Annual plant sale helps Cape May Nature Center grow its programs

Annual plant sale helps Nature Center grow its programs

Original Content Written by Mary LinehanThursday, May 09, 2013 05:09 am

Attention: open in a new window. Plants and shrubs are set up for a weekend sale at the Nature Center of Cape May

 CAPE MAY – The New Jersey Audubon Nature Center of Cape May will host its annual plant sale fundraiser this weekend, looking to surpass last year’s slow sales.

“We have this written into our operating budget, so it’s important we meet our goals,” said Gretchen Whitman, the center’s director. “Our pre-sale orders have hit about $4,000, so we are looking to close the gap on the $7,000 mark with onsite sales.”

The Nature Center will have plants out for pick up and sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 12.

“There’s a footrace in Cape May Saturday morning, so it might be a challenge to get to us – but we’ll be here, throughout the race and into the afternoon,” said Whitman.

The center is located at 1600 Delaware Avenue overlooking the bay near U.S. Coast Guard housing.

The plants for sale are a “majority of native plants,” Whitman said.

“Not all are native, but they are all wildlife beneficial,” she said. “We don’t sell anything that is considered invasive, and they are all plants that thrive in local conditions. We want people to be successful in creating a backyard habitat that is beautiful and attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and other birds.”

Many of the center’s staff and volunteers hold Master Gardner certification, setting them up as a great resource for those buying, Whitman said.

“People bring sketches and pictures of their yards and we can make recommendations, even on design,” she said. “Sometimes, we can make arrangements to view a yard and make recommendations in exchange for a donation to the Center.”

The center is also promoting its plant fundraiser for a Mother’s Day shopping spree. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12.

Whitman said the center closed over the winter because of finances. Staffing cuts had to be made, she said.

“We closed over the winter,” Whitman said. “We are in year five or so of this recession and we had to financially regroup.

But the center’s winter closure allowed the staff to complete some needed work.

“We’ll be done with most of the projects by next weekend, but we’ve redone the laboratory/classroom with fish tanks, new countertops, fresh paint and a new layout,” she said. “We also added the ‘Nature Nook,’ which I’d equate with a ‘Please Touch’ kind of museum. It’s in our second floor lounge and houses a number of natural objects, and Tina, the Eastern Box Turtle we’ve adopted from another center. We are looking to add a salamander and a snake to the collection.”

The second floor lounge offers clear views of the bay, including a pair of nesting ospreys.

“We are so pleased to see them back – there a was a storm a few summers ago that took down their nest, but they’ve settled on a new channel marker. We haven’t seen any chicks yet, but are keeping a look out,” Whitman said.

The center opened for the season on April 15 and is welcoming the public in to take a look, she said.

The Nature Center of Cape May is part of the state’s Audubon Society, a private, non-profit statewide membership organization, that aims to foster environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among New Jersey’s citizens, according to the society’s website. It also protects New Jersey’s birds, mammals and other animals and plants, especially endangered and threatened species, and promotes preservation of New Jersey’s valuable natural habitat.

According to Whitman, the group’s centers are independently funded.

“We aren’t subsidized by the state group. We operate on a budget strung together with donations, program fees, locally sold New Jersey Audubon memberships, and fundraisers,” she said. “So this is the kind of thing that keeps program fees affordable for families.”

The center is accepting registration for its summer programs, including the summer intern program for teenagers run through Rutgers 4-H Summer Teen Leadership Institute and the center’s eight-week “Discovery Kids” program. There is also an “Aqua Trails Kayak and Paddle Board Camp.”

The Nature Center of Cape May was founded in 1992. For more information, call 898-8848 or

Plants and shrubs are set up for a weekend sale at the Nature Center of Cape May

photos courtesy of the Nature Center of Cape May