Exploding native-plant interest at Sugar Creek Gardens plus events

By Marcia Myers
Blog Editor, St. Louis Wild Ones

Abby Elliott, the owner of Sugar Creek Gardens

Abby Elliott in front of tables designated for native plants

Barely three years ago, most customers at Sugar Creek Gardens were not looking for native plants. Fast forward to this year when Abby Elliott, the owner, plans to increase the tables for native plants: seven tables just for sun-loving, four tables for shade-loving including woodland, and a expanded shrub section.

Abby noticed the trend last year. “It’s just exploding,” she said. “I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. If anything it’s going to become more popular.” Abby thinks the city programs and the monarch situation are adding to the trend.

What do customers want?

Customers are looking for plants to build habitat for birds and butterflies, especially hummingbirds and monarchs.

In addition, rain gardens are super popular, especially if the customer has a wet spot. These areas are low maintenance and provide water run-off control to reduce flooding and conserve water, which then helps the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

Another trend is prairie plants because of their low-maintenance features. These plants have massive taproots after they are established.  Shrubs take about three years and perennials one-and-a half to two years.

Red toad trillium (Trillium sessile)

Red toad trillium (Trillium sessile)

Which plants are popular?

Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) has always been a favorite.

Customers ask for the more commonly known plants, like:

  • Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
  • Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

Two popular shade plants are:

  • Goats beard (Aruncus dioicus)
  • Wild ginger (Asarum canadense)

There’s an increasing interest in edible native plants:

  • Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
  • Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)

Some native plants are aggressive so be sure to ask for advice.

Long row of tables for native plants

This entire row is designated almost entirely for native plants.

Sugar Creek gives free consultations at the Gardens under certain circumstances. “We plan, you plant,” Abby said. The requirements are if you:

  • Make an appointment
  • Bring photos of the location
  • Measure the space
  • Know what the lighting is
  • Provide the conditions such as soggy, dry, or nothing will grow there

Most of Sugar Creek Garden’s plants are grown in Missouri. Abby said they try to get as local as possible. Because they have trouble finding certain ones, they get people to grow the plants for them or find species in far-away locations. For example, the yellow-fringed orchid (Plantanathera ciliaris) is coming all the way from the Netherlands. The plant is bred and born there and finished (grown to selling size) at Sugar Creek Gardens.

Programs focusing on native plants at Sugar Creek Gardens
*Wild Ones members receive 10% off during the April 16 event.

“Gardening can be intimidating,” Abby said. “Programs are a great way to get started.”

Topic: Landscaping with Missouri Native Plants
Speaker: Betty Struckhoff, St. Louis Wild Ones member
When: Tuesday, April 12, 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration: None

Topic: A Morning with Missouri Native Plant Experts*
Volunteers: St. Louis Wild Ones members will be on hand to answer questions
When: Saturday, April 16, 9:00 a.m. – noon
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration: None
*Note: Wild Ones members receive 10% off. Betty will have the name badges at the event.

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Topic: Bring Conservation Home
Speaker: Mitch Leachman, Executive Director, St. Louis Audubon Society
When: Thursday, April 7, 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration: None

Topic: A Cross-pollinator Party: A Gathering of Like-minded Individuals
What:  A meet-and-greet event
Who:  Any plant society/garden club
When: Saturday, May 21, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration: None
Note: Wine, punch, and snacks will be served

Topic: Gardening with Missouri Native Plants
Speaker: Nancy Scheidt, manager at Sugar Creek Gardens
When: Saturday, June 18, 10:00 a.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration: None

Topic: Monarch Mania Gardening for Wildlife
Speaker: Nancy Scheidt, manager at Sugar Creek Gardens
When: Saturday, August 13, 10:00 a.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration: None

2 thoughts on “Exploding native-plant interest at Sugar Creek Gardens plus events

  1. Thanks for spotlighting such a great nursery and listing their free talks and events, Marcia. It’s heartening to know that so many people are investing in native plants, and they can purchase them locally at Sugar Creek through the growing season, not just in early spring.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Peggy. Thank you. It’s great that the number of people interested in native plants is growing!

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