Facebook fans, 17,500+ of them, are helping Kim Brand, Audubon North Carolina, to create demand for locally grown native plants specifically targeted to increase bird habitat throughout North Carolina.
“It was a perfect start,” Kim said about the 2015 rollout of the Audubon NC Bird Friendly Communities program. More than 60 green industry businesses have signed up. Another 10 joined during the NC Nursery & Landscape Association’s Green & Growin 2016 Trade Show, where I caught up with Kim to check in.
The program, a national pilot, works through Audubon NC’s 10,000 members and 10 local chapters. The program began about two years ago when Kim reached out to urban foresters, local planners and the nursery industry to begin a discussion of how to encourage more bird-friendly plants in North Carolina’s rapidly expanding urban areas.
Engaging the nursery industry from the start has been a big part of their success. For instance, allowing use of cultivars, in addition to straight species when appropriate, has enabled Audubon NC to connect with a larger group of nurserymen and retail garden centers.
Retailer Christine Teele from Midtown Garden Market in North Wilkesboro was in Kim’s booth literally raving about how much value she got from her participation in year one. Her customers enjoy bird and butterfly gardening. They also like natives, she said, adding “people love them because they are easier to take care of.” Combine that with NC Audubon’s colorful tag clearly marking local bird-friendly plants and for her Bird-Friendly Native Plants program that has been a great success. Midtown Garden Market is just one of the retailers promoted on the Audubon NC website.
Participating nurseries are promoted on the Audubon NC website and in promotional literature that’s sent to garden centers across the state. Industry participants also receive promotional brochures, plant tags and educational presentations for customers, as well as access to photos, background information and other materials that can be used in social media or on the company’s own website.
One of the most important aspects of Kim’s role is connecting garden centers who want to participate with nurseries growing the plants, which can be easier said than accomplished. Not all native plant nurseries have enough supply to meet the demand needs of larger garden centers.
Audubon NC volunteers on the 22-person implementation team use Local Roots North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Native Plants materials to conduct seminars and outreach at garden centers, other plant retail centers and in reaching out to local and regional elected officials, planners and regulators. As a result of their work, the city of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have adopted Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Native Plants list in their recommended plants for new and re-development in an ordinance (UDO-266). New introductory language says, “The use of native plants is recommended where possible.” The plant list also had invasives like Euonymus alatus, Hedera helix, Elaeagnus angustifolia, Nandina domestica and Pyrus calleryana cvs. removed.
Local Roots officially continues through 2017. What’s next? Helping nurseries build their supply chain of natives. Anyone with tips or connections for helping North Carolina nurseries to source commercial quantities of native woody plant cuttings and seedlings, please contact Kim at email@example.com
NewTerrain February 1, 2016