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Plant something, Alabama!

Gardening may not be for everyone, but plants sure are.

That’s the idea behind Plant Something Alabama, a new statewide educational and informational campaign designed to “inspire, educate and encourage” gardeners and nongardeners alike to get more plants in the ground — and in their lives.

Launched in April by the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association (ALNLA), Plant Something Alabama is part of a national program (plant-something.org) created to raise awareness of the many contributions plants make to our lives — from improving environmental quality, enhancing property values and reducing energy costs to enriching our minds, bodies and souls. (See sidebar for more.)

“Commonly referred to as ‘plant blindness,’ society is slowly losing its fundamental understanding of the benefits plants provide,” said ALNLA Executive Director Russell Wood. “Through Plant Something Alabama, we hope to reverse that trend by connecting the public with their local green industry professionals to spread knowledge, enthusiasm and an appreciation of plants!”

Here in Alabama, plants help grow our economy. The wholesale and retail plant growers and sellers, landscape contractors and designers, scientists, irrigation installers and others who work in and around the horticultural industry help generate an estimated $2.9 billion and nearly 44,000 jobs for the state each year.

Through Plant Something Alabama, those industry members want to also cultivate a deeper appreciation for plants.

Take Mary Beth Shaddix, for example. She and her husband David grow everything from trees and shrubs to native and bog plants for the wholesale market at their Maple Valley Nursery in Sterrett, Ala. She’s been helping develop the Plant Something Alabama website, but as gardener and garden and food writer herself, Shaddix knows that different people have different interests in plants.

“Some may want to grow healthy produce, others may want to enhance their property’s value and still others may simply want to grow something beautiful,” she says. “Whether you’re interested in beauty or real estate values or that tasty tomato, Plant Something Alabama can help.”

How does it help? Through www.plantsomethingalabama.com, an online goldmine of information suitable for gardeners and nongardeners alike. The site provides links to experts across the state and nation and to information on topics ranging from gardening basics to choosing landscape plants to planting for pollinators. It also has a “finder” button that connects visitors to an unparalleled source of information, Alabama’s locally owned garden centers and nurseries. Just type in your zipcode to find one close to you.

These small, often family-run businesses offer a wide array of high-quality, healthy plants that are well adapted to local growing conditions. They also offer the chance to reinvest our plant dollars in our own communities. And best of all, these businesses provide access to local wisdom.

“You can get one-to-one personal advice from people who know about local plants and growing conditions and are passionate about plants,” Shaddix says. “That’s who you want helping you!”

You can also help in return by using the free printable and shareable graphics, posters and other material available on the Plant Something Alabama website to start a plant conversation online or in your community. You can also become a Plant Something Alabama sponsor or help grow the website by emailing hello@plantsomethingalabama.com or calling 334-821-5148 with suggestions for future articles, content, links or businesses.

And, of course, the most important thing you can is this: Go plant something!


The power of planting

Planting one tree — or one shrub, herb, vegetable, vine or flower for that matter — can be a powerful personal act, so imagine the superpower we’d create if we all joined forces and planted together. Here’s just a sample of how powerful plants can be.

Strategically planting trees, shrubs and other plants around homes can reduce home energy consumption by 25 percent.

A well-planted yard can increase a home’s resale value by 15 percent.

A single mature tree can remove 40 pounds or more of carbon dioxide each year while also producing enough oxygen to supply up to four people each day.

There’s enough available land across the globe to plant 1.2 trillion trees, the act of which could significantly reduce the effects of climate change.

Many studies have shown that tending plants or simply being around them, whether outdoors or indoors, increases our health, happiness, concentration, memory, healing abilities and overall sense of well-being.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.