Rosemarie Sells (right), 71, a master gardener and retired art teacher from Social Circle, Georgia, talks to Patricia Hatcher, 33, an employee at Earth Fare from Atlanta, Georgia, about plants at Plantapalooza on Saturday, April 14, 2018, at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Plantapalooza is a half-day plant sale that features plants that grow well in the southeast. (Photo/Miranda Daniel)

From shrubs like azaleas to perennial herbs like Lamb’s-ear, the annual Plantapalooza plant sale on April 13 will offer Athens and northeast Georgia a selection of shrubs, perennials, annuals, trees, vegetables and fruits.

Plant-lovers can swarm to the University of Georgia Trial Gardens, Riverbend and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to buy as many native plants money allows.

Plantapalooza has gone on for as long as the organizers can remember. Brandon Coker, the garden manager of the Trial Gardens, believes it’s occurred annually for at least a decade.

From Lamb’s-ear to cupheas

The plant sale is a collaboration between the Trial Gardens, which sells mainly annuals and perennials, the UGA Horticulture Club, which sells trees, shrubs, vegetables and fruits and the Botanical Garden, which sells native plants.

Each site sells a different assortment of plants. For example, the Trial Gardens will sell primarily large plants such as abutilon, which grows upside-down flowers. Abutilon can be difficult to find, but the Trial Gardens grows the flowering plant in the greenhouse and sells them every year, in addition to Lamb’s-ear and cupheas.

The UGA Horticulture Club will offer some unusual woody plants, which they get from more progressive nurseries that sell plants not typically found at garden centers. The club will also sell plenty of small trees sourced from a local nursery. 

“The idea behind the three venues is … come with an empty car, lots of money and just spend out — have fun,” Coker said.

Tim Smalley, the supervisor of the UGA Horticulture Club and the interim department head of the horticulture department,  said every site of the plant sale will provide the perfect opportunity to talk to knowledgeable professors and professionals about any burning landscape or gardening questions attendees may. There will be a “vegetable person,” a “fruit person” and possibly a viticulturist, an expert in the study of grapes and wine-making.

“There's usually a knowledgeable upperclassman or even a professor that is walking around,” Smalley said.

Uniting through greenery

Plantapalooza provides a chance for gardeners to unite and bond over gardening. People who don’t know how to garden but love plants are also encouraged to come and learn. Coker, for one, enjoys his job of “essentially a full-time gardener.”

“We love plants and we personally find a lot of joy in doing this and being gardeners,” Coker said.  “I couldn't really ask for anything better in life … People love plants and we love to help them accomplish that joy.”

Unlike the Trial Gardens and Botanical Garden, the Horticulture Club started selling plants on Friday, April 5 and sells before Plantapalooza and the Sunday after it.

“The Hort Club relies upon these sales for scholarship money and money to support our educational adventures and field trips,” Smalley said.

The Horticulture Club recently returned from a competition in Denver, which was in part funded by the Plantapalooza sales, Smalley said.

In the case of the Horticulture Club, the sale is an important educational experience for the students. The funds raised by the Trial Gardens go towards funding student labor and supplies for the garden among other things. The funds raised by the Botanical Gardens also goes towards running its gardens.

“They've been nurturing them from about mid-February, planting transplants and watering and fertilizing … as needed,” Smalley said. “They learned how to grow the plants but then they learned how to market the plants too.”

Customers can buy plants at the Trial Gardens for $5, $10 and $15. Those who don’t consider themselves gardeners can come and find a plant to fit their skill level.

“We have a lot of students who come in saying they kill plants or they can't garden or something like that and the simple fact is you don't have to have a large sprawling garden landscape,” Coker said.

The Trial Gardens is selling succulent combo pots for $15, each of which has 15 different types of succulents in them. They can be split up or kept as one in the same pot. These are easy to take care of because they only need to be watered once a week.

Unlike the other sites, the Trial Gardens will take cash or check only.

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