BG Native Plant Project

Promotion of Native Plant Production and Sales in VA

Goal: Make available to the buying public a dependable source of native plants under an established, quality, name brand that will provide expanded and profitable production opportunities and marketing for existing and new Virginia ornamental plants producers.

Issue/problem: Native plants are those that evolved naturally in a particular area and were growing naturally in this area before humans introduced plants from distant places. With the ever growing urbanization there is a trend for transition of certain percent of the land from utilitarian use (agriculture crops for consumption) to use for increase of quality of life (crops for beautification of private and public properties). This trend causes an increased competition between the nurseries which in order to achieve competitive edge introduce more and more exotic plants with striking ornamental characteristics. The introductions are often done with little or no testing for their invasive potential, as well for their potential impact to the local flora and fauna. Such approach poses significant risk to the environment. It could also alter the quality of life of the communities across the state and nationally, and as a consequence – to jeopardize the reputation of the nursery industry and ultimately shrink its revenue.

Interest: With the growing awareness of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding the role of the natural components for a balanced environment, an increasing number of homeowners, professional landscapers, and conservation specialists are interested in promotion of the role of the native plants for restoring the balance in the ecosystems, and for creating mini-natural areas in the yards, parks and arboreta.

Project importance: Beautiful Gardens® Plant Introduction Program capitalizes on both – the growing demand for native plants, and on its established infrastructure and initiation of successful promotional activities. We propose the addition of a native plant category to the Beautiful Gardens® plant promotion program. Emphasis on this group of plants would expand the grower opportunities for production and profit, provide greater visibility and response to Beautiful Gardens® and create increased awareness and action on the part of consumers to help improve the environment, water quality and animal habitats.

This project represents a collaborative effort of Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), Virginia Nurserymen’s Association Horticulture Research Foundation (VNAHRF), and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Potential Impact

  1. Adding native plants to the Beautiful Gardens® inventory will call for full usage of evaluation facilities and research capabilities of the program.
  2. Work in the area of native plants will expand demand for the research capabilities of the tissue culture lab in Danville and the associated with the institute commercial spin-off company.
  3. Expanded credibility among participating and new growers to the program.
  4. Greater interest from participating and potential new independent retail garden centers in Virginia (and the middle Atlantic area in the future).
  5. Will include input from potential plant sources, the Beautiful Gardens® evaluation staff, the horticulture department of Virginia Tech, VDACS marketing, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the tissue culture lab and selected individuals from the Virginia horticulture industry.
  6. Increased availability of ‘locally grown’ native plants.
  7. Increased awareness and an implied need to act on behalf of our declining environment.
  8. The ultimate goal of the program is to positively impact:

a) the environment by restoring the tradition of growing local native plants;
b) Virginia nurseries and retail centers by increasing their plant palette, and
c) the future generation of Virginians by teaching them in the values of native plants for a balanced environment and living in harmony with the nature.

Expected Measurable Outcome

  1. Organize 2 meetings with nurserymen in 2010 and 2011 and educate approx 50 participants in each of these meetings in the importance of growing native plants. According to data available through Virginia Native Plant Society,  only 12 nurseries out of 233 registered in Virginia offer native plants. We are aware that much more than 12 nurseries are involved in growing natives, but it is obvious that only 12 of them are advertizing this section of their inventory as a separate group.
  2. This project will attempt to increase native plant production by Virginia growers (new and existing) by 25% or more at the end of 2 years, and continue that growth rate for a five year period. The information regarding the number of nurseries currently involved in native plants production may not be accurate and complete. It will be verified by the surveys the program is intending to carry. Numbers of growers will be reviewed and plants grown will be surveyed annually.
  3. Increased sales of native plants by participating garden centers with 15% within the scope of the project, and with 35% in 5 year period. Sales of Beautiful Gardens® native plants at participating garden centers will be surveyed annually.

Partial Funding from a grant from VDACS/USDA Specialty Crops, the VNLA and the Virginia Tech Department of Horticulture.

For additional information, contact:
Lisa Lipsey, VNLA Beautiful Gardens Program Coordinator
(540) 231-6961

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