Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Shoulda Coulda, Plant Sale Edition February 28, 2009

When my blog buddy Melanthia of Garden Muse asked via a comment last night if I was going to the University of Washington Arboretum plant sale today, at first I blew it off. Plant sales in February? I haven’t done anything to prepare any ground yet, nor have I got a clue about the ways I hope to solve some really persistent issues in my garden. Eh, I thought, there will be others, no hurry.

Then, late this morning, I got curious and looked at the Arboretum Foundation’s web site. I almost shrieked when I saw what the sale was for – to get rid of all the amazing plants showcased in “Entry to Cascadia,” my #1 favorite show garden from the recent NW Flower & Garden Show! Ack!

The sale was supposed to last from 10am to 2pm, and I only figured out at 12:30 that I wanted to go. Since we were doing a little tag-team parenting today and it was about to be my shift, I grabbed some leftover pizza and hustled my daughter into the car, along with her trusty Radio Flyer red wagon (used more more frequently by me at plant sales than by her for riding in these days).

When we got there at around 1pm, a single tired and rather frazzled leftover volunteer announced that the sale was over, there was nothing left. Boo! Then she recanted and said that there might be a few things still out there, but that the person collecting the money had gone home so I wouldn’t be able to buy anything today. Double boo! I guess the early bird got the plants, in this case. Oh, if only I’d paid more attention! I might have had to throw some elbows, but it would have been worth it to come home with even one of my favorites from this garden, Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’

Thuja plicata 'Whipcord' and friends

or an ‘Icicle’ white Ribes sanguineum. Dang. Wonder if they were selling those amazing cobra lilies? If Melanthia got some, I’m going to be seriously jealous (and impressed).

Cobra lily

As it was, pretty much all that was left were a couple of spindly ceanothus, one giant Ribes sanguineum sans pot (a good deal though at $30, I almost bit, but was told it was forced and will eventually turn pink – I had my heart set on the white ones)

Big ol' ribes sanguineum (forced for garden show)

a whole lotta kinnikinnik

Manymany kinnikinnik

and various mahonia, of which I bought two (Mahonia aquifolium) and then regretted it about an hour later when I came home and called my mom, and she told me that they are terrible root spreaders and that I’d regret it forever if I put them in my garden. Oops – they were supposed to be part of my pathetically belated effort to get a little more winter interest into my parking strip garden.

Mahonia aquifolium plants in red wagon

Here’s what I need to do right now – get out my calendar, do some majorly exhaustive web searches, and figure out which sales I am not going to miss for the rest of the year. I haven’t yet found a central listing spot for every Seattle-area sale. It seems like each organization just has their own calendar, then the newspapers occasionally do a round-up of the more major ones. But I want to know about, if not actually attend, them all, so that I don’t miss out on any more chances at snagging my new must-have plants. Hm, another project for the ever-lengthening list.

Oh well, we had fun in the Arboretum anyway, and I got to explain the concept of a “fool’s errand” to my daughter (making sure she knew the fool in question was not her, but me!). We saw our first Rhododendron blooms of the season

First glimpse of Rhododendon, Feb. 28, 2009

some winter beds that still looked interesting, plus I liked the pavers edging it

Winter bed at Arboretum

a little elf-beard of lichen

Neat lichen

and this really really shiny variegated holly (? I think)

Variegated holly?

How about you? Do you organize your plant shopping like a society wedding, or just tend to just go when the urge to plant something hits you?


7 Responses to “Shoulda Coulda, Plant Sale Edition”

  1. Sue Says:

    Most of the plant sales around here are wimpy, except for the Spring Affair, which is put on by a nursery a couple hours from here. The University of Nebraska has something to do with it, too. I think they organize the volunteers who work the sale. I have a list started for this late April sale, which is always huge and awesome. I’ll try to go to the other sales, which are fundraisers, and see if they have anything I could use. I actually supply quite a few plants for one of them, but this year, I think I’m taking a break from it, because we have our grandson on Saturdays.

    I’m sorry you missed out on the plants you wanted.

  2. Grace Says:

    What a disappointment this must have been. But now you know–next year. Last year one of our local plant haunts (Garland Nursery) held a free tour of two wholesale plant growers. One of them was Peoria Gardens. I was of the impression that they grew only annuals until I saw their display garden and the huge selection of perennials. Well apparently they open to the public for a week or so in July. I will NOT miss this sale. One other sale that I attended for the first time was the Polk County Hardy Plant Society fall sale. Friends and I went last year and it was fabulous. So yes, my calendar will be filled in on those dates–with red pen! Nichols Garden Nursery and a few local club sales are also must-go but I’ve been going for so many years, they’ve earned an indelible groove in my gray matter. Plant sales are so fun. Plant sales and garden tours–my favorite way to spend the day.

  3. Catherine Says:

    Oh, that’s too bad you missed out. I bet it was crazy for everything to have been gone that quickly. It sounds like you and your daughter still ended up having fun.

  4. Melanthia Says:

    You have no idea! I got there at 10:20 and it was already well picked over. They had been lining up since about 9:45 so there was no chance at anything. Plus there were very few of the most-wanted plants, including only seven of your ‘Whipcord.’ Oh, but moss they couldn’t give away! And no worries, there was no sign of that elusive Cobra Lily. I went home with a flowering currant and several kinnikinnick for my parking strip. I too am searching for an all-inclusive plant sale list. I guess SAGBUTT will have to create its own!

  5. Megan Says:

    I go to most sales if I have budget and energy. I’ve been curious about one sale up in your area. Have you been to the rhododendron species foundation sale before? I’m wondering if it’s worth the 6 hours of driving. Last year I balked at the last second.

  6. Racquel Says:

    I never miss the Native Plant Sales (3 a year) at our local living museum each year. The spring sale is on April 19th this year and I’ll be there!

  7. Laura Says:

    I am totally a fly by the seat of her pants kind of gal. I am looking to plant mostly food and need to get on it soon, if it’s not going to be relegated to the icky Next Year catagory. 🙂

    I have found that farmers markets have great starters, usually. I got some sage last year at the Wallingford FM that managed to stay alive through all of our snow. (I threw a bathtowel over it for the big snow dumps.)

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