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Lavender plants thrive in full sun and are drought resistant.

May 15, 2014
Flowers have a language of their own.

At the Grosse Pointe Park annual plant exchange not only are the plants talking, but the people are chatting as well. The event is from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 17, rain or shine, at the Tompkins Activity Center, Windmill Pointe Park. Free mulch is available while it lasts. Master Gardeners and the city forester are in attendance to answer questions at the free event to which the public can attend.

"We feel it is a bonding event among the communities as we tend to greet the same people each year," chairman of the Park's beautification commission Bob Ramsey said in an e-mail. "A fun atmosphere exists at the event, almost like a fair with parents pulling kids in wagons and all of the friendly swapping. We try to make this a meaningful and useful, as well as fun, endeavor."

Begun at least 15 years ago, Ramsey said, the plant exchange grows every year.

Homeowners with too many hosta or lily of the valley swap them, perhaps, for plants that thrive in Zone 6.

"Native plants are a smart choice for Michigan gardeners," said Dee Cimini, a beautification commissioner and a Master Gardener volunteer since 2009. "These plants are well-adapted to our soil and climate. This means less watering and fertilization. These hardy plants build incredible root systems that help rebuild the soil, help filter water and are better pest resistant plants."

Her suggestions for sunny locations are:

Queen-Anne's lace,

cow slip,

rose mallow,

purple cone flower and

evening primrose.

"Your location will require at least six hours of direct sunlight a day," she advised. "Visualize this spot when all surrounding trees have leafed out because it will make a difference."

Suggested native plants to plant in shaded areas are:

cardinal flower,

Jack-in-the-pulpit,

black-eyed Susan,

common milkweed and

wild strawberry.

These are only suggestions and there are many other native Michigan plants from which to choose.

Since there is always something new to learn about gardening, Master Gardeners are on hand to answer questions and point to Michigan State Extension Service literature. Also, the MSU website msue.msu.edu provides gardening tips, Cimini said.

"The extent of detailed information provided will help the inquiring gardener," she said. "I stress the importance of research.

"Use compost to enrich your soil. Natural mulches will reduce weeds, retain water and sustain soil life. Select plants that are suited for your location, sun versus shade, etc. Also, select plants that are pest resistant and disease resistant. If space is limited, you can use container gardening. You need at least six hours of direct sunlight for most flowering perennials. If you want season-long color, you will have to do a lot of research. I like to start with early bulbs, then sweet William and creeping phlox, Lenten roses, oriental poppies. You can always add annuals to keep the color going, mums and Japanese wind flowers work great for late season color."

A common sense piece of advice Cimini provides would-be gardeners is: "If you don't have the time or inclination, stick with annuals."

Master Gardener Jolene Shrake suggested flowers be planted in the right spot, remove old flowers to encourage reblooming, know whether or not the plant is invasive, choose plants that either bloom all summer or plants that will succeed each other in blooming.

The Grosse Pointe gardener can come away from the plant exchange with plants, answers, literature and mulch.

"We usually provide free mulch and some left over seedlings from Arbor Week festivities," Ramsey said.

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