Network of Neighborhood Nurturies

What in the world is a “nurtury”?

These plants are destined for the Presbyterian Church preschool, as well as other Bound by Beauty projects

The word isn’t in the dictionary….yet….but it is a very important concept on the ground here in our community, and it is a concept that is easily replicable anywhere that plants grow.  In a nutshell, a nurtury is a place where nature’s gifts are treasured, nurtured, and shared.

Shiny-leaf wild coffee produces berries beloved by birds, and little white flowers that smell like honey and attract all sorts of pollinators. They are very easy to propagate from seedlings.

  Those of us who are fortunate to have a garden full of native pollinator plants (not to mention butterflies and bees as well!), many of which freely offer seeds or seedlings, are loath to let such gifts of nature go to waste.  Instead of pulling up seedlings and throwing them in the compost (or, worse, in the trash heap), we pot them up, nurture them, and share them with other gardeners, schools, and other institutions that want to create or expand a native pollinator habitat. 

Imagine not having to find grant money for plants for a neighborhood school’s butterfly garden!  Imagine giving seeds to seniors and to children in local schools, so they can learn how to sprout them and care for the plants.

 

What does it take to start your own nurtury? 

The most important thing to do is STOP USING PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES.  Chemical poisons have no business in a native pollinator garden.  The next step is to find out which native pollinator plants would do well in your garden, and suit your needs.  How do you figure out which ones?  In Florida, a good place to start is the website of the Florida Native Plant Society.  You can select your county and the conditions in your garden and get a list of plants.  Likewise, the Institute for Regional Conservation’s website allows you to input your zip code, if you want to really go native.  Both of these websites have detailed specifications about the plants, as well as images to guide your selection.  Other states have similar native plant societies where you can educate yourself on the best plants to buy. 

The fruit of the Locustberry feeds birds and other wildlife, and the Florida duskywing butterfly lays her eggs on the leaves for her caterpillars to munch on.

Where can you find these plants?  Sadly, native plants are not widely available in big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  And these stores often carry plants that are treated with a systemic pesticide called Neonicotinoids in order to kill aphids, white flies, and other pests.  What they don’t tell you is that this poison kills any creature that partakes of any part of the plant, including the nectar and pollen.  Who needs nectar and pollen?  That’s right: butterflies and bees.

Home Depot and other big box stores don’t see the deadly irony of selling plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, then kills them when they sip nectar. Always check for this label and when in doubt ASK.

 

The Florida Association of Native Nurseries’ has a database that lets you search for the plants in local nurseries.  If you live in South Florida, Steve Woodmansee, of Pro Native Consulting, has a sale at Silent Native Nursery one weekend per month.  You can contact him here to get on his email list to be notified of the sale, as well as the available plants, sizes, and prices (tell him Bound by Beauty sent you!).  You can even order native plants by mail through companies like mail order natives. Perhaps the best way to proceed, however, is to look around your neighborhood to see if there are gardens with native plants.  Chances are the owners would be happy to give you seeds and seedlings and cuttings and advice on how to start your own native garden.

Dirty fingernails are a fairly common sight among Bound by Beauty types.

How do you create a network of nurturies in your neighborhood?

 You can start with the last piece of advice on where to obtain native plants.  Native plant gardeners tend to be passionate about their plants and the insects, birds, and other beneficial wildlife that depend on those plants.  Talk to your neighbor with the native plants about setting up an exchange of seeds and cuttings to spread the wealth cheaply and organically.  Ask them where they buy their plants.  Post on social media to get others in your neighborhood involved.  Local Facebook pages and the Nextdoor app can connect you with a lot of like-minded neighbors.  Walk around your neighborhood and leave a friendly note at the door of homes with native gardens. 

It helps to have a “nexus” or two in the neighborhood, gardens with more space that can nurture transplanted seedlings and host exchanges and educational tours.  You can expand your network by arranging for a local master gardener or local extension service to conduct a propagation workshop, to learn how best to gather and store seeds, transplant seedlings, and grow plants from cuttings.  Native plant habitats in schools and community gardens can also be a source of seeds and connections to like-minded gardeners.

 

We keep some host plants under shade cloth
in reserve so the butterflies can’t lay eggs on them. These Coontie, which is the host plant of the Atala butterfly, and Corkystem passion vine plants, which hosts three butterfly species, come in handy when all other host plants have been consumed by hungry caterpillars.
Corkystem passionvine, Goldenrod, and Mexican torch sunflowers seeds are relatively easy to germinate.
We donate locally-grown seeds to local churches and schools.
Pineland croton is a wonderful nectar plant and host plant for two imperiled butterfly species: the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak, and the Florida Leafwing. We are propagating it by seed and cuttings.
A day’s harvest brings in Seaside goldenrod, Scarlet sage, Blanket flower, Sunshine mimosa, and Giant goldenrod seeds, all of which are native pollinator plants here in South Florida. See how easy it is?