For Clark DeLong and Jillian Parisi, establishing their nursery, Delmarva Native Plants, was a logical next step in careers dedicated to conserving wetlands in the Eastern Shore. “The main reason behind this nursery has been to put out native plant species into the marketplace, make local provenance, locally-sourced seed a main feature of this business, and help improve environmental restoration within the Delmarva region,” said Clark.
It’s time to clean and store those seeds! DNP specializes in growing both Spartina alterniflora (shown) and Spartina patens in plugs. These native grasses are used to make living shorelines which prevent erosion, improve water quality and provide habitat along the shoreline. #chesapeakebay #savethebay #md #nativeplants #spartina #shoreline #wetlands #landscape
The Eastern Shore is host to diverse habitats, soil types, organisms, and both fresh and saltwater. While there’s frequent rainfall, the soil itself is dry and sandy. Growing plants that thrive in a region with so much variation requires a growing medium like PittMoss® that provides root systems with superior water retention.
“One thing we’ve noticed [with PittMoss®] is we get better water retention when we pull the plants at the time of order fulfillment,” Clark said. “They retain water better than in the pine bark substrates that we’ve used in the past.”
When removing wetland plants from their growing environment in the nursery, water tends to drain from them rapidly. According to Clark, wetland plants require substrates that retain enough water for plants to remain hydrated while allowing excess water to drain freely when orders are pulled for customers.
“One of the big problems with pine bark is that when you pull the plants out, you get a rapid flush of drainage,” Clark said. “PittMoss® helps. Water drips out for a short time, and then they stay moist.”
Since switching from pine bark to PittMoss®, Clark has cut the amount of fertilizer he uses dramatically. “I’ve cut it by about a third,” he said. “I don’t integrate my fertilizer into the mix. I post-apply once the plants look like they need it, and I haven’t had to apply very much this year.”
Clark and Jillian grow two species of native plants, salt-meadow hay (Spartina patens) and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). “Non-native plant species used in ornamental landscapes do not provide food resources to native insects,” Clark said. By planting non-native species,“you’re excluding all of the insects that depend on native plants for sustenance.” This has a cascade effect where fewer native plant species mean fewer native insects and fewer birds and mammals who feed on them.
“One of the things that comes as a particular challenge with smooth cordgrass is that it has a tendency to root rather excessively,” said Clark. PittMoss® reduces the average size of pores within the substrate, preventing wetland species from exiting their containers. This proved to be an issue when he grew plants in pine bark. Clark finds that PittMoss® yields plants that are better rooted in their plugs and easier to remove from their trays.
Clark has already recommended PittMoss® to other growers. “The thing that’s always first and foremost on my mind is the sustainability of the product,” he said. Many nurseries that grow wetland plants use peat moss, which is harvested from wetlands. “I think that’s counterproductive,” said Clark. PittMoss® is sustainably produced from recycled newspaper, which aligns with Delmarva Native Plants’ practice of using substrate components that are sustainably sourced or the byproducts of other industries.
Clark also describes PittMoss® as being a “fun product to work with” because it’s both lightweight and easy to handle. “It saturates fairly easily compared to bark and peat moss, which can be a bit of a pain to get to the point of saturation.”
While there are many reasons to support wetland restoration, Clark says that the one that resonates with people the most is storm buffering. Delmarva Native Plants is an active part of this process. Their native plants are utilized in the wetland restoration projects that are increasingly being installed in the Mid-Atlantic region. These large-scale government works are designed to protect shoreline communities from future storm-related damage.
Lupinus perennis is unfortunately endangered in the state of Maryland. Luckily, through a special partnership with MD DNR we are growing lupine collected from a remnant population on the eastern shore. These plants will be used in DNR restoration work this summer/fall. Lupine grows in xeric, full sun habitats flowering in mid-May. Its short stature and delightful blue flowers are always a treat when you find them. #lupine #lupinus #nativeplants #endangeredplants #maryland #dnr #horticulture #restoration #delmarva
Planting native species in residential and commercial landscapes results in a higher-quality environment for both humans and the native birds, insects, and mammals who depend on them. Thanks to nurseries like Delmarva Native Plants, the commercial availability of native plant species is growing. By using PittMoss®, Clark and Jillian are helping to ensure that the process of growing native plants remains sustainable.
*Some quotations have been edited for clarity and brevity.