It is simple to taste the difference between a locally grown, freshly picked strawberry and its supermarket counterpart grown and shipped from California. It is more complicated to tell the difference between a locally grown plant and one shipped to a big box garden store. Although I still, on occasion, pick up a flat of pansies at the Home Depot, I prefer to buy local plants for the following reasons:
1) Local nurseries are more likely to use organic or heirloom seeds and fertilizers
I have bought herbs at big box stores for half the price of those at the Shepherdstown farmers' market. Inevitably, I lose some of the herbs when they are switched to my organic gardening methods. Also, since many commercially grown veggies and flowers are hybrids, you can't save seeds or have volunteers the following season.
2) You can find native species and plants that are well suited for our climate and growing season
For years, I kept buying heather from a local big box store, captivated by its little flowers. Little did I know, heather would never grow in my basic soil and really isn't suited for our climate. When I go to local garden club sales, I know most of these plants have grown in soil & climates similar to mine.
3) Plant sales and local nurseries support the greening of our local economy.
Every plant I buy locally helps support a sustainable economy and adds oxygen and good stuff to our local ecosystem. It is thrilling to go to farmers markets and plant sales in Washington, DC and MD and VA and see our Eastern Panhandle growers well represented.
The pictures show two of my favorite locally grown perennial plants. Native honeysuckle (lonicera sempervirens) is not invasive and has a gorgeous red flower. It is a climbing vine and has color throughout the year. The little flower is North American native Prairie Smoke (geum triflorum) which does well in my full sun and clay soil in front of my house. When it blooms it has wispy pink "smoke" petals.
To buy your local plants this spring consider some of my favorites:
Local farmers markets
Blandy Arboretum (VA) Plant Fest May 9 & 10, 2015
Potomac Mecklenburg Garden Club Plant Sale the first Saturday in May
Boonsboro Green Fest (MD) May 9th, 2015
Shepherdstown Elementary School Redbud Festival the first Sunday in May
Winston Garden Native Nursery (FINAL SALE!) May 2 & 3