Mother's Day plant sale is a perennial favorite

Seventy-five years ago, the Wilton Garden Club’s first plant sale was on the lawn of Old Town Hall.

All these years later, the sale has grown to be one of the largest in the region and spreads across the Wilton Town Green. Thousands of plants will be for sale Friday and Saturday, just in time for Mother’s Day and spring planting. Sale hours are noon to 6 on May 9, and 9 to noon on May 10.

New this year will be terrariums, dish gardens of succulents and tillandsia, which are air plants. There will also be more than 60 colorful baskets, troughs and patio pots, in addition to a wide selection of perennials, annuals, herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables, shrubs and trees. There will also be a garden tag sale.

In showing off the baskets at the garden club’s greenhouse last week, Melinda Wolcott said that “two-thirds of the plants, like the coleus, have been grown in the greenhouse.”

The coleus plants were particularly successful this year, being grown from seed or cuttings. The caladiums are also “great” this year, Ms. Wolcott said, having been grown from tubers that were kept over the winter.

Shoppers will also find giant alocasias and even a huge dwarf banana. The tiny succulent dish gardens are great for bathrooms, since they enjoy the humidity and tolerate low light, and the tillandsia will be mounted on bark or in glass containers.

The weather this winter and spring has posed significant challenges for club members.

An oil truck missed a delivery and so the greenhouse oil tank ran dry, resulting in no heat in January. Many plants died and the club had to regroup, growing new ones from seed.

It wasn’t a total disaster, Ms. Wolcott said, explaining, “the freeze gave us the chance to cull and cultivate.”

A disaster of opposite proportions happened more recently when the greenhouse ventilation system broke down. Members arrived to find the indoor temperature 138 degrees.

The damage, fortunately, was not significant.

However, the lingering winter weather has delayed the growing season by at least three weeks, club member Suzanne Knutson said. Many plants, particularly perennials, are dug from members’ gardens. As a result of the lingering cold temperatures, club members were digging perennials for the sale in their winter jackets and gloves.

“People come to the plant sale for different reasons,” said Ms. Knutson, co-chair of the plant sale. “Kids come for the tiny baskets, and some come for the begonias.”

Still others come for the tomato plants from Offinger Farm and at the same time fulfill the rest of their herb needs.

“Then there are the rock garden people. Everyone in Wilton has rocks,” she said. Some come for their annuals and perennials, some for grasses and groundcovers.

“We need to have everything,” Ms. Knutson said.

Spring also brings out the new homeowners, and club president Nan Merolla said, “We have gardening consultants at the sale. If you need help, we have master gardeners who can walk around with you.”

The sale also offers plants known as “members’ choice.”

“These plants are workhorses,” Ms. Knutson said. “They’re great plants, they’re idiot-proof. They are long-blooming and die gracefully.”

Many are perennials and ornamental grasses. Some are award winners and some, she said, “are just really good secrets.”

Pinky winky hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) are two. The lady’s mantle has a leaf similar to a geranium’s and a chartreuse flower. It grows in part shade or full sun. The hydrangea is drought-tolerant, grows in part to full sun, and has pink blooms no matter the soil pH.

“The reason we care so much that this is a success is that it funds all our activities,” Ms. Knutson said. The club cares for a number of spots around town and pays for plants and garden materials. They include the Veterans Memorial Green, Horseshoe Pond, the post office garden, the garden at the intersection of Route 7 and Route 33, and the memorial across the street from the Stop & Shop plaza, as well as the large pots at town hall.