Giving green: Daniel Boone Native Gardens plants the seed for new community growth

A+volunteer+handles+Queen-of-the-Prairie+seeds+that+will+be+placed+in+the+seed+library+in+preparation+for+National+Seed+Swap+Day.+

Max Correa

A volunteer handles Queen-of-the-Prairie seeds that will be placed in the seed library in preparation for National Seed Swap Day.

Aubrey Smith, A&C Editor

At the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, a unique new addition stands tall. Not a fountain, or a birdhouse, but a colorfully painted box with dozens of seeds inside. 

Little Free Libraries, a book sharing movement devoted to expanding the access of books, have put up more than 100,000 little libraries in neighborhoods across countries. Similar to these neighborhood fixtures, The North Carolina Native Plant Society and the Daniel Boone Native Gardens worked together to create and install a free seed library. 

Annkatrin Rose, associate professor of biology and member of the plant society, began exploring the idea of a seed library when looking at COVID-safe alternatives for the organization’s December seed swap, the plant society’s big holiday event where members exchange native seeds of all sorts. 

“I saw that the Watauga (County Public) Library had one of these little seed libraries,” Rose said. “So I got in touch with the person who built their library.” 

Fortunately for the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, the people who built the free seed libraries for the Watauga Public Library had an extra one and donated it to the gardens. 

Volunteers and donations ensure the upkeep of the free seed library. 

“A couple of members donated time to install it at the gardens,” Rose said. “And we have some other members, and myself, who packaged up seeds and are donating the seeds for it.”

A fully voluntary effort, Professor Rose and other volunteers helped build, donate, and package seeds for use in the free seed library. (Max Correa)

The seed library was set up just before Christmas and, according to Rose, has already been a huge success. 

“People have been taking lots of seeds so far,” Rose said. “We have restocked it already four or five times.” 

Sue McBean, a member of the North Carolina Native Plant Society, believes the seed library is a worthwhile resource for anyone interested in native plants. 

“Anybody who wants to grow native plants it’s available to,” McBean said. “It’s a good way to start out.” 

Native plants are valuable to the entire ecosystem, said McBean, and are beneficial to butterflies, bees and countless other organisms. While growing native plants may seem intimidating, McBean advises beginners not to be discouraged and to do some research before planting.

North Carolina Plant Society member Katherine Shoffner believes the seed library will encourage people to use native plants in their gardens and for ecological recovery, Shoffner wrote in an email.

“This area is a rich, biodiverse region,” Shoffner said. “It is more important for native plants to be widely used in gardens to support the invertebrates or insects.”

The seed library comes stocked with strictly native plant seeds, from brown-eyed Susans to hollow Joe-Pye weed. Anyone can take or donate seeds, and it serves as a new common ground for those interested in native plants.

Debbie Shetterly, a Daniel Boone Native Gardens board member, has been taking advantage of the new seed library.

“I always am anxious to see what’s available there,” Shetterly said. “There’s nothing more fun in the spring than watching your seeds come up.”

National Seed Swap Day is Friday, and Rose said it’s the perfect time to start growing native plants. 

“That date works perfect for these native plants because you can still plant them outside,” Rose said. “They still get the cold weather they need.” 

In addition to the seed library at the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, there are also seed libraries located at the Watauga County and Ashe County public libraries, which provide open-pollinated and heirloom seeds for anyone interested in gardening.