Central NC Peeps: Native Plant Palooza Tomorrow and Saturday

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a native deciduous azalea.

For all native plant lovers/gardeners within driving distance of Chapel Hill, NC, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the annual fall plant sale at the North Carolina Botanical Garden is in-person again this year — and this weekend!

I’ve been salivating over the list of available options for several weeks now. Give yourself a bit of time to meditate on your abundant options. When you look at the listing, be sure to click on the “Detail” link at the end of the row for a given plant. That link will take you to detailed information. If you scroll down a Detail page to a section labeled “HORTICULTURAL, Plant Sale Text,” you’ll find less botanically technical and highly useful information on a given plant’s growing requirements, along with other useful tidbits.

Cardinal Flower

I recommend that you scroll through the entire list once, noting any plant that tempts you. Then start winnowing down your list to what is practical for you. Consider where EXACTLY you will plant your new additions. Especially if you are considering some of the abundant trees and shrubs being offered, be sure to factor in the eventual size your adoptee will achieve. I hope you will consider woody additions if you have room, because now is the best time to plant these species, after summer drought and heat have abated, so plants can focus on maximizing root systems before summer stresses return.

Here in central NC, we just got a magnificent rain, so the earth is soft and ready for planting. Add to that the spectacular autumn crisp air we get to enjoy this weekend, and you’ve got ideal planting weather.

For first crack at the plants tomorrow, you must be a member of the NC Botanical Garden, which I hope you already are. But no worries, you can join at the door before you enter Native Plant Nirvana! The sale tomorrow for Members’ Night begins at 4:00 p.m. From past experience, I can tell you that the line of excited plant-lovers forms well before that time. Also, parking can be tricky, so carpool if you can — in a larger vehicle that can carry your new babies safely back to your home. Some of the woody plants can be fairly tall.

Lizard’s tail — a wonderful wildflower for shady, moist spots

I was planning to be there myself until a knee injury this week sidelined me. Crutches and big crowds of enthusiastic native plant lovers are not likely to mix well. Fortunately, a dear friend offered to pick up a few plants for me. In an immense display of will power, I limited my list to three new species that I want to add to my growing hilltop meadow. Thank you, Beth!

If Friday doesn’t fit your schedule, note that the sale continues on Saturday. That day, the sale is open to the public — no membership required. But members get a 10% discount on plant sales, and membership levels are available for all budgets and family sizes, so please consider supporting this wonderful organization with your membership.

One last tip — any wise old gardener (like me) will tell you that most plants are more visually appealing and more successful in the landscape if you plant multiples of the same species. Odd numbers often look most visually appealing — threes, fives — you get the idea.

Please take advantage of this weekend’s perfect fall weather to indulge in some botanical therapy. Local native wildlife will thank you — and so will your plant-loving soul. Have fun!

Columbine with native Rhododendron friend


  1. #1 by Ivis on September 23, 2021 - 11:23 am

    Thanks for this! I have a long list and couldn’t decide but I will get two Stokes’ Asters to go with the one survivor I had from the previous plant sale, and maybe three of something else. So difficult to decide, so many plants I’ve heard of. And a couple of back-up suggestions. I’ve never been on members’ day so thanks for parking and going early information…not sure I can stand in line for an hour though! I need to buy a walking stick with a stool attached!

    • #2 by piedmontgardener on September 23, 2021 - 11:29 am

      Hi, Ivis!

      Only the seriously hard-core types show up a full hour early. I always managed to find a parking spot if I got there a half hour ahead of time. There are always folks stationed in the parking lot to help guide shoppers to spots. Have fun on your native plant shopping expedition!

  2. #3 by James on September 23, 2021 - 8:10 pm

    Oh man, careful with that knee. About late afternoon at work, I had a series of unwanted twinges in mine going up and down stairways — just downright uncalled for. On a more serious note, please do take care. The photographs in your plant sale post had me itching to buy and plant. Unfortunately, I have a massive collection of things in nursery pots already that are awaiting installation in the postage stamp sized lot the builder generously termed a yard. A couple of those trees actually are your fault because you mentioned them in a spring post. Y’all take care and keep the photos and stories coming, it is truly a lifeline to hear stories about the creek and beavers for those of us who had to downsize yards to stay in a particular school district. I did have the distinct pleasure of helping a box turtle safely cross the road on Monday at least. May the rains continue to bless you guys.

    • #4 by piedmontgardener on September 24, 2021 - 6:32 am

      Thanks, James. I am nursing the knee carefully. You do the same for yours, please. I don’t think I’ve ever been blamed for inspiring folks to plant trees in their yards before. I think I like it! 🙂

      As for your tight yard, have you considered preaching the gospel of native plants to your neighbors? If they began to understand how much native wildlife — from native pollinators to birds, turtles and all the rest — need human help to survive, perhaps you could collaborate on your landscapes. Every other lot could likely support a canopy-size tree. All could support beautiful understory natives like redbuds, dogwoods, sourwoods, persimmons, etc. and shrubs like deciduous azaleas and viburnums. Open spots between yards could become meadows of native grasses and wildflowers. Your neighborhood gardening friends could visit each other’s yards to observe the butterflies, birds, and other creatures that gratefully appear to visit plantings. Your children could learn about the native natural world literally in their own back yards. The green world needs all of us to step up as we can. And thanks for helping that box turtle! Roads are such dangerous places for our native wildlife; they need all the help we can give them. Happy First Weekend of Fall!

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