Throughout North America, spring and summer mean it’s time to buy new plants for the garden, and while there are many large nurseries and garden centers, true plant enthusiasts know that treasures are often found in free-range plants. See you on sale. Here in the Northeast, we have more than a few who are willing to travel, whether it involves getting up early for a few hours of travel or booking a room somewhere.
Plant sales can come from many different sources.
Plant sales come in all sizes, from large botanic gardens to small ones, planted by local gardening clubs or associations that offer backyard growers and micro-nurseries the opportunity to share their plants. And because plant people are so well connected, these small plant sales often become annual social events, bringing together garden writers, book authors, garden designers, and plant collectors. .
Plant fairs are held in the Northeast.
The newest and probably hottest plant on the scene, in my opinion, is selling Sauconette Plant FairNow in second year. Held in May in the quaint coastal village of Little Compton, Rhode Island, this May plant sale invites an impressive selection of nurseries and planters to sell their plants.
Fortunately, the Sauconette Plant Fair fits into the established social calendar of plant sales in the Northeast, beginning and ending with the Galanthus Gala held in eastern Pennsylvania in February. Hollister House Plant Sale Held in Connecticut in September. But in between there are about a dozen excellent plant sales, e.g Stone harvest Plant sales in New York at the end of April and Trade secrets In Connecticut in May I consider Trade Secrets the grand name for plant sales, as it also includes garden antiques and sculptures. The new Sauconette Plant Fair is attractive because it focuses entirely on plants, which is fine by me.
Tips for shopping at plant sales
If you’ve never attended a plant sale, here are some guidelines to help you get the most out of the experience.
- Be sure to bring an extra flat or tray to carry the plants inside. One can quickly become overwhelmed with too many plants to grab and carry, and you don’t want to waste any time running to the car. Vendors often don’t have extra flats or bags.
- Bring a basket. Let’s be honest – these are impulse buying events, and competitive ones at that. You can’t approach a plant sale as if it were your local garden center, meaning a shopping list is nowhere to be found. Sellers often bring their best or most special plants, and only one of each may be available. There will be no time to run back to your car. Look the wrong way, and those double trilliums or violet-spotted epimediums will disappear. So bring a basket and see how silly you can look pulling that red wagon. I promise you won’t be alone.
- Get there before the event opens, but be prepared to wait. Most plant sales open exactly when listed, but will be crowded if not for long lines. You’ll want to be at the head of the line. No light weight, or you will lose.
- If it’s offered, often pony up for a valuable early entry ticket. These tickets are often expensive, but if you can afford it, purchasing an hour before everyone else is allowed in can mean the difference when it comes to getting those exclusive finds. Trust me — you’ll love that a portion of the high price of those tickets often goes to charity.
- Bring cash. Although many vendors now accept credit cards, nothing beats good old cash. You should be prepared because you know that once you see that plant you must have and have been looking for for five years, it will be sold by a vendor who only accepts cash. .
Do your research on native plant sales in your area, or consider venturing further afield. The effort will be worth it when you end up with exclusive acquisitions that you can’t find anywhere else.
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Matt Mattis is the author of two books: Mastering the art of flower gardening And Mastering the art of vegetable gardening. He farms in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Photos: Matt Matts