I also encourage the end users to expand their ranges where possible to include plants that are economically feasible to produce. If growers have to produce plants for each client’s particular small nativity range of 100 miles or less, they will have a difficult time remaining economically viable. Most likely the growers will resort to just growing the items that they can make money producing.
A key component in making the local ecotype plant supply more reliable is to be able to expand the total amount of native material that is planted. Then the economics of scale start to make sense for the growers.
To do this, we have to get more of the general public to understand the importance of plants in their environment. It seems to me that the percentage of people who are emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually connected to the natural world is smaller than it used to be.
As I see it, this is why horticulturists and naturalists have to work together and not be antagonistic towards each other. Together we can turn this trend of decreasing environmental awareness around. We can improve the quality of the native plantings in our area and expand the quantity of plants sold.
Horticulturists and landscapers are on the front lines of public education about plants. People go to the garden center to purchase products to fix their lawns or to buy flowers or vegetables for their gardens. When they are there, they are typically lured in to buy other plants. The plants themselves are usually what persuades them to make additional purchases. The customers buy the most beautiful plants that they see on the particular day they are there. I know when I watch what retail customers have in their carts at our nursery, 80% or more of the items are in bloom or are colorful in some other respect. They are what I call WOW! plants. They are plants that entice people to take them home. They are an initial step in the education process of the general public about the natural world. If the plants grow and thrive for their owners, they feel a sense of satisfaction and will likely become more involved in growing things.
This impulsive connection with the natural world by the public needs to be nurtured and developed to spread throughout the population. Horticulture is oftentimes the start of this connection. And the WOW! plants are often the entry points. They are the plants that get people through the door. They are to the plant world what Rock and Roll is to music. It is usually only a bit later in life that people become interested in jazz, classical, or bluegrass music. In the natural world, horticulture and its WOW! plants,– cultivars–are the Rock and Roll stars. Natural Landscaping and Ecological Restoration are like jazz, classical, or bluegrass. It is more intricate or complicated and takes time to comprehend for most people. But the Rock and Roll helps many get a start in music.
Nativars are an important aspect of this education of the public. They are the WOW! plants of our native flora. They were selected by someone, like myself, for some characteristic or combination of characteristics that make them superior to the average seedling. For instance, Carpinus caroliniana ‘J.N. Upright’, Firespire® Musclewood was selected for having extraordinary orange-red fall color and an upright, barrel-shaped form. This nativar came from a combination of Southern Wisconsin ecotypes. The run-of-the-mill seedlings that come from seeds collected in the woodlands in Southern Wisconsin would have mostly a yellowish fall color, with fewer than 15% having any orange or red in the fall coloration. The seed-grown trees are typically wider than they are tall with a rounded to spreading habit. For someone installing a native planting in Southern Wisconsin, Firespire® Musclewood could be a very useful component of the landscape, especially if there was an area that required visual impact in the fall. A place where WOW! was wanted. The predictability of this nativar could provide that.