|Flower Hunter (from Window on the Chesapeake)|
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Treasures indeed are these humble little roots, for they represent all that Sara is trying to achieve in her effort to preserve, protect and propagate wildflowers born and bred of the Chesapeake Bay. At her Chesapeake Native Nursery in Davidsonville, a few miles south of Annapolis, she is doing what few others have done here—growing native wildflowers from the local ecosystem to produce native seed and seedlings.
|This story is an excerpt from Window on the Chesapeake by Wendy Mitman Clarke. To order this book, visit the Mariner's Museum.|
Sara defines “native” as plants that were present before Europeans arrived in the 1600s, and she has partnered with the Maryland Department of Agriculture to develop a “source identification program.” That is, the same inspectors who go out and check that farmers are, indeed, growing the seed they say they are, will also examine parent populations of wildflowers that Sara has identified and verify them, ultimately certifying the provenance of her seeds. If a parent population is in no danger, Sara gets permission from the landowner to collect seeds from the flowers to cultivate on the farm. If the bulldozers are fueling up, she gets permission from the developer to rescue as many of the plants as possible….the next step is getting them to grow, and if the two-acre garden in Davidsonville is any indication, she and her part-time employees (along with her husband, Bill) have a green thumb. Designed in a huge circle, with mulched paths shooting from the center like spokes, the nursery is now home to about forty wildflower species, among them the glowing Maryland goldenaster, the exuberant daisy fleabane….the cobalt blue bottle gentian, Maryland’s own indigenous cactus, the prickly pear, the elegant foxglove beardtongue and the charming pink fuzzy bean, which Sara says attracts the most exotic caterpillars in the whole place. “We get to see all the very coolest bugs, all the best bugs,” she says. Her biggest challenge now, she says, is learning how to run a growing business. And still finding time to get her hands dirty.