Plant sales! This blog is to encourage you to join us at the Berkeley Garden Club plant sale, on Saturday, May 19, from 9:00am to 3:00 pm at 131 Ashbury Avenue, El Cerrito, between Fairmont and Brighton (during the El Cerrito City Wide Garage Sale). The sale will include low-water use perennials, succulents, and California natives. We will also have vegetables, lots of tomatoes, herbs and annual starts. Additionally we will have tools, gifts, potted succulent arrangements and other garden related items.
My philosophy about plants is the more diversity the better! Each retail nursery (even the one my husband works in) is limited in space, in focus, and what is available from the growers at any time of the year. But the variety at a plant sale held by a local garden club has the resources of many volunteer propagators who can source/collect local seeds, cuttings and divisions from their own gardens and those of their neighbors. Some of my favorite plants have come from BGC plant sales, and when I look at them I also have the memory of the person/friend who propagated each plant.
Schools, like Merritt College, Diablo Valley College, and Cabrillo College have Spring and Fall plant sales based on the activities of the propagation classes and other interested students. I have found varieties of Alpine strawberries and other unique fruits and vegetables at the sales that local nurseries just don’t carry.
And botanical gardens, like the East Bay Regional Parks CA native botanical garden in Tilden, and the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden can also take advantage of collecting trips by their staff in many areas of California, most collecting with difficult to obtain permits. So at each of their Fall and Spring plant sales, they sell unique varieties that are simply not available in the quantities that nurseries would need to carry them for supply and financial reasons. I have found wonderful Salvia varieties, and rare CA natives at the botanical garden sales.
There are two other compelling reasons to shop plant sales. The first is that the garden clubs depend on the profits from the plant sales for their yearly budget: for many it is their main fundraiser of the year. And having taught at Merritt College for the past 9 years, I know that the money from their plant sales is a significant source of revenue for the Horticulture department and student activities.
The second reason that plant sales are so compelling to me is the education along with the socializing. Everyone there, from the volunteers staffing the sales to all of us customers are avid plant lovers. I always learn about new plants, many times from the volunteers who propagated the plants. The conversations are lively and filled with plant lore—from our successes and recommendations for absolute must-haves to, sadly, the plants that we killed. That later conversation is most instructive since it might save the plants that we grow from a similar fate—there is a lot of personal experience and knowledge that is passed around at a plant sale. So come by, on May 19, and join in the fun!