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.
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.