From June grass to the purple flowers of the New England aster, Denise Gehring loves educating gardeners about the native plants of the Oak Openings region.
Ms. Gehring was doing just that on Sunday afternoon at the fall plant sale of the Toledo Botanical Garden, helping shoppers select plants based on their garden's soil, available space, and sun or shady areas.
The sale highlighted native regional grasses, trees, shrubs, and other plants.
Oak Openings is more than just a local Metropark; it is also the name for a region in parts of Lucas, Wood, Henry and Fulton counties and portions of southeast Michigan. Its native landscape is characterized by sandy soil and widely-branched oak trees and is a transition from oak woodlands to prairie. This landscape exists only in pockets now. The Nature Conservancy has called it "One of America's Last Greatest Places."
Ms. Gehring said gardeners can plant native species to preserve biodiversity, and also because they are easier to maintain, having adapted to the region's ecosystem over thousands of years.
"Native plants in gardens not only reduce habitat fragmentation, they reduce challenges in gardening," she said, as they can flourish with less watering or maintenance than non-native plants.
Shopper Melanie Navarre of Sylvania Township said she has native plants such as big bluestem and little bluestem grasses in the sandy soil of her garden and appreciates their low-maintenance needs.
"They are adapted to the area," she said.
Jan Hunter, owner of Naturally Native Nursery, was at the sale to talk to shoppers about pollinators, such as bees, insects, and hummingbirds that aid flowering plants in pollination. Ms. Hunter, sporting green nail polish, joked she has 10 green thumbs as she explained the benefits of native plants.
"They are better for the environment," she said. "They provide food and shelter for wildlife. They are as beautiful as any cultivated plant."
Proceeds from the sale benefit the Toledo Botanical Garden, said Susan Noblet, greenhouse technician for the botanical garden.
However, she said, "Our goal is less about revenue and more about educating the public."