By the second week of March last year, dozens of Master Gardeners, working on an array of greenhouse teams, had the finish line in sight. For six months, they had faithfully tended thousands of plants in their South 18th Avenue greenhouses. It was time to fledge those babies and send them to new homes in Yakima gardens. The Master Gardeners’ epic plant sale was just six weeks away.
On March 23, 2020, “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” orders were issued for Washington state for the next two weeks, with the possibility of being extended. You know the rest of the story.
But what about the thousands of plants that were ready for the sale?
A handful of volunteers stepped up and formed daily watering teams, keeping the plants alive while the membership decided what to do. It soon became clear that the traditional sale, where hundreds of gardeners browse indoors and shoulder-to-shoulder over three long days, was not an option. Added to the list of COVID-19 canceled events was the open-to-all plant sale.
Plan B allowed Master Gardeners (some of our best customers) to shop the huge inventory, following stringent safety guidelines, and buy as much as they could. Plants were donated to community organizations, and some were purchased by local nurseries. Leftovers were composted. It was regrettable for sure, but with the health and safety of both the public and Master Gardener volunteers at stake, the organization did what it had to do.
Across town at the Yakima Area Arboretum, volunteers were prepping for another epic plant sale on Mother’s Day weekend. The arboretum was able to quickly pivot its in-person sale into a virtual one, with curbside pickup. Not only did they pull it off, but the sale was so popular that it was extended another week so that new perennials could be added. With that success under their belt, the arboretum hosted a first-ever fall plant sale last September.
Virtual once again in 2021, the arboretum’s Spring Plant Sale offers a selection of Yakima’s favorites, with plenty of new introductions. With support for pollinators and wildlife in mind, many of the arboretum’s selections provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and bees, while adding beauty and color to the garden.
Trees and shrubs were listed in their online store beginning April 5, with perennials soon to follow. The official pickup date for plant sale orders will be May 1. More information is at www.ahtrees.org.
If you have a specific request for a tree or shrub, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Arboretum staff will do their best to find it, but keep in mind that due to a nationwide surge in gardening, inventories are low.
The 2021 Master Gardener Plant Sale is coming soon ... to your computer! You can shop for your plants online, and make an appointment to take them home using curbside pickup. While circumstances have changed, the extensive list of plants is what you would expect.
ANNUALS: Colorful favorites like bacopa, bachelor buttons, coleus, geraniums, marigolds, osteospermum, petunias, salvia, snapdragons, verbena, zinnias, and many more are bursting from their pots.
PERENNIALS: Thousands of unique succulents and sedums, and nearly 50 perennial species including achillea, agastache, coneflower, daylily, penstemon, salvia and gaillardia are available. The emphasis is on drought-tolerant and pollinator friendly selections.
VEGETABLES: Find dozens of varieties of tomatoes, squash, peppers, melons, cucumbers and more. Heirlooms or hybrids, you’ll find them here.
HERBS: Spice up your cooking with chives, mint, dill, oregano, sage, rosemary, cilantro, basil, thyme and parsley.
HANGING BASKETS: Brighten up your porch or deck with baskets for shade or sun, overflowing with “spillers, thrillers and fillers.”
GARDEN ART: If you enjoy the whimsical, you’ll love a collection of over 350 unique creations, made mostly from upcycled materials.
The Master Gardener’s online store opens April 29 and runs for three days, or until the plants are gone. When you order, you’ll sign up for a 30 minute pickup appointment window at the greenhouse parking lot at 1522 S. 18th Ave. No shipping or delivery is available. Sale information is at www.tinyurl.com/yakimamg-events.
Spring is for planting. Now is the time to walk around your home and imagine where you could add a tree or start a flower bed. Do you need shade, privacy or just something beautiful to see out your kitchen window?
What gardener doesn’t love a local plant sale? The Master Gardener and arboretum events are time-honored and much anticipated traditions among Yakima’s gardening crowd. Fundraising is important, but sales aren’t everything. If you’re passionate about gardening, you’ll understand. Sharing great plants is just plain fun.
For more gardening information, links, and photographs, visit the Yakima Master Gardener Column website at https://tinyurl.com/mg-columns.