MONROE — The 30th annual Snohomish Conservation District native plant sale Saturday offers more than just a chance to buy Douglas fir seedlings for cheap.
People can submit their soil to have it tested free of charge, learn about landscaping, buy a rain barrel or pick up a mason bee house and join their children in fun activities.
This popular sale draws hundreds of people interested in attracting wildlife, improving salmon habitat and controlling erosion on their land.
“Native plants help protect our soil and the environment in general,” said conservation district outreach specialist Laura Goff. “The great thing about these plants is that they are adapted to our climate and they flourish without extra water. And they don’t need fertilizer chemicals.”
Conservation district staff, master gardeners and many other volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about individual trees, shrubs, ground covers, ferns and flowering perennials and how to plant them.
Speakers at the event include author Jessi Bloom, who plans to talk about transforming yards into beautiful, sustainable landscapes by selecting the right native plants; ethnobotanist Jessica Paige, who will offer a class on medicinal uses of native plants and a make-your-own workshop; and WSU Extension forester Kevin Zobrist, who just released a book on his workshop topic — native Western Washington trees.
Bloom speaks at 9 a.m., Paige at 11:15 a.m. and Zobrist at 1:30 p.m., all in the Longhouse on the fairgrounds.
Kids can look at soil under microscopes and have their pictures taken in a photo booth stocked with fun props.
Since the sale doubles this year as a 30th anniversary party, longtime conservation district employee Lois Ruskell also plans to be there.
For 25 years, Ruskell ran the plant sale, from its humble beginnings three decades ago on the back of a pick-up truck parked at the Everett Mall to its current home at the fairgrounds.
“Five years ago, I decided it was time to let younger minds and stronger backs handle the sale,” Ruskell said. “I am proud that we now have more than 100 people who volunteer.”
Ruskell has plenty of tales about the sale’s history in the county. One time about a dozen years ago, Homeland Security held up a shipment of conifer plugs at the Blaine border. She never did find out why these boxes of small trees from a Canadian nursery were of concern, but she picked them up the next day and delivered them just in time for the plant sale.
“When I drive around the county,” Ruskell said, “I pass places where I can say, ‘Oh, yes, they bought those trees from us.’ Think of all the beauty and oxygen these plants have provided.”
New this year at the sale, plants will be available in smaller bundle sizes and “pollinator packets,” which contain seeds to cover 500 square feet with native flowers and grasses, will be offered.
Puget Sound junipers make a debut at the sale this year as well. Slow-growing and long-lived, these trees are common on coastal bluffs and bear attractive blue berries.
Other evergreen trees on sale include Douglas fir, noble fir, shore pine, hemlock, Sitka spruce, Western red cedar and Pacific madrona.
In British Columbia, madronas are called arbutus, after the scientific name. The red-bark madronas do not grow easily. The trees must have plenty of sun and well-drained soil. They do well on slopes and seem to grow best closer to the Salish Sea.
Deciduous trees include the big leaf maple, black cottonwood, cascara, paper birch, red alder, bitter cherry, willow and Pacific dogwood, which offer white flowers in the spring and orange fruit in the fall.
Ground covers available for sale include bear grass, lupine, bunchberry, penstemon, deer fern, iris, marsh violet, coneflower, bleeding heart, columbine and kinnikinnick, the toughest ground cover around.
Evergreen shrubs on the sale list include huckleberry, lingonberry, Oregon grape, salal and Pacific rhododendron, which is the state flower and blooms in May and June.
Deciduous shrubs at the sale will include serviceberry, vine maple, beaked filbert, Indian plum, mock orange, Nootka rose, oceanspray, Pacific crabapple, red osier dogwood, salmonberry, snowberry, gooseberry, thimbleberry and red-flowering currant. The currant is popular because it has gorgeous spring blooms, grows quickly and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; email@example.com. Twitter: @galefiege.
For more information, go to www.theplantsale.org, call 425-335-5634 ext. 4, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.