Monday, April 30, 2012

Plant sales: Christmas for plant geeks

It’s been a busy week hitting up all the local plant sales and farm markets in search of bargains on perennials and herb/vegetable plants for the garden. One of the plants sales I look forward to the most every year is at Maymont Estate and Gardens in Richmond. The sprawling grounds host hundreds of vendors selling vegetable and herb plants, fresh produce, crafts, ornamental plants, and educational groups offering classes on gardening.  You could easily spend an entire day there; in fact, it’s not unusual to see people leaving with several red wagons full of plants. Remarkably, I was able to have some restraint this year and only bought three plants: a giant-leafed basil called ‘Mammoth’ (see pic below), an ornamental grass, and a Japanese painted fern for my mom. Well, or it started raining before I could snatch up more goodies.


Late this week is a plant sale at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, which is fairly similar to the one at Maymont. I enjoy going to this one because I often run into my Plant Materials professor from college, and both of us being major plant nerds, we chat for a while about our experiences with different plants, and generally  all things gardening. He also teaches the plant propagation course, and sells a lot of plants he propagates, including some new varieties developed from seed or genetic mutations, as well as grafted plants. I’ve also had the pleasure to talk to the gentleman who is doing major research and propagation on new cold-hardy varieties of flowering magnolias at the Gardens. His work shows promise of new magnolias that boast more impressive flowers that should bloom after the threat of the last spring frost.

So, take the time to hit up your local plant sales…you’ll get quite an education and come away with plants you’re not likely to find at the big box stores.

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