Oh, the joy! For a gardener who is also a plant specimen collector like me, there is nothing like the joy of a plant sale at a botanical garden. And just coincidentally, there was one at a favorite botanical garden on a visit I recently made to Los Angeles, California. To my delight, I approached the ticket window to find parking signs for plant sale purchase loading. I could scarcely wait to enter not only the garden, as it is truly one of my favorite destinations while visiting my sister in Los Angeles, but now I was so eager to first shop the plants! And shop the plants first I did!
Now those who accompany me to any public or private garden collection like this one or the Huntington in San Marino, which we had just done two days prior this visit, are themselves eager to stroll garden pathways and to experience the ever-changing seasonal nature of the various planting collections. There is always something in bloom, always something exotic or unique to see in the way of plant specimens. At the Huntington Library and Botanical Garden, there is even a Carrion Flower,(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrion_flower), the plant which smells like a rotting carcass upon blooming. I believe it bloomed a few years ago, a rare experience which draws numerous visitors just for the sake of seeing it. Although I missed that, I have visited the Huntington and other botanical gardens I favor in Los Angeles and elsewhere as often as I can each year! Usually, those family and friends who accompany me to botanical gardens know my passion for plants, so they accept any foray to such places, as well as the coincidentally timed plant sales we precipitously discover!
At this particular garden and plant sale, I decided to browse the sale prior to walking through the garden. The plants are limited in quantity which encourages me to shop early to have a better selection. And conveniently, the staff at the sale were able to accommodate browsers by holding plants in a secure room for a later time that same day. So we walked around the room with all the plants, large and small, and I found four plants in rather quick fashion which I believed would do well here in the desert! I study plants, having read a lot of books on them, and know botanical names. I am well-prepared because of my passion for plants, reading and learning about plants, as well as collecting unique specimens which I cannot find at my local nurseries or garden centers. I shopped rather quickly, and then we walked the garden pathways for several hours in the lovely Spring weather that particular day!
Because I live in a desert, most plants I am able to purchase locally are drought-tolerant and specifically known to grow here with our extreme conditions. That makes sense! But I want to discover plants from other origins which I might be able to grow here too! And so I collect plants specimens, I take chances and I push the parameters of what will grow in my desert garden. I do so without a built-in watering system, and with the limitations of weather and sun exposure found in a desert location. But I have gotten many plants I purchased in other states to work here where they aren’t found naturally in our desert or readily available for purchase! Botanical garden plant sales are a fabulous opportunity to discover yet unknown or hard to find plants. They often have plants which haven’t made it to the commercial nurseries because they aren’t yet as requested by customers. And for a visitor from another state, they offer a chance to try something completely new!
Shopping for plants at the Southcoast Botanical Garden just a few miles from the Pacific is in itself a risk because it is in such a mild climate compared to mine, but I found four lovely one-gallon specimens to buy. I am taking a chance, but the unique nature of the plants, some familiar, some not, are the biggest thrill for someone who collects! Two of the four are known to me, I have their plant relatives in my garden. They are cultivars with distinction and unique features, though. Of the remaining two, one is an unknown entity, and I will plant it in a protected location for now. I bought it based on its description and appearance, only to discover it will have beautiful scented blue flowers one day! The other is a member of the bulb family, so I know from experience that it can be divided and regrown year after year. It will make a great potted plant because it flowers intensely for a brief period.
For a plant nerd, aka collector, like me, a botanical garden is a place of great beauty and wonderful discovery! It can also be a place of wondrous reward when offering up a bounty of beauty to members and guests through annual or bi-annual plant sales. If you enjoy plants as much as I do, I encourage you to frequent your local botanical gardens and to visit those in other areas to which you travel. Because I am often in Los Angeles to see family and friends, I frequently visit several lovely gardens there. The experiences for me have been rich and rewarding, varying by the season and the nature of plant growth during seasonal influences. I get lost in those gardens, I am inspired by those gardens and my soul is restored in those gardens! And I love a good sale, especially when it comes to plants!