Joy Grissom and Gerry Moll had been friends for some time. They shared hiking adventures and a love for gardening. But in 2015 they took on new roles: saving native plants in harm’s way.
At the time, Grissom and Moll were seeing a lot of development happening around the Knoxville area. They knew development meant destruction of the ferns and wildflowers, the shrubs and trees that already existed on the properties. So they grabbed their shovels and trowels and set out to save them. And Native Plant Rescue Squad was born.
One of the first tracts they cleared was 100 acres that belonged to a friend. Grissom says they rescued thousands of plants over a year and a half. “It was a good learning opportunity,” she said. “I learned a lot more about taxonomy research.”
Since then, their rescue scheme has become formalized: NPRS is now a nonprofit educational organization and has a contract with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to collect wildlife. It often works with developers to arrange for plants to be cleared before work is started on a property.
Now, teams of volunteers work at about 10 to 15 sites a year, Grissom said. Plants they’ve collected are gathered and potted at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum in East Knoxville. Even without work at a site, there’s still regular nursery work that must be done.
Gardeners can order plants for pickup from the rescue squad by emailing email@example.com. Generally, perennials are in either quart size pots for $5 or gallon size pots for $8, according to their website. Trees and shrubs vary between $8 and $40. Sometimes the group sells plants at local festivals, and Stanley’s Greenhouse, Pratt’s Country Store and Three Rivers Co-op also sells them from time to time. Sometimes the rescue squad gives them away to nonprofits or schools, particularly if they have hundreds of something on hand. Grissom also offers landscape services, to help restore the plants in native gardens.
To learn more about the Native Plant Rescue Squad, go to www.nativeplantrescuesquad.org.