion for gardening with natives will continue as the COVID-19 landscape continues to shift. For Mary, this means continued effort educating her patrons on the value this type of gardening brings to the waterways. Her advice? “Start small, it’s very tempting to want to revamp the whole space right away. Trial-ing [diverse types of plants] is best. There are so many plants that, by the book, should do well [in a certain condition.] But they may not!” And, of course, stop by our Herring Run Nursery, reopening in March of 2022, and find more resources and guides on the Nursery website.