Spring Plant Sales


Readers often ask where I find such unusual and interesting plants, and the answer is that I am always looking. ALWAYS. I scan corner shops as I walk by. I look in places you would not expect to find plants. I beg friends with cars to take me on buying trips to hole-in-the-wall nurseries outside of the city. I am fortunate in that I have lots of generous gardening friends who share the surplus from their own gardens. And in the spring months, I go to all of the local plant sales.

While not all plant sales are created equal — some can be overpriced and others carry lots of junk — many one day sales put on by horticultural societies and botanical gardens can be a great way to find unusual, well cared-for plants, at below retail prices. Plant sales also give these organizations and public gardens a bit of a funding boost.


Just yesterday Davin and I rented a car for a few hours and headed out to the Toronto Botanical Garden to hit up the Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society sale. It was our 20th anniversary together and not only was he willing to go with me to the sale, but he tolerated driving around endlessly in circles fighting for a parking spot, and then sat with the car so that I could run in and shop when it became apparent that finding somewhere to park was a futile effort. It was a particularly crazy sale, and while I am old hat at these things, I was at times overwhelmed and could have used my own advice on navigating the mayhem. As I hustled like a mad person to make the most of the trip and get out of there before Davin perished in the car, I looked around and saw couples like us. One half of a pair quietly standing to the side of the frenzy, a box of plants in hand. The other calling across the murmur, “Hey Jim! Jim! JIM!! What do you think of this one?” “Sure.” Jim replies. “Get it!” You can tell that Jim really could not care less — one variegated Pelargonium is the same as the next. But he replies with enthusiasm, content to be a witness to the pleasure in his partner’s voice.

I often write personally, but I don’t write much about my personal life (there is a difference). However, I think it is high time that I publicly praise the man who uncomplainingly tolerates and lovingly encourages my obsessions, most notably gardening. This is no small thing. Gardening alone (aside from my other many interests) is an all-consuming activity, the effects of which (for better and worse) are also very much felt by him. Thank you Davin for understanding what I need and being so willing to be an active part of it.

I don’t often post about local events because the majority of you to do not live in my city. However, many of you have been writing in to ask where I get plants, so I thought I’d post the last few sales of the season (that I know of). And if you know of a similar botanical garden or horticultural group sale in your area (please no big box stores), feel free to let us know in the comments. There may be gardeners in your area that are looking for new places to pick up something new and fabulous.

Toronto Botanical Garden Plant Fair

When: Open to the public on May 9 and 10, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. | May 11 and 12, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
Where: 777 Lawrence Avenue East (on the southwest corner of Lawrence Avenue and Leslie Street)
What: Hardy perennials, annuals, natives, herbs and vegetables, shrubs, vines, succulents, and small trees. Paul Zammit does the buying and he has a great eye for interesting and unusual plants, especially anything with beautiful foliage.

Parkdale Horticultural Society Plant Sale
When: Saturday, May 11th 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
Where: Community Centre at the corner of Lansdowne and Seaforth
What: Annuals, herbs, perennials, bushes, etc starting at $1 and going up to about $10. I like the Connoisseur’s Table and they also have a second room featuring out of town nurseries and other vendors.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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14 thoughts on “Spring Plant Sales

  1. I am in Southern Oregon, the Rogue Valley…

    The best was this past weekend, the Master Gardener’s annual Spring Garden Fair. It was their 34th year, with more than 150 plant vendors and exhibitors. Last year I got some wonderful heirloom tomatoes. I am nursing an injured foot, so I missed it this year.


    Next weekend I hope to get to the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s Heritage Plant Sale. I haven’t been to that one before. It is held at historic Hanley Farm.


    Also, later this week is the nearby high school’s FFA (Future Farmers of America) plant sale. The high school (Crater) has a horticulture program, greenhouses etc. I got my lemon cucumbers there last year, and they produced so well. I put them in containers with upside down tomato cages. They had wonderful zinnias and portulaca too. I didn’t need tomatoes from them.


    A lot of my herbs are just from a local store, but it is local, and many of their plants are from nurseries right nearby. That would be The Grange Co-op. They carry tomato varieties developed for this area, and even named for the town!

    The Farmers’ Market has herbs too.
    These next are individual sellers…

    My tomatoes are from a lady who sells them in the parking lot of a mini-market! She is called The Tomato Lady. She is there most weekdays later in the week, weather permitting. She is the reason I threw out my homegrown seedlings! Mine were an inch or two, her’s are 2′! She has many kinds. Her Ace are the best tomatoes I have ever eaten! She sets up her tomatoes outside Dick’s Market on Beall in Central Point. (She usually posts on Craigslist if she is going to be there.)

    I get pepper plants from Tasty Flavors Farm, although you can get other vegetables too. They have a lot of heritage and heirloom varieties of tomatoes.

    I am fortunate to live in an agriculture area, where it seems everybody and his brother grows and sells produce! I love it! Eggs are left in coolers on the side of the road. You take the eggs, put in the money. Unattended jam stands too.

    • So the lead in picture looked a LOT like my car after my sister & I hit up a nursery in Portland on one of our trips. We were supposed to moderate each other… but it just didn’t work out that way.

    • Amazing list of places.

      Fortunately the haul in that car was not all mine — shared between 5 people! Although, I still came out with the most.

  2. Could you share the name of a few of your favourite hole-in-the-wall nurseries?


  3. Amen to the partners who put up with us! My husband has sportingly abided a window-full of vegetable and flower seedlings (10 flats-worth) in our living room, for a quarter of the year, for the past 10 years. What a guy!

    I love seeing your plant buys. Thanks for sharing them!

  4. I am no longer allowed to go to plant sales without adult supervision or someone to monitor my activities. I do love them as community events; it seems that if you believe in these organizations that put on plant sales, and if you get a free plant for your contribution it seems only proper to find a spot in the garden, along the walk, in the backyard…somewhere. If you really believe you should contribute enough to get three or four, free, beautiful new specimens.

  5. We live without a garage because I’ve commandeered the space for seedlings and other gardening “stuff.”

    I truly appreciate the scale and scope you are working with. Thanks for the blog and the community space. I’ll definitely be back.

  6. Please remember to look for native plant nurseries. You can also examine native plant catalogs. If you search for catalogs that carry bare root plants (instead of potted plants) you will be able to locate unusual or rare plants seldom seen in nurseries (in some cases endangered)for inexpensively. Just a thought, from a native ecosystem restorationist…

  7. in Chicago this coming weekend…

    10AM – 3PM



    All open pollinated, heirloom, USDA certified organic
    Cantalope, Emerald Gem (I grew this last year and I have NEVER smelled or tasted
    anything sweeter!)
    Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry (actually a tomato!)
    Chervena Chushka
    Jimmy Nardello’s
    Marconi Red
    Basil: Genovese, Cinnamon
    A & C Pickling
    Double Yield
    Mexican Siue Gherkin
    Nippon Sanjaku Kiuri
    Eggplant: Diamond, Pingtung Long
    Kale: Lacinato, Red Russian
    Tomatillo: Dr. Wyche’s Yellow, Purple de Milpa
    arugula Italian parsley curled parsley Asian Greens: Mazuma, Tatsoi
    Lettuce: Crisp Mints, Granpa’s Admire’s
    Pattison Panache Juane et Verte
    Pattison Panache Verte et Blanc
    Austin’s Red Pear
    Lemon Drop
    Mexico Midget
    Redfield Beauty
    Tasty Evergreen

  8. Humber Arboretum at Humber College is having their plant sale on May 16 and 17–just before the long weekend. Starts at 9am and they say to get there early as plants go quickly. Annuals, perennials, veggies, herbs.

    • Just back from the sale in front of Casa Loma. Interesting Peonies for $15, very sad shivering tomatoes, unusual blue Salvias, very different Geraniums. Potted Fuschias with Diascias for $8. Native plants, large ferns. Plants going very fast! How are Toronto tomato growers coping? My plant and fruit grocer says they will be safe outside, but I am sceptical.

    • It is best to wait to plant until 2 weeks after the last frost free date. The last frost date in Toronto was May 9. You can start hardening off plants now, but I would advise against planting them out. In fact, we just experienced hail an hour or so ago.

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