CLEVELAND — Meadow City Nursery, a shop that sells only native plants, opened in June with the goal of educating the community of the benefits of growing native plants.
Native plants have been in the places they’re grown for thousands of years and are ideal for the local ecosystem and wildlife.
“So, gardening with native plants can be really rewarding,” Julie Slater, founder of Meadow City Nursery, said. “Because you plant them in your garden, and then you get to see it being visited by native butterflies, little native bees, by birds that are eating the seeds or the insects, and you can have a much more lively garden.”
Many nurseries sell plants that come from other places across the globe, and while they may be beautiful, they’re not ideal for the bees and birds living in your backyard. Slater said 90% of insects, over thousands of years, have built relationships with local plants.
So, when you plant a flower from Europe in your garden, the local bees won’t recognize it as a food source.
Dave Tomashefski, education specialist at Meadow City, said in the past 20 years in Ohio, butterflies have declined by a third, and over 25% of North American bumblebees are threatened with extinction.
But growing native gardens could help address the issue.
“In the past 10 years, there’s been this realization that we can do a lot to turn these things around by increasing a habitat, and we can do it in our yards, just by the way we landscape,” Tomashefski said. “We don’t need to turn our yards into a forest. It could just have to do with what we put in our gardens.”
Slater said Meadow City started with some small pop-ups around the city until they were able to open a nursery on a plot of land on Cleveland’s east side in June. She said she hopes this will provide the community with a place they can reliably count on to get native plants.
“We thought the response would be good, but it was even better than we thought,” Slater said. “There’s a lot of organizations that have been doing really good work, teaching people about native plants and their benefits. So, in Cleveland, we found that people were really ready for it and excited for it.”
Because the response has been so good, Slater said they’re hoping to continue to grow and evolve to serve the community.
So, they’re keeping an eye on a couple more vacant lots.
“Starting next year, we’re hoping to offer trees and shrubs,” Slater said. “We’d really like to help reforest Cleveland, and a big part of the dream is to be able to hire some of our neighbors. We’ve had a really warm welcome from our neighboring community, and I think it’d just be incredibly rewarding to offer some people's jobs as well, though the nursery.”