Mickey Rathbun: SOS plant sale May 12

Thursday, April 26, 2018

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the SOS — “Support Our Schools” — Plant Sale in Northampton, offering treasures from local gardens, studios and workshops. The sale is run by the Northampton Education Foundation and all proceeds go to the SOS Book Fund, which buys books for the Northampton public schools. The sale will take place on the front lawn of Smith Vocational School on Elm Street May 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

What better way to spruce up your garden for a worthy cause?

The sale will include annuals and perennials, shrubs and trees. And there will be lots of other garden-related items for sale, including birdbaths and birdhouses, terrariums, garden furniture and ornaments.

A recent addition to the sale is top-quality compost, already bagged, provided by Bear Path Compost in West Whately. SOS for plants, indeed!

This year there will be two raffle prizes: a handmade quilt by Lyn Heady, an NEF member, with machine quilting donated by Linda Zeitler, and a cedar arbor, trellis and bench built by Smith Voke carpentry students with wood donated by Fleury Lumber and Paradise Copies. Raffle tickets will be on sale at the plant sale and in advance at Jackson Street School and Smith Voke and at the Northampton DPW during business hours on Saturdays before the sale. It’s not necessary to be present at the time of the raffle to win a prize.

“This is a great plant sale for novice gardeners,” said Mandy Gerry, a member of the NEF board who also created the gardening program at Northampton’s four elementary schools. “There are lots of people on hand to give advice about what to plant where, and growing conditions for specific plants.”

Plants are divided into “full sun,” “part sun,” and “shade” groups. This year, an expert on pollinator-friendly plants will be there to share information about supporting pollinators in the garden. Pollinator-friendly plants will be specially marked.

According to Gerry, the plant sale always has a fabulous turnout. “It always takes place on the day before Mother’s Day. So it’s a great time to think about how to celebrate Mother’s Day, if you haven’t already done that.”

“This is such a great spring tradition and truly a community effort,” said plant sale chair Robin Freedenfield. “The success of this fundraiser really depends on the community donating plants from their gardens as well as the people who come to the event to buy plants.” Last year, the sale brought in over $10,000.

Freedenfield has been involved with the sale almost from its beginning in 1996. “It doesn’t happen without the support of volunteers at many different stages of the process,” she said. “A core group of us start planning and scheming in early February.”

Students from the Northampton High School Key Club and Honor Society volunteer their time before and during the sale. Students are also involved in the bake sale, which is being run this year by the Ryan Road Elementary School.

Plant donations are always welcome. “It’s a perfect opportunity for gardeners who want to support the local schools,” said Gerry. “This time of year, gardeners are digging and dividing perennials. If you want to donate plants but need help with digging and potting, that help is available.”

Plants for the sale should be potted, labeled and dropped off at Smith Voke on May 11 between 4 and 7 p.m. To make other arrangements, call Jim Levey at 575-3283 or Jason Berg at 563-0125.

Volunteers are welcome not only to donate plants, but also to help set up the day before the event and to assist during the sale. For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact Robin Freedenfield at rfstudios@aol.com or 584-4995.

Native plants make easy work

On Sunday from 2 to 3:30 p.m., the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst will present “Native Plants: What’s Good for Nature is also Easier on the Gardener” with Dan Jaffe, propagator and stock grower at New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods, and co-author of the new book, “Native Plants for New England Gardens.” Learn about the importance and ease of creating native gardens which are long-lasting, lovely and bolster biodiversity by supporting native insects, including pollinators and other wildlife such as nesting or migrating birds and mammals including us.

Jaffe’s discussion will include underutilized native shrubs for rural, suburban and urban gardens and why plants are better than mulch.

Historically, native flowers, ground covers, shrubs, trees, ferns and grasses evolved and adapted perfectly to New England’s growing conditions, so they don’t need pampering. The presentation is followed by a book signing and mini-tours of the gardens by master gardeners. Books will be available for purchase. The event is co-sponsored by the Western Mass. Master Gardeners’ Association.

A host of golden daffodils

The Lenox Garden Club will host a Daffodil Show at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge May 5 and 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The show brings an old Berkshire Botanical Garden tradition back to life. It will include a design division with floral arrangements using daffodils and a horticulture division where different varieties of narcissus are exhibited individually.

Plant sale to benefit Pascommuck Conservation Trust

On May 12, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pascommuck Conservation Trust will hold its annual spring plant sale at the Big E’s Foodland parking lot in Easthampton. The sale will offer perennials, ornamental grasses, trees, shrubs and other garden stock. There will also be raffle items.

PCT is an all-volunteer land preservation group that is working to preserve land on Mount Tom, the Manhan River greenbelt, and land over the aquifer, among its other important goals.

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at mickey.rathbun@gmail.com.