Your local Texas garden is having a spring plant sale – yay! After you add it to your calendar, it’s time to start preparing. That’s right, prepare. See, as a garden newbie, I was very excited to go to my first sale at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden in the spring of 2014. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Don’t get the wrong impression – it was lovely. But there are a few things I wish I would’ve known before I went. To make sure other new gardening enthusiasts won’t be surprised when they arrive at these types of sales, I’m sharing what I wish I would’ve known before my first adventure.
1. Expect it to be intense. If it’s not, be grateful.
The main reason I decided to go to the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden sale was because I discovered that the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (a.k.a. NPSOT) would be there. Since some native plants are hard to find in stores, I identified the plants I wanted to get from NPSOT, as well as a few I was on the fence about, ahead of time. Two points for having a list (probably one of the only things I did right)!
When I arrived 15 to 20 minutes after the sale had started, NPSOT was already sold out of several of the plants I wanted. Seriously?! After realizing a leisurely pace would not be of benefit to me that morning, I kicked it into high gear, managing to snatch a few of the remaining plants that were on my list. This involved reaching around people that were reading the placards about a plant’s size and ideal environment. These people were either just browsing or didn’t understand the urgency with which they needed to shop.
I grabbed one tray’s worth of plants and hid it under a table, telling a NPSOT volunteer that I would be coming back for it, and went to get the rest of my selection, keeping a hawk eye on my unattended tray. Luckily, I came back to my tray just in time to politely inform a curious shopper that those were, indeed, my plants. Whew – what a close one!
2. Get there before the sale starts. The rest of the times provided don’t matter.
Like I’ve indicated, this garden crowd is serious. They know that they’re getting good quality plants and they’re excited about it. Beyond their enthusiasm for horticulture, they know there’s a limited supply. This is their only shot this season to get these plants from this garden sale. It’s now or never.
By the time I arrived at my first sale – and that was only 15 to 20 minutes after the start time – many helpful things the botanic garden provided shoppers was gone. Wagons were all in use. Trays were in limited supply. I was hearing buzz about how long the line was an hour before the sale started. Mental note taken.
3. Bring a wagon.
If you were lucky enough to receive a handy wagon from your mother-in-law for your birthday, bring it! If not, see if you can borrow one from a neighbor.
You might be thinking, That sounds a little overboard. It’s just a plant sale. But when you’re in the energized environment and people are snapping up flowers you wanted, you’ll find that you have no time to drop off your plants at the holding area. Besides, you can hold twice as many plants with a wagon than you can with a measly little plant tray, which brings me to…
4. Take your own plant trays to play it safe.
Some sales will have trays, but they might be taken before you can get to one. Also, if you don’t want to bring a wagon, or your car can’t hold one, you’ll be happy to have the trays, which allow you to hold up to 12 plants rather than three you can hold in each hand.
If the sale you’re attending doesn’t have a holding area, you’ll have to wait in line to pay, take the plants to your car and come back to go a second round. By that time, there’s a good chance the plants you wanted will in someone else’s wagon.
5. Having a buddy (or two) is extremely helpful.
You will need someone to help you with something. Whether it’s holding your plants while you dart in between people to get a perennial on the other side of the grounds or having someone wheel your wagon around, you’ll be happy you brought someone. Plus, life is more fun with companions, and afterward you can bond over the wonderful experience that is a local plant sale.
I hope I didn’t scare you away.
While an event like this might get your adrenaline pumping, they are fun, and the staff and volunteers at these events are incredibly helpful, knowledgeable and kind.
And I’m happy to report that the Fort Worth Botanic Garden changed up their spring plant sale a little this year. They offered a pre-sale for garden members on Thursday and two days of the sale for the public, as opposed to their one-day public sale when I first went.
Since I had a membership this year, a neighbor and I opted to go to the pre-sale. While there were people lined up before the start of the members-only sale, the atmosphere was much more laid back. We took our time browsing and never felt hurried or worried that a certain type of plant would be sold out. The cost of membership was worth the contrasting shopping experience.
However, they were out of wagons when we arrived one minute after they opened the gates. Good thing we brought our own. 🙂