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Break Out the Trowels and Go Native

OCEAN – It’s a fun, family-friendly event full of beautiful native plants; coastal artists and craftsmen; entertainment and special guests. You’ll want to spend the day at the N.C. Coastal Federation’s annual Native Plant Festival on Saturday, April 28. (Or become a member of the federation and get a sneak peek the day before.)

The festival takes place at federation headquarters, 3609 N.C. 24 in Ocean – about halfway between Morehead City and Swansboro – from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The members-only preview takes place Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can become a member on-site that day if you wish.

“Each year the festival gets bigger and better,” said Rose Rundell, a federation administrative assistant and the festival’s primary organizer. “It’s taken on life of its own.”

Come early to beat the crowds and to get the best pick of the plants.

The festival has several new features this year. Special guest Dr. Orrin Pilkey will offer discussions and answer questions about global climate change during the festival and during the members-only preview. Pilkey is director emeritus of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, now at Western Carolina University, and the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. He recently published a new book, Global Climate Change: A Primer.

A lively and sought-after speaker, Pilkey is sure to challenge and entertain. He will discuss and sign his new book on Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Saturday he’ll also be on hand from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Craftsmen and artists will surround the federation grounds with hand-crafted pottery, jewelry, baskets, bird houses and art. Popular folk artist Frank Gaines will entertain with songs and ballads. Hungry festival-goers can enjoy fresh-baked muffins and deli sandwiches from Garden Gate Deli.

Saturday afternoon, Second Wind Ecotours and Yoga Studio of Swansboro will offer an afternoon session of Qi Gong from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dea Daniels, a registered nurse, will conduct the session, which is appropriate for most physical levels. Qi Gong is a powerful system of healing and energy medicine from China that uses breathing techniques, gentle movement and focus to cleanse, strengthen and circulate life energy. The session is free, but donations will be accepted.

Festival goers buy plants by the wheel barrow full.

Of course, the main attraction is the almost 4,000 native plants, flowers, shrubs and trees that will be available for sale. Native plants have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. Coastal natives, for instance, have adapted to the geography, hydrology and climate of the region and will thrive with less care. Native plants also provide habitat for a variety of  wildlife species such as songbirds and butterflies, turning your yard into a haven.

Native plants also provide a beautiful, hardy, drought-resistant, low-maintenance landscape that benefits the environment. Once established, they save time and money by eliminating or significantly reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides and water.

This year’s plant collection offers the best-sellers of festivals past, including fruit-bearing shrubs and trees. Black cherry trees, elderberry, blueberry and persimmon trees do well in our coastal area and will be available. Local food doesn’t get more local than your own backyard.

Federation members get a sneak peek at the massive plant assortment on Friday, April 27, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., an early opportunity to buy plants and a chance to meet and chat with Pilkey. Members are required to show their membership card for admittance. Guests and visitors may join on-site or online at the federation’s Web site.

To learn more about the Native Plant Festival or to join the federation and attend the Members’ Preview, look at the list of plants and artists below or call 252-393-8185.

About the Author

Christine Miller

Christine Miller joined the Federation in 2006 and is an assistant director. In addition to being one of our staff writers, she also works on strategic planning, project design and federal agency relationships. She holds a master's degree in coastal management and marine policy from the University of Delaware and has worked on coastal issues since 1996. She spends as much time as possible in, on and under the water.