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Thursday, April 18, 2019 12:09 am

This ain’t your grandma’s garden club

Annual plant sale is May 4 at fairgrounds

 For 90 years the Springfield Civic Garden Club has been helping to beautify neighborhoods across the community. The club’s annual plant sale has earned a reputation as an affordable source for old-school garden favorites such as hostas, grasses, daylilies, iris, ferns, shasta daisies and more. The vast majority of plants on offer at the sale come from yards and gardens of local club members and gardeners.

Prolific varieties of many popular garden plants can eventually become overcrowded and need to be divided in order for them to grow and bloom properly. Gardeners who want help wrangling an overgrown daylily bed or mass of hostas can request a visit from the club “digging committee,” who will come and flag plants that are to be divided. “My big job was always naming the plants,” said Annette Chinuge, a retired biologist who has been active with the garden club since 2009. “Folks don’t always know the actual names of plants in their garden. They say, ‘I don’t know what it is. It came from my mom’s house.’ And people aren’t always aware that some plants can be terribly invasive. My role was to go through the plants and make sure they were all properly identified.”

Once the committee has identified plants to be divided, a pack of knowledgeable gardeners arrive, trowels and spades in hand, to help dig out the excess flora in anticipation of the upcoming sale. The transplants are potted up and taken to volunteer plant-sitters who keep them watered and cared for until the sale. “These plants are a really good option for beginner gardeners because you know they grow well here in Springfield,” Chinuge explained. “It’s not some exotic variety that looks great in the nursery but then doesn’t survive the season here in our climate.”

The Garden Club added annuals to the sale’s offerings about 15 years ago. “We have one lady, every year she brings a couple of flats of tomatoes and peppers that she grew in her little greenhouse,” explained Brad Green, a local landscaper who is helping to organize this year’s event.

Now, in addition to flats of homegrown transplants and annuals, the sale will also feature modern hybrid varieties of coral bells, sedum and succulents that have been procured for the sale from Shelby County Community Services (SCCS) in Shelbyville. SCCS provides mental health and addiction treatment services through a variety of programs, including the operation of eight commercial greenhouses which provide vocational training and employment opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities or other obstacles to employment.

“The summer bulbs we’re offering are what I’m really excited about as the new way to garden,” Green said. “This isn’t your grandma’s garden anymore. We have new varieties of lilies, caladium, cannas, dahlias…these plants are more low-maintenance, deer and drought-tolerant, and they do really well in containers. Just dig, drop and you’re done,” Green explained.  Lush potted varieties of designer annuals, cannas and summer bulbs will be available also.

Proceeds from the sale go to fund grants awarded throughout the community. Past outreach projects include installing community gardens with the Boys and Girls Club, a sensory garden at the Hope Institute for the Blind, and funding bus trips for schoolkids to Lincoln Memorial Garden. The sale itself is an outreach project – over 60 experienced gardeners will be on hand during the sale to offer advice and stories. “Several of our members have completed the Master Gardener program, and we have folks who are knowledgeable in a range of specialties from vegetable gardening to butterfly gardens to pruning trees and shrubs,” Green said.

“I want people to know that this is an affordable place to find some really nice plants, and that we are here to help,” Green continued. Gardening is an art as much as a science, and both are on offer the Civic Garden Club’s 43rd annual plant sale, to be held on May 4, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at Barn 26 on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. 

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