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Spring plant sales

Great plants for great causes

What if you could buy excellent plants for your garden and plant your dollars in a worthy cause? You can if you shop at one of the many charity plant sales that sprout up across the state this time of year.

Each of these events, typically hosted by local civic, garden and conservation groups, offer unique inventories of plants (and sometimes gardening supplies) which may include shrubs, trees, annuals, perennials, bedding plants, hanging baskets, native plants, ferns, vegetables, herbs and more.

Take the recent Lee County Kiwanis Club’s Annual Azalea Sale, which did a booming business back in early March despite intermittent downpours of rain. According to Steve Eden, who has chaired the event for all its 32 years, the Kiwanis sale is put on by a cadre of hardworking Kiwanians dedicated to providing plants for gardeners and funding for local charities.

Their dedication pays off for the 10 or more local causes, ranging from children’s charities to the area food bank, that benefit from the club’s hard work and generosity. It’s also paid off in customer support. “We have a loyal following of repeat customers, many of whom have come every year since it began in 1987,” Eden says.

The 30th annual Lee County Kiwanis Club’s Azalea Sale, held last month in Auburn, included a wide range of azalea cultivars and other ornamental shrubs for gardeners eager to get out this spring and plant.

What’s the draw? “Quality plants,” says Eden, who noted that the azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, roses and other plants in their sale are sourced from Alabama growers, which ensures that the plants are healthy and well-suited for local growing conditions.

What’s more, customers have access to on-site experts like Eden (a professional landscape contractor), the Lee County Master Gardeners and the horticultural staff at University ACE Hardware, which hosts the event in their parking lot.

Other sales are conducted in support of public gardens, such as the Friends of the Birmingham Botanical Garden’s 50th Anniversary Spring Plant Sale set for April 12–14 in Brookwood Village. According to Mindy Black, director of communications and marketing with the Gardens, this sale is their largest fundraiser of the year, grossing more than $250,000 each year.

Proceeds benefit educational programming, such as BBG’s Discovery Field Trips, which bring more than 8,000 Birmingham City School students to the Gardens each year, and also support the day-to-day operations of the Gardens. “At the same time, the sale celebrates a real passion for gardens, plants and the environment,” Black says.

Looking for a sale in your area? Keep an eye out for announcements in area newspapers or other community calendars and newsletters, or check with local public gardens, Alabama Cooperative System Extension offices, Master Gardeners or conservation associations or garden clubs. If you miss this year’s spring sale season, take heart. A number of these groups also host fall plant sales!

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.