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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Plant Sale, 11 days and counting

(This white bleeding heart has been divided up into a few jumbo pots)


I'm back again, chock full of more information for our perennial plant sale to help send the student members of the Walt Whitman High School Marching Band to band camp.

As many of you know, this is a blog and it works like a diary. Scroll down for yesterday's entry and the one from the day before. You will quickly get all the information you need about our wonderful sale which will be held on May 12th.

Ready for today's questions? The number one question I get asked is "Why?", Why do you have this plant sale? How can you have this many plants to give away?? Why do you give them to the marching band???

Any experienced gardener can tell you that after time certain plants multiply to the point where you have more than you need. This doesn't happen with annuals (plants that are killed in our temperature zone over the winter) but it does happen with biennials (more later on that word) and perennials (plants that return year after year). Some perennials increase at the base, just getting wider, some send out runners that pop up near the mother plant and others reseed through out your garden.

We have a large piece of property for our town, well over an acre and much of it is planted in perennial borders. As those plants increased, I was constantly looking for ways to share them with others instead of tossing them on the compost heap. If you grow 3 foxgloves and they each give you three more seedlings, you end up with 9 foxgloves and you are a happy gardener. If you have 40 foxgloves and they each give you 3 seedlings, you end up with 120 foxgloves and you run out of friends to share them with!

(I have a Sedum knot garden and they need dividing, nothing is easier to grow than Sedum and there aren't too many perennials that look as awesome as they do for most of the year.)

A few years ago a co-worker from my husband Don's office came by and I loaded his SUV twice with plants from my garden. Don pointed out to me that I had just given away hundreds of dollars worth of perennials and it made me start to think. What if I sold those plants instead? Well, I don't have a nursery or my own business, I just like to write and lecture about gardening. The next spring our daughter was a freshman in the marching band and they were having an early spring garage sale. I didn't have any household junk to bring so I dug daylilies, black eyed susans, purple cone flowers and sedum. They sold like hotcakes and I handed over $400 to the co-president of the marching band at that sale. There were still lots of plants in the garden so I suggested we have a second sale, just for plants, and that's how this plant sale began.

Now that you know the history, lets get back to what's important.

Got Shade? My first gardens here were for my daylilies and other sun loving perennials. It wasn't until those gardens were established that I started learning about shade gardening. Shade is something that Long Islanders have to deal with. There are tons of trees here on the north shore and if you have a 1/4 acre yard with just one large tree, you are going to have lots of shade! Over time I fell in love with my shade gardens, they're soothing and so much easier to work in once the warmer weather comes. Hosta have become a mini-obsession, along with other amazing foliage plants to light up those dark corners. Japanese painted ferns are another craze, I can't wait to have enough of those to share with you.

(What a beauty, I didn't put the name of this hosta in my photo program but it's just delicious)

Lotsa Hosta! This is the first year I have named Hosta plants in the sale. What does that mean? Well, to most of you, it doesn't mean anything. When a new hybrid plant is created, it's registered with the appropriate plant society and give a name. If you want a specific plant that looks exactly so, you need to know the registered name of that plant. Do all plants have names? No, and those plants grow just as well. In the past, we've sold seedlings from our Hosta sieboldiana (a large blue leaved Hosta) and lots and lots of green hosta. Those green ones had a name at some time but the person who gave them to me forgot the name. It doesn't really matter, they grow wonderfully and do the job I want from them, they look beautiful!

For the first time, I dug named Hosta with all kinds of different color variegations in the leaf and potted those up. They are priced between $5 and $8 which is a fantastic bargain. For those of you who need an instant fix, there will also be some jumbo pots at $10.

When buying Hosta, there are a few things you need to know. Hosta are shade tolerant, that means they will grow in the shade but they will also grow in a good amount of sunshine if they are watered often. Generally the darker the leaf color (especially the blue hosta), the more shade they need to keep that coloration. The lighter the leaf color (there are some amazing chartreuse colored hosta) the more sun they require to keep that lighter color.

(Hosta 'Spritzer' looks awesome with half a day of sunlight and we've got it potted up!)

Hosta come in all kinds of sizes from teeny tiny ones with leaves the size of my thumb, to huge elephant eared Hosta that quickly grow to 6' across. With 150 hosta here, I have all kinds of colors and sizes.

When buying a Hosta, look at how many divisions are coming out of the pot. Yesterday I stopped at Home Depot and most of their 2.5 pint potted hosta had 2 eyes (divisions) emerging. Those were priced $5.99. Here, I tried to keep my smallest divisions at 5 eyes. The jumbo pots have way more than that.

(I wish this image was sharper but this is Corydalis lutea which is a darling little shade lover that pops out of my rock retaining walls)

What other shade plants will be for sale? Many hardy Geraniums actually prefer the shade and we have a wonderful variety called Geranium nodosum. I don't have a photo of this beauty but you can type that name into Google images and you'll get the idea. Ladies mantle (Achemilla mollis) is another stunning plant that will take both sun and shade, it's one of my top five favorites here. Variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum) is another favorite along with the tiny yellow Corydalis. Maybe we'll even have some white Primula.

Although I still have so much I want to write, it's sunny outside and the plants are calling me. 375 pots are done so far, I need to pot up at least 150 more! Today will be Sedum 'Matrona', Solomon's seal and of course some stunning daylilies.

Don't forget, come see us on May 12th, if you can't make it then, write to me at and we'll try to set up a sneak preview for you.

Pass this on, we need lots of advertisement!



Beckyb said...

I would love to know the name of the "unnamed hosta" - that is beautiful! Also - where are you located??

Melanie Vassallo said...

Hi Becky,

The name on that hosta will have to wait until they leaf out. My dog pulled out many of the markers. Thank goodness I have a list on my computer. I'll match the names with photos from the hosta library website.

We're located on Long Island, in Suffolk County, New York.

John said...

Melanie, I'm working on a Sedum knot garden myself; any tips, suggestions or photos?

John said...

Melanie, I'm working on a sedum knot garden myself in a Celtic design; any suggestions, tips, or photos on yours?

Melanie Vassallo said...

Hi John,

Sedum are great for knot gardens. One thing I did wrong was not use varieties with more contrast. The second thing I did wrong was use a smaller, less aggressive grower for punctuation and instead, it was covered up.

Look for my posts on succulents, I'm going to add more photos this week.