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Bay Weekly’s Green-Thumb
Guide to Spring Plant Sales

Now’s the time to find plants from heirlooms to exotics

by Carrie Madren

As spring greens our landscapes, your inner gardener arises from winter’s long sleep, itching for dirty hands. Make your first stop one (or more) of Chesapeake Country’s many local plant sales, and you’ll find botanicals in all shapes, sizes, smells, tastes and textures that satisfy your itch, beautify your garden and freshen your meals. The teardrop pink flowers of a bleeding heart romanticize a shady garden, while an heirloom tomato plant will yield the main ingredient for summer: BLT sandwiches.

You can buy both — and hundreds of other plants, often at bargain prices — at Chesapeake Country plant sales. These small, often one-day-only affairs offer unusual and rare varieties that you won’t find elsewhere — like the camellia selection at London Town, or the wetland plant assortment at Providence Center. As a bonus, many plant sales feature local experts with proven green thumbs who will help you plan, choose and buy the right plants; at some sites, they’ll diagnose your plant problems.

From herbs, bulbs, perennials, annual flowers, ornamental grasses, hanging baskets and vegetable plants to bushes and trees, you’ll find plenty to plant and good advice — while supporting local growers and clubs.

Lower Marlboro Nursery

When: Fri. April 25 10am-5pm; Sat. April 26 10am-5pm; Sun. April 27 11am-4pm. Also Mother’s Day weekend, Sat. May 10 10am-5pm; Sun. May 11 11am-4pm.

What: Browse hundreds of varieties of native perennials, trees, shrubs and woodland plants, plus non-invasive exotics, such as Latin roses and hybrid Lenten roses. Owner Mary-Stuart Sierra cultivates most of the plants from seed. Among Sierra’s natives, you’ll find varieties of columbines, asters, phloxes and much more.

Where: Lower Marlboro Nursery, 7011 Flint Hill Rd., Owings: 301-812-0808;

Historic London Town and Garden

When: member preview sale Fri. April 25 4-7pm ($35/membership);

Open House Sale Sat. April 26 8am-noon

What: Become a member Friday night and get first plant pick, or browse for free on Saturday, when families alight on free garden tours and bet on raffles as they shop. Either day, first wander through London Town’s garden to see native woodland perennials, succulent shade plants, crested iris, bleeding hearts, plus a large selection of peonies and camellias and more. With your imagination fueled, make your choices of sale plants, all from the garden’s stock.

Make your kitchen garden historic with heirloom vegetables — including more than 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes — plus hard-to-find heirloom scarlet runner beans, flowering sweet peas and other old-fashioned plants.

Why: Acquire hard-to-find varieties of popular plants. Camellia fans will enjoy cold-hardy camellias bred onsite by Dr. William Ackerman. Your dollars help irrigate London Town’s gardens and keep them growing.

Where: Historic London Town and Gardens, 839 Londontown Rd., Edgewater: 410-222-1919.

Bowie-Crofton Garden Club

When: Sat. April 26, 8am-noon

What: Among homegrown stock, you’ll find a large variety of daylilies, herbs, tomato seedlings, ground covers like sedum, local perennials and a few exotics, all from members’ private gardens. Two local nurseries fill out the botanical offering: Cardinal Creek Nursery brings hanging baskets filled with annuals and some perennials, and Davidsonville Nursery sells hostas, herbs and native perennials.

Master Gardeners aid you in solving plant or pest mysteries, or help you select the right plant for the right microclimate.

Why: Beginning gardeners get plenty of help — plus soil and pots if needed. Sales benefit the garden club’s scholarship fund for a University of Maryland student, plus club plantings and projects at the library, schools and senior center.

Where: In front of Bowie Library, off Rt. 450 & Belair Dr., Bowie: Lynne @ 301-464-4642;

Calvert Garden Club

When: Sat. April 26, 9am-noon

What: Browse and buy shrubs, perennials, annuals, small trees and more, including daffodil bulbs, daylilies, crepe myrtle, nandinas and vegetable plants. Feast on grilled hot dogs as you browse, or indulge your sweet tooth with breads and desserts for sale.

Learn how to turn gardening into gourmet with garden cookbooks for sale. Or learn how to keep your garden growing with advice from seasoned club members.

Why: Locally grown flora come from garden clubbers’ personal collections, so you know that your lovely perennial will make it in Chesapeake’s climate. Increase your garden and your goodwill at the same time: sales help the Calvert Garden Club fund its charitable donations and service projects in Calvert County.

Where: Historic Linden House, Church St. off Main St., Prince Frederick: Adele @ 410-586-9353;

Four Rivers Garden Club’s annual Flower Mart

When: Wed. April 30 8:30am-2:30pm

What: For more than 65 years, the Four Rivers Garden Club has ushered in spring with a homegrown flower mart outside Market House. Arrive early to select pre-made May baskets and fresh cut flowers for your homespun May basket. Embellish your garden with locally grown natives, perennials, herbs and more — most plants are grown by members of the Four Rivers Garden Club, the oldest garden club in Anne Arundel County. As you tarry, enjoy baked goods and a raffle plus home and garden items. 

Come with garden questions — bagged samples of your gardening problem, if possible — and a master gardener will give expert advice.

Why: Take part in a half-century-old tradition as your dollars support Four Rivers Garden Club’s community projects.

Where: next to Market House, City Dock, downtown Annapolis: Susan @ 410-268-8817.

Battle Creek Nature Center

When: Sat. May 3, 9am-1pm

What: Green your gardens with flora nurtured from seed, including over 30 types of herbs from Hillcrest Nursery and a wide variety of lush and blossoming native perennials from Lower Marlboro Nursery.

Why: Garner herbs to flavor summer fare while you help raise money to keep Battle Creek open year-round.

Where: Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Gray’s Rd. off Sixes Rd., Port Republic: 410-535-5327.

Alice Ferguson Foundation at Hard Bargain Farm

When: Sat. May 3, 11am-4pm

Plant Sale
Shopping Tips

Arrive early to get the best selection.

Know where you want to plant — shade? sun?

Find out how big the plant you’re considering will grow.

Make room in your trunk for the ride home.

Bring cash.

Chat up sellers or garden club members.They’ll be able to recommend plants and offer advice.

If you tend to plant the same annuals every year, consider something new.

What: The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s plant sale coincides with their spring farm festival, so families find botanical additions for home gardens as they frolic at the farm. Plant sale offerings include annuals, perennials and natives and shrubs purchased fresh from local nurseries, typically colius, pansies, impatiens, marigolds, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan and more.

Gain garnish for your garden, then hop a wagon hayride to the Potomac River and back, and try out cow milking, butter churning and wool spinning. Dine on barbecue and ice cream; listen to live music. Kids get their own fun: a touch tank, face painting and crafts.

Why: Make a family day of it as you shop for plants and kids play and learn; then the whole family enjoys a picnic concert. When you buy plants, funds help keep the farm’s formal gardens green all season long.

Where: Hard Bargain Farm: Accokeek in Charles County: From Route 301/Route 5 in Waldorf, take Route 228 west (intersection with Circuit City and Best Buy stores alongside). Continue on Route 228 to Route 210 north; veer right and proceed to the far left lane. Left on Livingston Road at the first traffic light. Travel about 100 yards and take a right on Biddle Road. At the stop sign, left on Bryan Point Road: 2.5 miles to the farm: 301-292-5665;

Friends of Helen Avalynne at Tawes Garden

When: May 8 & 9, 10am-4pm

What: Just days before Mother’s Day, Tawes Garden bursts forth with blooms and flora for your home. Find a rainbow of annuals, perennials, aromatic herbs and ready-made hanging baskets. Help your mother get her vegetable garden growing with tomato, pepper and squash plants, all ready to transplant. Plus, amplify your maternal tribute with non-plant gifts.

Why: Mother will ooh and ahh over blossoming hanging baskets and vibrant flowers; you’ll get satisfaction from helping raise funds for Tawes garden — Maryland in Miniature — which depends on volunteer efforts.

Where: Tawes Garden, off Rowe Blvd., Annapolis: 410-260-8189.

Calvert County Master Gardeners

When: Sat. May 10, 8am-noon

What: Furnish your garden with healthy flora raised by Calvert County master gardeners. From the masters’ private collections come plants native and non-native alike, including perennials, shrubs, houseplants, butterfly attractors, vegetables and herbs. Shop early for spicebush, arrow-wood, sweet pepperbush and red osier dogwood.

Bring botanical oddities — or photos — of your ailing specimens to the plant clinic, where gardeners can help diagnose your plant problems.

Avid gardeners tote in old pots and trays for recycling and reuse.

Why: Get sage advice from master gardeners, who provide detailed planting instructions and label all that’s green with names and planting conditions for easy shopping. See what plants will look like later in the season with photos of each species at peak.

Where: Community Resources Building, 30 Duke St., Prince Frederick: 410-535-3662.

Historic Sotterley Plantation

When: Sat. May 10, plant sale 9am-noon; Plant exchange begins 10am sharp

What: Choose from a variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, small trees and bulbs, many of which come from private gardens of the Sotterley Garden Guild. Cuttings from Sotterly’s historic garden — including heirloom peonies, phlox, lilacs, larkspur and poppies — bring a bit of living history into your landscape. Mint connoisseurs acquire descendants of mint used to make mint juleps in the plantation’s heyday.

At 10am, join in the free plant exchange. Bring extra herbs, perennials, vegetables, seedlings, bulbs or seeds to swap.

Why: Gardeners can unload extra seeds, divided plants or an abundance of unwanted seedlings; greenhorn gardeners score small freebies. Proceeds help keep Sotterley’s Gardens growing year round.

Where: Historic Sotterley Plantation, off Rt. 245, 44300 Sotterley Ln., Hollywood, St. Mary’s County: 301-373-2280.

Chesapeake Beach Garden Club

When: Sat., May 10, 9am-1pm

What: The Chesapeake Beach Garden Club’s event is part plant sale and part flea market. For your garden, members dig and divide in their own collections to bring you colorful and healthy flora. It’s a casual, relaxed atmosphere where members typically bring tomato plants, irises of all colors, houseplants, pansies, petunias and more. You’ll also find herbs, bulbs, seeds and more, including bromeliads.

Buy transplants for the garden or blooming arrangements already potted.

Why: Proceeds benefit the Garden Club, which keeps town planters and gardens brimming with plants, as well as giving donations and advice to the elementary school’s reading garden.

Where: Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, at Rod ‘n’ Reel, Chesapeake Beach: Nancy @ 301-855-2919.

Historic Annapolis Foundation at the William Paca Garden

When: Sat. May 10 10am-4pm & Sun. May 11 noon-4pm

What: Gardeners browse a variety of heirloom flowers, vegetables, herbs, native trees and shrubs and flowering vines — like purple hyacinth bean. Or buy catalogue seeds to start your own seedlings. Hanging baskets brimming with annuals are new this year, as well as unusual natives such as echinacea Pink Double Delight and eupatorium rugosum Chocolate. Historic Annapolis Foundation volunteers — who patrol the sale to help you — have nurtured the plants in their greenhouses.

Why: All proceeds help maintain the blossoming 18th-century William Paca Garden. Plus, acquire modern varieties as well as time-tested heirloom varieties bred from 17th century plants, like black hollyhock and a variety of tomatoes.

Where: William Paca Garden, special event entrance at 1 Martin Street in Annapolis: 410-267-8146;

Providence Center

When: Year-round with special spring extended hours thru May 17: Mon.-Thurs. 8am-4pm; Fri. 8am-7pm; Sat. 9am-2pm.

What: The greenhouses of Providence Center — which employs differently abled adults — offers special spring selections. Greenhouse workers nurture hundreds of varieties of plants on-site, including annuals like geraniums, petunias, impatiens, marigolds and osterospernum (African daisies), plus houseplants, herbs, vegetables and some perennials. Homeowners with wet areas find wetlands plants and grasses in over 30 different varieties. Return throughout the summer for more seasonal flora.

On May 10, a Mother’s Day sidewalk sale includes hanging baskets full of greenhouse flowers, plus pottery, woodwork and crafts made by Providence Center crafters. Kids get a crafts table to make gifts for mother. (10am-2pm @ Park Plaza, near Bill Bateman’s restaurant off Rt. 2, Severna Park.)

Why: Meet the hardworking and friendly growers who work to keep plants growing in Providence Center’s greenhouse. Plus, your dollars go to keep plants and people growing.

Where: Greenhouses behind the Bradbury building, 370 Shore Acres Rd., Arnold: 410-757-7800.

Annapolis Horticultural Society

When: Sat. May 17, 7am-noon

What: At the last plant sale of the season, at the Anne Arundel Farmers’ Market, the Annapolis Horticultural Society offers botanical excess from members’ collections. Browse mainly native perennials mixed with deer-resistant plants, vegetables, tropicals, herbs and more.

This year, the club’s spotlight is on shrubs and trees, such as nandina, leucothoe, American cedar and aucuba. Arrive promptly. Early birds scoop up most plants between 7 and 9am.

Why: Shop for fresh local bounty and plan your garden in one shopping trip. Knowledgeable horticulture club members and Master Gardeners shed light on your gardening dilemmas.

Where: Anne Arundel Farmers’ Market, corner of Riva Rd. & Truman Pkwy., Annapolis: Tish @ 410-757-3130.

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