Tucked away on the Mount Pleasant Golf Course is a one of Charm City’s best-kept-secrets: Blue Water Baltimore’s Herring Run Nursery. The native plant nursery is an ideal spot for landscaping enthusiasts seaching for an extensive variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers native to the Chesapeake Bay region.
Blue Water Baltimore, a nonprofit group, focuses on making Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor healthier. We’ve covered a few of the group’s impressive stormwater and green projects: The Jones Falls River trout stream restoration, the coolest street alley makeover ever and the team’s tireless commitment to the Harbor’s cleanup efforts.
The group also runs the Herring Run Nursery, which sells native plants to the public and wholesalers. I thought it would be fun to try out natives in containers this summer, so I visited this past rainy weekend.
Like many, my husband and I have made a spring tradition of buying annuals for our patio containers. But I have discovered that many nurseries and big box stores purchase annuals from growers that spray nasty bee-killing pesticides on the annuals. Furthermore, many of the plants, fruits and vegetables found in Baltimore yards today are immigrants from other continents and regions. Many are invasive and a bit fussy to care for, as they are really suited for different regions.
I called my native plant expert friend, Grow Landscape Designs owner Jean Mellott, to learn what’s important to know about native plants. She’s lent a design hand in many of Blue Water Baltimore’s rain gardens and storm water projects, including a beautiful rain garden at our church.
“Maryland’s state butterfly is the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly and this insect only eats White Turtleheads,” she offered as an example.
As it turns out, native insects and many pollinators eat only native plants. When we plant natives in our landscapes, we are boosting the insect food supply. A plentiful insect population ensures migrating and terrestrial birds have plenty to eat as most feed their offspring insects. It’s that circle-of-life thing.
They also help the ground beneath them, she said.
“Native plants tend to have deep roots, which helps with soil erosion and helps maintain and filter water. Our soil in the Chesapeake Bay region tends to be clay. Deep-rooted plants provide lots of pockets for water absorption and also reduce soil erosion by anchoring the dirt with their roots.”
Natives also require less work than alien counterparts.
“If you’re looking for lower-maintenance plants, native plants need less watering. Better yet, natives require less fertilizer as natives evolved to thrive in our region’s weather and soil conditions,” said Mellott.
She also suggested thinking outside the lawn. Replacing sections of your lawn with native plants would reduce the nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer needed for a perfect look. Less fertilizer storm runoff in the bay leads to fewer to algal blooms and dead zones. Also, less mowing means less air pollution.
My trip to Herring Run Nursery was quite productive. The nursery sells more than 250 plants, including trees, shrubs, edibles, perennials, grasses and ferns. I was surprised at how many plants I had never seen Two very helpful plant experts were on hand to help me choose the right ones to put on the sunny and shady sections of my patio.
Every plant sale helps Baltimore continue to get cleaner and greener. Plus, the nursery’s proceeds fund Blue Water Baltimore’s many programs. It doesn’t get better than that.
Herring Run Nursery is located at 6131 Hillen Road next to the Mount Pleasant Golf Course. The nursery is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through October. Check the nursery’s website for hours or call 844-756-8688.