Plant sale takes root on Wilton town green

What is a garden club without a greenhouse?

The Wilton Garden Club had been making do with a greenhouse whose 27-year-old roof had long outlived its 10- to 12-year lifespan.

Now, thanks to the town, the roof is new and the club itself replaced fans, the heating system, electrical, and sinks.

The benefit of all that will be evident this weekend at the club’s annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale, which begins Friday, May 10, from noon to 6 and concludes Saturday, May 11, from 9 to noon. It will take place rain or shine at the town green on Old Ridgefield Road.

Last week the greenhouse was filled with 1,000 or more plants waiting to be taken to the sale. Many more will be brought in from garden club members’ own gardens and local growers.

On a chilly, overcast day, the greenhouse was swarming with activity as club members prepared pots and baskets of flowers, herbs and vegetables for sale, pausing only to pose for a “ribbon-cutting” photo with First Selectman Bill Brennan to commemorate the welcome changes.

This is the garden club’s 91st anniversary year and the 74th year it is holding its plant sale.

New at the sale this year is the “Members’ Choice” plant recommendations. The club’s most experienced members — Master Gardeners, landscape designers and horticultural experts — have put together a list of their “must-haves” that form the backbone of their own gardens. They are time-tested, low-maintenance, largely deer-resistant plants that look great before, during and after they bloom.

Some are familiar favorites, but many are lesser-known varieties favored by knowledgeable gardeners. Sun-loving and shade-tolerant, the Members’ Choice plants will be available for sale and garden consultants will be on hand at the sale to discuss their features.

Club member Melinda Wolcott pointed out that plants the club has done very well with this year include basil grown from Italian seeds purchased on Arthur Avenue, Sun Gold tomatoes also grown from seeds, nicotiana (also known as tobacco plant), digitalis, coleus, vines including hyacinth bean and sweet pea, geraniums grown from cuttings, and begonias and caladiums.

The sale will also feature about 2,000 perennials as well as annuals, wildflowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs, groundcovers, herbs, and new varieties of vegetables including tomatoes grown locally by Don Offinger.

In addition, there will be containers and hanging baskets, trees, rock garden plants, “good garden goods,” Mother’s Day gifts, and a tag sale.

Garden consultants will be available to answer specific questions or assist in the selection of plants. Credit cards will be accepted for purchases over $50.

The plant sale is the club’s main fund-raiser, and money raised pays for the club’s programs and upkeep of the greenhouse. It also supports the club’s educational and horticultural projects, which include maintaining many public spaces around town.

Greenhouse as classroom

The greenhouse is used for many purposes throughout the year.

Among them are a number of educational classes that in the past have included seed starting, topiary, kissing walls, succulent wreathmaking, and an orchid workshop.

A future class will explain the importance of using Latin names when referring to specific plants.

The club has a program with the senior center and has welcomed Girl Scouts to the greenhouse.

In the fall club members will bring in their non-hardy plants to winter over and propagate — a tropical vacation for tender specimens.

All this will be possible with the new roof panels that were installed by Mercer Builders of Wilton. The new panels, which are plastic and have an R factor of 17, replaced old panels that were cracking and in some cases had holes and gaps.

Jeff Brady of Capital Construction installed the new sinks.

If money is available, the club will also install a new irrigation system in the greenhouse.