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Get Growing: Plant sale time

Day-lily in bloom

Day-lily in bloom Purchase photo reprints »

J ust about every town has some kind of plant sale this month. Sponsored by nonprofit organizations, these are prime sources for good, hardy plants, known to thrive in the Pioneer Valley.
The big weekend is May 11 with several plant sales on one day. Set aside the morning to drive from town to town in your area to find bargains.

If you want to donate plants, be sure to dig them this weekend, label them and keep them watered in a shady location until it’s time to deliver them to the sale.

One caveat — while the perennials are definitely hardy, there is a reason you find so many of the same species at every sale. Some of them tend to be aggressive and can take over a tiny space.

Try to buy named daylilies so you don’t end up with the ubiquitous orange variety that can spread everywhere. Ask questions about plants with which you aren’t familiar. Go to a sale with a list of plants you want that you know should do well in your special garden conditions — shade, clay or sandy soil, cold areas, etc.

There are great bargains out there but a plant like Anemone sylvestris that will smother other choice plants probably should be passed over. I speak from experience. Be a knowledgeable buyer.

And don’t expect certain new hybrids to be found at local sales — although there are always exceptions. You will want to patronize our great local nurseries to augment your non- profit plant sale bargains.

e_SBlt The big sale on May 11 is the SOS (Support Our Schools) sale at Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In addition to perennials from area gardens, there will be trees and shrubs, herbs, vegetable starts and annuals.

e_SBlt A Garden Mart features lawn and garden products, compost, and treasures from local artisans as well as a raffle. Plant donations will be accepted at the site on Friday, May 10, 4-7 p.m. For information, call Judy Leeds at 537-4437 or email her at
leedsjudy@gmail. com.

e_SBlt Williamsburg also has a sale the same day from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. downtown near the Williamsburg Country Store. Annuals, perennials, shrubs and hanging baskets for Mother’s Day (next day). Master gardeners will test soil for pH (acidity level) from 9 a.m. to noon. A $1 donation per sample is requested. Proceeds benefit Williamsburg schools and Hampshire Regional High School.

e_SBlt Friends of the Pelham Library also have a sale on May 11 from 9 a.m. to noon. Please note that the venue has changed from the highway department near Route 202 to the library building at the corner of Amherst and South Valley roads.

e_SBlt Belchertown holds its annual sale also on May 11 at the Stone House on Route 202. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

e_SBlt The following week, May 18, is the annual Garden Club of Amherst sale on the Town Common downtown. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Proceeds benefit garden club projects such as the planters on the Town Common, the 18th century garden at the Amherst Historical Society, a scholarship for a University of Massachusetts Amherst horticulture students, garden books for local libraries and donations to environmental groups. To donate plants, contact Karen Chrisman at 256-1093.

e_SBlt In Southampton the Anita Smith Memorial Sale will benefit the Southampton Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund. The sale is May 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Conant Park, Route 10.

e_SBlt May 25 is the plant sale at Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Perennials, vegetable starts, herbs, house plants and shrubs. Proceeds will be used to landscape the church grounds. Bring donations to the Columbarium on Spring Street on Friday, May 24, 4-6 p.m.

If you would like your nonprofit plant sale listed in this column, email details to valleygardens@comcast.net.

TULIP SEASON: Daffodils are peaking throughout the Valley and tulips are beginning to bloom.

This was my year to add many tulips to my gardens, especially the bed in front of my house. In addition to traditional hybrid tulips in red, pale and deep yellow and white, I planted two species tulips. Tulipa clusiana is the ‘Lady Jane’ tulip with small oval pointed flowers with red stripes on the outside and pure white inside. Across the walkway is Tulipa tarda with yellow and white flowers, very low plants. They open exuberantly in the sun looking like bright stars.

In the past I have concentrated on Triumph tulips because their foliage dies down quickly.

However, this also means they aren’t as long-lived in the garden as some others. So this year I bought ‘Pieter de Leur’ lily-flowered tulip that I had loved at the Mount Holyoke College bulbs show and its mate ‘White Triumphator’ as well as ‘Hakuun’ white Darwin Hybrid, Single Late ‘Kingsblood’, a deep red, and yellow ‘Big Smile’. In addition, I got yellow and white ‘Sweetheart’, red ‘Madame Lefebre’ and white ‘Purissima’, all fosteriana types.

As usual there have been depredations by critters. Ironically the group of tulips called ‘Come Back,’ supposedly more perennial than others has never emerged, probably eaten over the winter by voles or chipmunks. One chipmunk has been dashing across my front veranda in a very bold way. The voles are less cheeky and are almost never seen. Grape hyacinths in deep blue and pale blue plus Ipheion in white and pale blue are companion bulbs. Among the perennial flowers which augment the tulip scene are Phlox divaricata, Iberis (candytuft) and Phlox subulata as well as Veronica rupestris ‘Heavenly Blue’ which I admired at the Jones Library last spring. My primroses are in a separate shady garden, but they also are in peak bloom.

Note the tulip varieties you like in the gardens of neighbors or public gardens and then order some from a company like Brent & Becky’s Bulbs or purchase at your local independent garden center in the fall. One advantage to mail order is that the catalogs come in the mail by the end of April and you can identify varieties you desire.

With the shadbush and flowering dogwood in blossom along with mid and late kinds of daffodils, this is a wonderful time in the spring garden. Plan to make your landscape bloom next spring.

SOIL TESTS AND PLANT CLINICS : Volunteers with the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association will test soil samples for pH (acidity level) at the Amherst Farmers Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on the Town Common. A donation of $1 per sample is requested to pay for materials. Be sure you air dry (don’t put in the oven or microwave) the sample. To collect a sample you will need a trowel, a bucket and a plastic container. In a vegetable or flower garden, dig several areas down about 6 inches and mix the samples in a bucket. After mixing thoroughly, scoop out one cup and air dry it, then place in a solid plastic container or ziplock bag. You will be told the pH of your soil and how to amend it if necessary.

Master gardeners also test soil at the Greenfield Farmers Market on selected Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Williamsburg Farmers Market on Thursdays, 3-5 p.m.

EDIBLE FOREST GARDENS: Lisa DePiano of UMass will offer a workshop called “Edible Forest Gardens: An Introduction to Permaculture Principles for Your Yard” tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at French Hall 102 on the UMass campus.

Fee is $50. Register at www.UMassGarden.com .

HERB WALK: Jade Alicandro of Milk and Honey Herbs will lead a Spring Herb Walk tomorrow from 10:30 a.m. to noon on the Northampton bike trail searching for spring wild edibles. Meet at the State Street entrance. Suggested donation, $5.

WILDFLOWERS: Throughout the Valley wild flowers are in bloom, especially those in woodlands. Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary sponsors several wildflower walks this month: May 8 at Marion Sherman Lynes Wildlife Sanctuary in Southampton from 9 a.m. to noon; May 15 at Graves Farm in Williamsburg from 9 a.m. to noon; and May 18 at Tamarack Hollow in Windsor from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first two walks are led by botanists Connie Parks and Janet Bissell and cost $8, members $5. The May 18 walk is led by Aimee Gelinas, teacher and naturalist, and costs $16, members $12.

Parks and Bissell will also lead a walk at High Ledges in Shelburne on May 22, 9 a.m. to noon, with the same prices as the May 8 and 15 events. Register by calling 584-3009.

PLANT SWAPS: The Belchertown Plant Swap is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at 225 Warren Wright Rd. in Belchertown. The South Deerfield swap is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at 2 Hobbie Rd.

SEED SWAP: The Hilltown Seed Saving Network will host a seed swap at the first Burgy Farmers Market of the year on May 9 at Meekins Library in Williamsburg. Hours are 2-6 p.m. The group will also sponsor a seed and plant exchange on May 18 at the Community House in Cummington from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring seeds, seedlings and perennial divisions to exchange. Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Crabapple Farm will be on hand to answer questions.

For more information contact Sadie Stull at 634-5013, or Michael Alterman at 358- 6919 or alterman@speakeasy.net.

FITZGERALD LAKE WILDFLOWERS: Connie Parks will also lead a free wild flower walk at Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area in Florence on May 12 — Mother’s Day — from 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the North Farms entrance to the conservation area. Free.

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