Amid an encroaching summer season, the end of virtual spring classes and a pandemic, the Trial Gardens at UGA is still hosting its annual plant sale. This year, however, the Trial Gardens will be doing it a little differently.
Unlike previous years, the Trial Gardens are requiring customers to purchase plants through UGArden’s online platform. This is the first time the gardens have used an online platform for sales, said Garden Manager Brandon Coker.
After the plant sale’s original date of April 11 was canceled due to COVID-19, Coker said he was concerned the sale would not happen and all the plants would go to waste. Some of the plants on sale have been growing since this past fall.
Nearly the entire month of March, Coker was working on prepping for the sale and tending to the gardens by himself. Due to COVID-19, he was told his volunteers and four student workers could not come to work. He was eventually put on a critical employees list and was allowed help from one or two workers a day.
“I have extremely good help and we have been able to get a lot of work done in the past few weeks,” Coker said.
The annual sale is essential for the Trial Gardens because the money made goes into paying for student labor, supplies and the continuation of plant research.
“Not having the plant sale would be a major issue because it determines what we can do in terms of garden activity and research we conduct,” Coker said. “We would be quite limited if we didn't have that income that supports everything we do out here.”
Coker said the Trial Gardens have always done the garden sale in person because it’s best for the customers to see the plants in a “grab-and-go, elbows out environment.” The Trial Gardens grow plants difficult to find in nurseries and usually sell 12 or 15 of one type of plant. The plants aren’t mass-produced, making it a niche market.
There is usually a core group of plants that are sold every year, Coker said, but this year there will be a handful of new ones. These will include pentas, flowering maples and colias.
“There are many, many colors and they are all extremely healthy,” Coker said.
Coker says gardening teaches the community what success looks like and communicates a hopeful message to every generation at any point in life. With people staying home and realizing their home is a valuable asset, he hopes people can have plants and find a little happiness in that.
Online orders will begin on May 13 and customers can pick up their plants on May 16 and 18 at 111 Riverbend Rd. Athens, GA 30602. This year, each plant is $5.
The Trial Gardens are open to the public all day, every day. Everyone is always welcome, Coker said.