Monday, May 5, 2008

Two words a gardener can't resist:

"Free plants."

Of course when it comes to participating in a sanctioned plant rescue, the term free is open to interpretation. Yes, you get a ton of plants and don't have to run them by a cashier afterward. But the price is your readiness, if necessary, to brave mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers, get caked with mud, wade through poison ivy and briers, and maybe hit yourself in the head with your own shovel handle and forget who you are for 10 minutes.* And did I mention the digging? The relentless meeting of blade and soil, blade and soil, blade and soil?

Today it paid off in spades (which is good, since I lost my trowel in the woods). In exchange for about four hours of moderate labor, I returned home with a carload of yellowroot, royal fern, lady fern, grape fern, Christmas fern, netted chain fern, Carolina lily, club moss, Solomon's seal, Jack-in-the-pulpit, fringe tree, pinxter azalea, wild ginger and coral honeysuckle.

How can this be, you say? Well, it seems I know a few of the right people. And one of the right people to know is Tom Harville. If you can get on Tom's good side, you'll learn where the choice digs are. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to get on Tom's good side. If you're a relatively nice person and you love native wildflowers, shrubs, trees and the like, you're two-thirds of the way there. If you want to close the deal, you should join the North Carolina Native Plant Society. Tom is cuckoo for the NCNPS. In fact, he has been known to take people on labyrinthine trips into the forest, then refuse to lead them back out until they've coughed up their dues.**

Among many other admirable activities, NCNPS conducts native plant rescues in cooperation with North Carolina governments, landowners and developers in an effort to save native plants that would otherwise be lost to construction and development. To learn more about the Society's mission and how to become a member, click here. Go ahead, make Tom's day.

* As far as I know, this has never happened. However, I could have forgotten it.
** Don't go into the woods without your checkbook!

(Pictured: Soil guru Pete Schubert in a little slice of fern heaven, Raleigh, North Carolina)

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