By P.L. Byrd
GREENSBORO — For a concrete lover, the 2012 Green and Growin’ Trade Show might not have been the most exciting place to spend a chilly mid-January afternoon.
But for a plant aficionado, it was heaven.
In booth after booth, plants both familiar and exotic were showcased on Jan. 19 and 20 in a coliseum decked out in finery befitting a royal wedding. Knowledgeable exhibitors were eager to talk about their latest projects, including Jim Kulp, owner of Wind Chime Nursery and Landscaping in Mocksville.
“This is a lot of fun for me,” Kulp said. “Many hours of work go into preparing for a show this size, but it’s worth it, mainly because of the friends who stop by and the camaraderie of my fellow plant growers.”
Kulp, a State plant-certified grower, offers 10 greenhouses, thousands of plants and free landscape design to his customers. Plus, he sells at the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market in Colfax.
But his fastest-growing project is the Hanes Mall Farmer’s Market in Winston Salem. “I’m working on an idea with mall management to grow “pick your own” vegetables and fruits inside the mall,” he said.
One display demanding attention was Seaside Mulch from Castle Hayne. Seaside manufactures hardwood bark, pine bark, cypress, soil mixes and their newest product, NuLeaf organic compost. Sales Representative Lee Craft said,
“While our primary business has been directed at the wholesale market, we’ll soon offer our organic compost in smaller quantities for people interested in less bulk.”
He watched potential customers inspect, feel and smell the rich, dark compost.
Craft smiled as he walked toward the group. “Soon, North Carolina backyard gardeners will be able to purchase compost that comes from our state,” he said. “Compost they can trust.”
Linda Surprenant, Category Developer of new products for Liberty Hardware, was excited to introduce her company’s newest tool, a spiral anchor called “vortex.” The spiral design makes installation, removal and relocation an easy chore. “We’ve designed what we consider to be the best ground anchors for trees, tents, or temporary fencing,” Ms. Surprenant said. Vortex anchor “pull force” ranges from 70 pounds for a 7.5-inch anchor — perfect for beach or camping trips — to 425 pounds for a 16-inch anchor, designed to shore up temporary fencing or other large farm jobs.
While plants, tools and fertilizers were being sold on the trade floor, professional and educational booths offering free information queued up in the lobby.
The hottest topic was native plants, and many growers said they have seen an up click in the market. “Customers are asking for them,” said one local grower.
Lynda Waldrep, vice president of The N.C. Native Plant Society, said, “So many plants from China and Japan are taking over our native species. They are aggressive growers. Plus, they come in without the same natural predators, so there’s no control.”
One of the most important things about native plants, according to society volunteer Joanne Lapple, is maintaining a healthy ecosystem and keeping food corridors open.
“It’s not just about the plant,” she said. “Native plants support native bugs and birds.”
For example, the non-native, offensively odiferous Bradford Pear tree may support a dozen species of bugs, including a few non-discriminating butterflies, but an oak tree supports over 500. “Maybe someday bugs will love non-native plants, but it will take eons.”
The North Carolina Urban Forest Council representative placed serious-looking pamphlets about tree hazards alongside slick brochures for the Legacy Tree Fund. According to the Council, if every American family planted just one tree, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually.
If you missed an opportunity to buy bedding plants or a tree at the Green and Growin show, never fear: North Carolina boasts many professionals who would love to help you choose the right greenery for your yard.
But not just any tree, according to Roland Jones, N.C. Native Plant Society member. “The butterflies would be grateful for a native.”
To learn more about the NC Urban Forest Council, visit their website at www.ncufc.org.
For more information on the NC Native Plant Society, visit their website at www.ncwildflower.org.
Links to companies featured in this article:
Liberty Hardware: www.libertyhardware.com
Seaside Mulch: www.seasidemulch.com
Wind Chime Nursery and Landscaping: www.windchimenursery.com