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The Day of the Big Plant Sale
by David Lendrum

Saturday morning at Carrs parking lot, the day of the big plant sales, the excitement is palpable as the volunteers set out flats of perennials and tubs of shrubbery. The 4-H kids are at one end of the spectrum, looking over the field towards the adults and seeing potential lives for themselves. Events like this are a combination revival, circus, and reunion, as the familiar faces and new attendees mingle in the frenzy.

Pieces of history are batted about, personalities discussed in whispers appear, and parts of old Juneau gardens make their way from yard to yard. This annual plant sale, evolved from the venerable Juneau Garden Club sales, has grown to festival proportions. There are actually two festivals going on simultaneously, and in the same location. The first is the party put on and attended by the gardening associations; Master Gardeners, Primrose Society, 4-H, and Juneau Garden Club. The other one is everybody else, the hundreds on the other side of the yellow tapes.

The first party has been planned for weeks, preparations have been passed along, plants divided and rooted containers cleaned and stored, and business supplies readied. E-mail lists whisper across the community, and telephone trees groan under the weight of the information, as the tasks are apportioned and needs met. There is as much fun in assembling such an event as in going to one.

Saturday morning the plants arrive in trunks, station wagons and pickups, piling up like driftwood and being sorted into appropriate order by skilled hands. Names are checked, varieties are made neighbors, and sizes are ranked. Many of these plants are returning to the sphere whence they came, having been purchased at previous sales and grown to the stage where they could be made productive again.

Some earlybird dealing goes on, and side transactions are discussed. Someone sees something brought by somebody else, and says "I've got lots of that, but I didn't think anybody wanted it." They are overheard and arrangements are made to meet tomorrow and share out the bounty. A little warning murmur passes, as particularly invasive plants are set out, "Don't plant that Bishops Weed by your Bleeding Heart, it will eat it up." Mostly the comments are anticipatory and thrilled.

Everything looks lovely. The plants are healthy, the day is sunny, and everybody is ready.

The second party comes together while the first is still in their private realm; buzzing with anticipation and desire, boxes, flats and gloves in hand, they surge towards the tables as soon as the 9:00 signal allows them access. Nothing lasts long, the treasures are handed over, bargains snapped up and thousands of small lives are sent along the network to new quarters.

Friendships have been renewed, acquaintances have blossomed into something closer as shared interests emerge, and another bond in the community is built. Gardeners are not single interest personalities, they all have full and valuable lives, but meeting with others in events like this big plant sale lets them indulge in some part that is real fulfilling.

The plants are a reason for the event, fund raising for the groups is a reason for the event, and access to the local garden stuff is a reason for the event, but the effects of this days activities go far beyond these. People meet, allow other barriers to fade, and share feelings and experiences that predate current conflicts. Dirt heals.

Then the sale is over, the last of the plants are half price, then some stragglers show up and take everything left for a fixed price, the tables come down and attention is passed to the rest of the day. Many of the participants head directly home to plant their new acquisitions, lots go on to the other events of the day.

Litter cleanup, stream rescue and cleanup, Mendenhall Watershed Partnership sponsors a Bar B Que. for all the good souls who help clean up the winters debris, and this year had a treasure hunt. There were dozens of small yellow rubber ducks hidden along the clean up areas; they were traded in for prizes at the party. This is a way to increase exposure, and allow access to people who want to participate in hands on restoration projects. There are projects going on now, and interested people can contact the Partnership through the office at 586-6853. All in all, Saturday was a fine day.

Plants passed on this way are often unavailable through commercial channels, heirlooms like sprouts from telephone hill cherries or local creations like Mrs. Jensen's spectacular primroses.

Call Landscape Alaska at (907) 790-4916

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