This past weekend was VanDusen Botanical Gardens annual plant sale. This well attended event brings over 10,000 gardeners into the garden each year to vie for unique and wonderful plants, some 40,000 in total. Although the sale didn’t begin until 10am, I was there bright and early at 6:45am on Sunday. Last year this was early enough to secure the first spot in line, this year I was fourth. The two gentlemen at the front of the line arrived at 5:45am after reading Steve Whysall’s piece in the Vancouver Sun that mentioned people start lining up at 6am.
Blarg! I don’t know if I can do that early next year. I mean, common Steve! I drive out from PoCo, yo. Cut a girl some slack! You gotta get up real early in the morning to make it to Oak & West 37th by 5:45am.
For the last three years I’ve been near the front of the line. And each year with minimal variance the first dozen or so people in line are the same. Although we don’t see each other for a year, we’ve become good garden friends. We talk and joke with each other, poke fun with the security guard, who himself has been around this sale for a good long time. It’s more like a garden club meet up than a line up. Most bring snack and coffee, and everyone shares stories and gardening tips. Garden people make great peeps, and as I was soon to find out, become important allies in the search for that perfect plant!
I was happy with my spot in line. The closer to the front, the better my odds for scoring all the little gems on my list. I got the early bird tour of the sale, a perfect opportunity to sight the must haves. I scoured the tree area in a futile search for an Acer Griseum ‘Paper Bark Maple’. While I couldn’t find one I did find the blueberry bush ‘Pink Lemonade’ and committed it’s location to memory. I also mentally filed away the location of some beautiful Agave variegata’s and the always stunning Erythronium revolutum ‘Fawn Lily’ which were high on my list.
It is a very neat experience to poke around the tables before the crowds arrive. The tables were bursting with plants and the volunteers bubbled with excitement. The air was live with anticipation. Very cool for a plant geek like me. I begun planning my route as we filed back into line. From there, the sale catalog came out and the highlighters were soon to follow. Serious business.
Only two more hours to go!
Time flies when you’re having fun, but those last few minutes before the opening were brutally long! Once the doors did open, we rushed in and the craziness began. I followed my route and picked up my must haves. I was still a little disappointed that I missed out on a paper bark maple, but comme ci comme ca, I now had a magnolia and dwarf coral bark maple in my cart instead.
I would survive this.
It would be difficult, but I’d manage.
It was busy, smoking busy!
In that moment it became evident just how well run the sale really is. The plants were going fast! Smiles could be seen everywhere as gardeners filled their arms and stuffed their carts. As the tables emptied the volunteer Master Gardeners refilled, keeping the tables full for as long as they could. They answered questions and recommended plants. Signage was everywhere. Helping you find the right area, explaining the different varieties, and pointing out plants that were especially good for container gardening.
This was masterpiece in the art of organized chaos.
When finally your arms, or wagon became too full the hold area helped lightened the load. Which for someone like me, means the opportunity to make a second or third pass through the tables.
No plant left behind!
Gardeners are good people. They’ll give you the shirt off their back if you’re in need. It’s true! And if that’s not what you’re looking for, they’ll also have an extra perennial or two to help you fill your garden. Just wait here, while they go grab a shovel and a pot……
Ahh, I digress.
It was on that third pass through the sale that I bumped into a line mate. This kind woman was on her way to the checkouts with her family when she spotted it! Low and behold a table tucked away, filled with tree saplings. Tiny little things. She stopped to read the signage and there in small print (much like the size of the tree) was Acer Griseum the much sought after ‘Paper Bark’ Maple!
This wonderful woman knew what to do. She sent her family on to the checkouts without her and she dove back into the crowds to find me.
Isn’t that amazing! Because of her kindness I was able to leave with everything I came for and more! It was an amazing day!
This picture of me was snapped as I made my way to the checkouts. I look forward to this event every year, and this year did not disappoint!
Now to get planting!