By Pete Prown
‘Tis the season for plant sales, the inevitable rite of spring that makes us go weak in the knees and buy garden goodies, whether we need them or not. Here are five “hacks” to make your plant hunting a success.
1. Make a preflight plan before you go nuts and buy everything in sight. If your garden’s color palette is comprised of cool blue, pink, and white hues, stay away from those hot orange marigolds and that basket of purple petunias you’re drooling over. You’ll regret it later.
2. Buy flowering plants that are mostly still in bud, not already flowering out. They’ll give you a longer, better show than those that look great on the shelf — but are really half-done with their bloom cycle.
3. If a plant looks dry and saggy in the pot, put it back. It could be stressed or diseased, and on its way to the compost heap before you even get home. Also, turn leaves over and check for signs of aphids and mites.
4. Read the label! We often get excited by diminutive potted shrubs — without reading that it will grow into a 12 foot tall, shaggy behemoth within a few years. If the label on a perennial says “Full Sun,” it won’t thrive in shade, no matter how much you pray. Lastly, if there is no label, but you have a smartphone, remember: Google is your friend.
5. If you buy more plants than you really need, give them away to friends. Most plant sales benefit charitable organizations, so a few extra plants in the back seat is a pardonable offense. (Speaking of which, here’s a bonus plant sale hack: put a tarp or old towel in the car, so you can set the plants on them and not get your seats or trunk messy on the ride home).
Providence Garden Club Plant Sale, April 29 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) & April 30 (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Williamson Free Trade School, 106 S. New Middletown Rd, Media, PA. providencegardenclub.weebly.com. Plants that attract butterflies, birds, and other “pollinators” to your garden.
Bartram’s Garden Spring Plant Sale, April 30 & May 1 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Bartram’s Garden, 5400 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia. bartramsgarden.org. Heirloom roses, Franklinia trees, perennials, herbs, native & aquatic plants, flowering vines.
Three Plant Sales in Swarthmore, May 7 (8:30 a.m.), Swarthmore Town Center, swarthmorehorticulturalsociety.org. Everything from rare salvias to evergreen shrubs and herbs.
77th Annual Yellow Springs Herb Sale, May 12 (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) Historic Yellow Springs in Chester Springs, Pa. hsaphiladelphia.org. A vast array of herbs.
Native Plant Sale in Rose Valley, May 14 (9 a.m. to noon), Saul Wildlife Preserve, 1 Old Mill Lane, Rose Valley. firstname.lastname@example.org. Plant and a free invasive-plant workshop.
Scott Arboretum Selections: The Spring Sale, May 21 (noon to 3 p.m.), Wister Center, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore College. scottarboretum.org. Unusual tropicals, annuals, shrubs, spring ephemerals.