Originally Published: May 4, 2011 10:03 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The "Grow Native!" Plant Sale pays its annual spring visit to the Highlands Center for Natural History this Saturday with an expanded schedule that will include an educational festival.
In the past, the event was primarily designed to offer the public an opportunity to buy a variety of drought-tolerant, low-water use plant species that are native to the Central Arizona Highlands and, therefore, best suited for Prescott-area residents' yards and gardens.
This year's sale also will feature classroom lectures; hands-on workshops with master gardeners; free, 5- to 10-minute consultations with experts about how to landscape with native plants; and naturalist-guided native plant walks.
"We're beefing up the educational component," Highlands Center Executive Director Dave Irvine said. "People need to know more about native plants and how to select them. Even if your landscape is grown out, you can still learn how to care for and maintain it."
Admission into the sale is $5 per adult, although the fee will be waived for children as well as new and existing members of the Highlands Center at 1375 S. Walker Road on the Prescott National Forest near Lynx Lake. Irvine said non-members who choose to become members on the day of the sale will receive a free plant.
The day kicks off with a member preview of the sale from 8 to 8:30 a.m., followed by the general admission portion from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Four lectures will take place inside the center's Kieckhefer Classroom, starting with Gene Twaronite's discussion on cacti and succulents from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Keynote speaker Mary Irish, author of "Southwest Gardener's Guide," follows with a talk from 10 to 11 a.m.
Then, from 11:15 a.m. to noon, Liz Blakely will speak about discovering the secrets of bumblebees and how to plant flowers in a garden that attract the beneficial pollinators, which are suffering serious declines. Sue Smith of the Arizona Native Plant Society will conclude the lecture portion with a presentation about grasses from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
Other events will include hands-on workshops from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the center's Kiwanis Amphitheater.
For example, master gardeners will share key information about soil types, watering schedules and techniques for plants. Herdis MacClellan, a master gardener with the schoolyard habitat program, will present a workshop on vermicomposting, which uses earthworms to turn organic wastes into high quality compost.
In addition, landscape architects Steve Morgan and Nichole Trushell of Landscapes for Life LLC will give free, short consultations on landscaping with native plants from 8:30 a.m. to noon. During these sit-down chats, gardeners might describe the conditions of their yards for Morgan and Trushell, who would subsequently share the types of plants most suitable for those plots.
Highlands Center naturalists also will leave every hour on the hour from the amphitheater to guide walks focused on how to interpret and identify native plants in the wild.
Irvine added that the event's education portion will teach participants how to properly water the native plants that they buy as well as the best areas to put those plants in their yard or garden.
For each educational component of the festival that a person attends, he or she will receive a raffle ticket. Tickets will later be collected at the event table of Credit Union West, the sale's main sponsor, for entrance into an hourly drawing to win a signed copy of Irish's "Southwest Gardener's Guide."
For more information about the native plant sale, call the Highlands Center at 776-9550 or log on to www.highlandscenter.org.
All proceeds from the event will go to help support the center's outdoor educational programs and provide scholarships for children to attend the complex's "Friend Understanding Nature" day camps.