Giving Back to Montana

By Beacon Staff

In the Whitefish Farmer’s Market on Tuesday evening, Terry Divoky whips out a wildflower field guide to show an inquirer what a wild penstemon looks like in bloom. Another shopper stops by to ask advice about planting his wildflower seeds.

A connoisseur of native plants, Divoky sells potted wildflowers indigenous to Montana soils. But she is quick to point out to market browsers, “Rather than digging up plants, I grow them from seeds.” The owner of Windflower Native Plant Nursery in West Glacier is not your average greenhouse gardener. Her plants are delicacies seen growing on hillsides around the Flathead—fragile fushia Elkhorn, mountain hollyhock, yellow monkey flower, and bee balm.

Wildflowers produce delicate gardens, especially in contrast to bloom-heavy cultivated plants like dahlias or irises. But they require less fertilizer, are frost resistant, and once established, usually require less water than traditional gardens. One couple looking for plants for a dry spot in the garden queries Divoky for recommendations. Divoky picks up a potted yellow twin arnica grown from seeds gathered in Flathead Lake’s prairie grasses. The shoppers promptly buy two.

Divoky sells wild sages, penstemons to grow in terrible soil, and flowers that attract bees and butterflies. When seeking native plants, she recommends checking on their origin. “They should be started from seeds,” she says, “rather than dug from the ground where a hole is left for weeds to grow.”

If you miss Divoky at the Whitefish Farmer’s Market, you can arrange to stop by her greenhouse or check on her selection at www.windflowernativeplants.com. “Native plants are Montana’s natural regional beauty,” she says. “As we pave more roads and build more houses, we can give back to Montana by planting natives.”