The Wilton High School Organic Garden is holding a Native Wildflower Plant Sale just in time for what its gardeners say is the best time to plant wildflowers.
And planting wildflowers is a GOOD thing, helping to restore biodiversity to suburban landscapes with genetically native wildflowers that provide habitat and food for pollinators and caterpillars
The varieties being offered for sale are genetically native to the area, something the students and teachers behind the garden at WHS say is important.
According to a release sent out by the WHS Organic Garden, currently, most wildflower seeds available originate from out west. Scientists have recently discovered that planting seeds from one ecoregion into a different ecoregion weakens the overall genetics of the wildflower population, even if the species is native to both areas. To maintain healthy wild plant genetics, CT Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) has created a network of land trusts, organic farmers, scientists, landscapers, homeowners, and nurseries to sustainably collect wildflower seeds locally and grow them for restoration projects and for commercial sale.
Over this past school year, under the leadership of recent graduate Brett Gilman ’20, the WHS Organic Garden became the first high school in Connecticut as well as New England to participate in the CT-NOFA Ecotype Project, an initiative that aims to address the lack of sources of truly native wildflowers in Connecticut.
In addition to supporting local ecosystems, a portion of every plant sold will benefit the WHS Organic Garden club and its educational initiatives. These students are excited to be a part of such a groundbreaking project that has a positive impact on Wilton and beyond. “By purchasing and planting these native wildflowers, you will be directly helping our local ecosystems. There’s nothing more fulfilling,” says WHS Organic Garden president Eli Grass ’21.
Preorder online only by Wednesday, Sept. 2; Pick up at the Hickories Farm on Saturday, Sept. 12 (136 Lounsbury Rd, Ridgefield).
This fall’s selection features a total of 17 species of native wildflowers, including classics like joe pye weed and wild bergamot as well as newcomers such as swamp milkweed and fall sneezeweed.
These native wildflowers primarily support two essential ecosystem services. First off, native wildflowers offer floral resources to a variety of insect pollinators, which have been devastated by habitat destruction, pesticide use, and invasive species. Widespread environmental degradation has caused an “insect apocalypse” that threatens the survival of farms that rely on pollinators to produce food. Native wildflowers grown here at home from seed that originates in the region in which they will be planted will have a greater positive impact on native pollinator populations.
Secondly, these native wildflower species are larval hosts for myriad species of caterpillars. Providing habitat for caterpillars is important as they are the foremost food source for young birds and birds are indicators of healthy ecosystems. Thus, a high diversity of native plant species supports tens of species of caterpillars and therefore the birds that rely on them. This ultimately culminates in the creation of high-functioning biodiverse ecosystems.
Just like Wilton, suburban towns across Connecticut are becoming increasingly fragmented as roads and neighborhoods separate and diminish the few habitat patches that still remain. As these habitat patches disappear and lose their ability to sustain pollinators and caterpillars, the ecosystem services that sustain farms and other facets of human life vanish. Homeowners are uniquely suited to create widespread environmental change as installing native wildflowers in backyards and residential flower beds is absolutely critical to sustaining habitat for these insects. Planting just a few will have a significant impact.