Time for Plant Tourism!

Thousands of plants under the big Arboretum tent. Photo: Rindy O’Brian

With winter finally in the rear view mirror, what better way to satisfy your pent up demand for spring than to visit some of our area’s most beautiful estates, gardens, and arboreta during their annual plant sales? Call it “plant tourism.” It’s a great way to justify taking a break from working in your own garden. You’re heading out for supplies, aren’t you? And while you’re at it, eat some fresh food, enjoy the scenery, and learn some new gardening tricks. Here’s a selected chronological list of upcoming sales worth visiting.

American Horticultural Society Spring Garden Market

 April 10-12, 2014. Thursday, April 10, 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. members only. Friday and Saturday, open to the public. Dozens of regional vendors will be selling plants, including vegetable and herb seedlings, seeds, garden accessories, books, and art. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions. Local gourmet food will be available. Parking is $5, or free for AHS members. This sale allows you to enjoy River Farm, the beautiful estate on the Potomac River just south of National Airport, owned by the American Horticultural Society. 7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, VA. Distance from Eastern Market: 13.4 miles. http://www.ahs.org/about-river-farm/events-programs

Adkins Arboretum Native Plant Nursery

Opening Weekend, April 11-13, 2014. Friday, April 11, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for members only. Saturday and Sunday, open to the public. Come to this sale for native ornamental plants, small trees, and shrubs, and learn about this lovely Eastern Shore arboretum from docents who will lead free tours. The site is 400 acres, including five miles of paths along streams, meadows, and forest. Master Gardeners will also be on hand. After this weekend the plant nursery will be open weekly through October. 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD. Distance from Eastern Market: 66 miles (worth it!)


Mount Vernon Spring Garden Sale

 April 20-May 19, 2014, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The garden sale tent is located outside The Shops at Mount Vernon and admission is not required. But if you’ve gone all the way down there, why not see what’s new at the former home of our first president? The grounds continue to be renovated following the construction of the new visitor’s center. A special $150 per person event will be held on May 9 with cocktails, tour and dinner. Just continue past River Farm to the terminus of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA. Distance from Eastern Market: 16.4 miles


Friends of the National Arboretum Garden Fair and Plant Sale

 April 25-26, 2014. Friday, April 25, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. members only. 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and April 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. open to the public. This annual fundraiser will feature at least six plant vendors, plus exhibitors from DDOE’s RiverSmart Homes, Casey Trees, and groups like the National Capital Daylily Club, and the Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America. Very Washingtonian! Frager’s Hardware has been known to exhibit. There will also be a used garden book sale at this very local annual event. 3501 New York Avenue NE, Washington, DC. Distance from Eastern Market: 2.5 miles


Parkfairfax Native Plant Sale

Saturday, April 26, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This sale, also held on September 27, 2014, was created by volunteer native plant lover Scott Knudsen to promote native plant gardening. About sixteen vendors from four states will be on hand, some running very small specialty nurseries that you may not otherwise have a chance to see. Examples from last year are Thistlebrook Natives from Accokeek, Maryland, and Mostly Edibles from Alexandria, specializing in fruiting shrubs and trees. The event is all volunteer run and only the plant growers make a profit. 3601 Valley Drive parking lot, Alexandria, VA (near Shirlington). Distance from Eastern Market: 7.4 miles

http://home.earthlink.net/~sknudsen/ or on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ParkfairfaxNativePlantSale

Virginia’s Historic Garden Week

April 26-May 3, 2014. This is not a plant sale per se, rather a statewide collection of over 250 of Virginia’s most beautiful gardens, homes, and historic landmarks. Tour proceeds fund the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic gardens. Now in its 81st year, the event is documented in a 240 page guidebook for sale online for $10. Tickets range from $175 for a statewide pass to all venues, to $15 for some individual gardens. All over Virginia. Distance from Eastern Market: as far into Virginia as you’d like to go


National Cathedral Flower Mart

May 2-3, 2014, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday. This year is the 75th anniversary of this outdoor festival featuring fifty booths of plants and other garden items, tours of the grounds including the famous Olmsted Woods, gourmet food, and a book sale. Embassies and talented designers will display many expert flower arrangements. Kids’ activities fill out the family event. Free admission. Event will be held rain or shine. 3690 Massachusetts Avenue NW.  Distance from Eastern Market: 6.2 miles


William Paca Garden Plant Sale

May 7-8, 2014, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, Noon to 4:00 p.m. Sunday. Free admission. A tradition of historic Annapolis, this sale features plants grown in the site’s greenhouses by volunteers, and proceeds support the historic home and garden. Rare ornamentals, edibles, and heirloom plants of all kinds are featured. The Paca House gardens are a complete surprise, hidden behind the historic home on a typical Annapolis downtown street. The large colonial gardens step down the large site to a stream with a footbridge to a garden folly in the rear. Boxwood lovers, architecture and garden history buffs will love this hidden gem. 1 Martin Street, Annapolis, MD. Distance from Eastern Market: 30.7 miles


Shopping Tips

Some organized people go to plant sales with a shopping list and are not overly prone to temptation. Good for them. Most of us go to plant sales to see what we may not expect, or learn, for example, that there are dozens of types of mint, some smelling like chocolate and others like grapefruit. You might want to bring some photos of your garden for a reality check when considering impulse buys. If you have a scale drawing of your garden, that won’t hurt either.

Another reason to visit plant sales is to find unusual, or beautiful native plants that you can then request from your neighborhood plant vendors, who have wholesale accounts with many of the vendors you’ll see on your travels. One reason so many natives are now commercially available is increased demand from retail customers like you. So enjoy some weekend plant outings, see some new places, come home and get busy in your garden.

Cheryl Corson is a local licensed landscape architect in private practice. Attending spring plant sales is her version of a busman’s holiday. www.cherylcorson.com

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