What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: It’s Plant Sale Time!
By Adrien Rawley, Horticulture Assistant and Educator
Spring is the season that reminds us of the power of patience. April greets us with a scattering of warm, sunny days that thaw the ground, encourage the return of the birds, and lift our spirits, only to dash them overnight with a dramatic plunge in temperature and a wild snow storm. Surrounded by the bleak and drab colours of last year’s leaves and the all-encompassing “springtime brown,” our eyes search for any sign of new life!
Spring also reminds us to slow down, look closer, and even closer still. Red maple buds swell on branches with hints of colour, the first little insects start to appear, and underneath the old, decaying leaves tender growth emerges from the earth. Often, we are in such a desperate rush for spring to hurry up and get here that we overlook the fact that it is busily unfolding all around us!
On today’s morning wander through the gardens I stopped by our large copper beech tree to say hello. Admiring the tree’s small, hopeful buds I placed my bare hand on a nearby branch. Without my usual mitten, I could feel the texture of the bark and how cold the tree was. How something so cold can be so alive is a mystery to me! I’ve carried the metaphor with me for the rest of the day and will remember it during the times when even I grow impatient with the pace of spring’s advance.
Here at the botanical gardens we celebrate the arrival of the gardening season with our yearly native plant sale! Mark your calendars for Saturday May 4, from 9am to 12pm for your chance to browse this year’s offerings of native plants lovingly propagated by our volunteers. All plants will be on display in the conservatory of the K.C. Irving Centre on University Avenue. We are thrilled to add 10 new species to our sale and the growing diversity of what we can propagate is very exciting! Last year our shift to selling only second-year plants was a huge success and this year promises to be the same. All plants have endured their first Nova Scotia winter and are hardy and strong because of it. Our new species are the product of research and trial and error, and a whole lot of learning as we’ve gotten to know the habits and preferences of these plants. A few that will be on offer are Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset), Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia) and Zizia aurea (golden alexanders). These little plants are just like the copper beech tree, cold and unassuming to our eyes, but containing all the potential to burst with life in their new homes: your garden! In addition to our plants, several other local plant nurseries will be on hand with native plants, shrubs, and small trees for your perusal.
As much as we are excited to offer many new species, we are just as thrilled with our move toward more sustainable growing practices. Many of you regular Grapevine readers will remember Melanie’s article about our use of repurposed coffee bags from T.A.N. Coffee! This year’s plant sale will be the first at which used coffee bags will replace the plastic and coconut fibre pots of the past. Not only do the bags look adorable with plants in them, they have held up very well in our testing for strength, durability, and function. It feels great to lessen our impact on the earth by removing thousands of pots from the landfill! If that wasn’t enough recycling excitement for one plant sale, our volunteer group will also have a selection of used gardening books available by donation.
This event is always one of our favourites of the year and we look forward to greeting plant enthusiasts of all ages and gardening backgrounds. Remember to bring cash and your own trays, boxes, and totes to help carry your new plant friends. All proceeds from the sale of plants go directly into our work supporting educational programming at the gardens. On plant sale day, be sure to set aside extra time to wander the gardens to search for more signs of spring. Look closely, they’re there awaiting your discovery!
Photo caption: Our wonderful volunteer crew proudly displaying repurposed paper coffee bag “pots” for this year’s plant sale. Credit: Melanie Priesnitz