A Plant Sale that Offers Guilt-Free Buying and Answers to Gardening Questions
With “education” the operative word, BBG provides descriptive, informative plant signage and plenty of helpful advice from expert staff and volunteers who provide information on growing and garden design.
By Thomas Christopher
If, like most gardeners in the Northeast you are hungry for spring, take heart: you’ll find a garden shopper’s paradise on Mother’s Day weekend at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. As its welcome to the new growing season, the Garden will be offering unparalleled botanical riches. More than 500 different types of choice garden plants will be on sale from 9:00 to 5:00 on Friday, May 10th and Saturday, May 11. Admission and parking are free.
Just as important as the wealth of choices, though, will be the wealth of information. Garden staff and volunteers, landscapers and expert private gardeners — will be on hand to answer questions. There will also be a booth manned by graduates of the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association training program where you can have your gardening questions answered. The emphasis of this sale, after all, is not just to sell you plants, but to connect you with plants that will satisfy your tastes and needs and flourish in your garden. As always at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, education is part of the goal. Novice gardeners are sure to appreciate the signage included with each type of plant that not only shows a picture of the mature plant when it’s in bloom or otherwise at its peak, but also a description of its needs and a list of other plants with which it partners well.
One of the most useful innovations at the BBG (“Be-a-Better-Gardener”) Sale is to group the plants by habitat. For example, you’ll find plants suited for open, sunny areas grouped together in one spot, and plants for woodland edges together in another.
Plants for dry areas are also grouped together, as are plants for shady woodlands, and there will be a display area for traditional stalwarts of garden beds and borders. Thanks to this system, you don’t have to pick through the whole of the sale to find plants adapted to the special conditions of your garden. Instead, you can go to the appropriate section of this sale and see a whole garden’s-worth of plants that should flourish in your plot. Of course, given the diversity of habitats found in most gardens, you’ll likely want to make more than one stop.
There will also be collections of plants for special purposes. The Botanical Garden staff have been starting annuals and tropicals in the Garden’s greenhouse and these will be joined by many donations in a selection guaranteed to bring quick, summer-long color to any landscape. Many of the plants that will be for sale are those you are most unlikely to find at the local garden center. The collection of vines, for instance, will include a dozen different species and hybrid clematises, a collector’s dream.
The Garden tries, says Dorthe Hviid, BBG’s Director of Horticulture, “to have a really good selection” in this plant sale, “both tried and true workhorses, but also new and up-and-coming [introductions] because gardeners always like to experiment with something new.” There will be a lot of native plants, both natives of North America and, more specifically, natives of New England, cultivars as well as species types, for those who are inclined that way.
Gardeners who, on the other hand, are looking for something exotic may try the vendors who also join in the sale. Broken Arrow Nursery, a Connecticut nursery that specializes in unusual and garden-worthy woody plants, will be bringing a selection of its wares to the Sale on Friday. For those customers interested in the kitchen garden, the Farm at Miller’s Crossing of Hudson, New York will be selling organically grown herb and vegetable seedlings both days.
For the literate gardener, there will be a broad selection of used gardening books on sale. In addition, there is a silent auction, in which garden-related items as varied as an arborist’s services or a load of compost are available for bid. All of this, adds Dorthe Hviid, is in the service of the Botanical Garden’s educational mission, to which proceeds are dedicated, “so you can spend without guilt.” And if you’ve ever considered becoming a member of the Berkshire Botanical Garden, this is the time to act, for the first two hours of the Sale, from 9:00 -11:00 on Friday morning are reserved for members only. Members also receive a 10% discount.
For more information, including a complete plant list, go to www.berkshirebotanical.org/events/plant-sale.
Thomas Christopher is the co-author of “Garden Revolution” (Timber Press, 2016) and is a volunteer at Berkshire Botanical Garden. berkshirebotanical.org
Be-a-Better-Gardener is a community service of Berkshire Botanical Garden, one of the nation’s oldest botanical gardens in Stockbridge, MA. Its mission to provide knowledge of gardening and the environment through 25 display gardens and a diverse range of classes informs and inspires thousands of students and visitors on horticultural topics every year. Thomas Christopher is the co-author of Garden Revolution (Timber press, 2016) and is a volunteer at Berkshire Botanical Garden. berkshirebotanical.org.