By Amy Chapman
Local gardeners will share their perennials for the benefit of the Bethel Library Association May 31 at the 19th annual library plant sale.
The event takes place from 9 to 10 a.m.
This spring tradition raises money for the library’s general fund, while giving local gardening enthusiasts an opportunity to purchase affordable perennials from the gardens of their friends and neighbors.
Most perennials do best when divided every three to four years. Dividing the plants keeps them healthy and performing at their peak, producing the largest and most abundant blooms.
It also allows gardeners to share their bounty with others.
Irises, hostas, sedum, astilbe, bleeding heart, and lilies are among the plants often available at the sale.
“In the spring people find ‘volunteers,’” said Susan Parker, who co-chairs the plant sale committee with fellow library trustee John Applin. “Those are plants that have come up in a new place thanks to underground shoots, seeds that blew in the wind or had help from animals. We like to get those plants that gardeners don’t want, or want less of.”
May is the perfect time to divide most perennials to allow them to become well-established in their new homes before the hotter, drier days of summer. The sale is always held the Saturday after Memorial Day, when spring is well underway and local gardeners have had a chance to get to work in their flowerbeds.
“We have buyers who show up every year, and many also donate plants,” said Parker.
This year, the committee is excited to be receiving a large donation of daylilies from veteran gardener Norm Davis of Newry.
“Norm is amazing,” Parker said. “He knows the names—including the Latin names—of all of the plants in his garden. He has been involved with the plant sale since the beginning.”
“I guess you could say I got started in flower gardening because of my mother—she always had big flower gardens,” said Davis, who also tends a quarter-acre vegetable garden and sells his produce from a roadside stand.
He explained that daylilies fall into three categories: dormant, semi-evergreen, and evergreen, depending on whether or not the foliage dies back completely in the fall. The daylilies he is donating to the plant sale are all of the dormant foliage type, which Davis said he has found are the most reliable for Maine’s climate.
He grows more than a hundred different varieties. “I kind of specialize in daylilies nowadays,” he said. “I didn’t add any new ones this year, but I won’t say I’m done.”
Davis said anyone who would like is welcome to visit his Newry gardens. He suggested calling first (824-2844) to make sure he is home to show people around.
Plant sale committee members advise buyers to come early for the best selection of plants, and this year will be giving away free gifts for gardeners during the first half hour of the sale.
“Most plants are sold within the first hour, but there are usually a few plants left and we will mark them down even further,” Parker said.
“You can’t get plants any cheaper,” said Bethel Library staff member Gina Douglass. “I have filled five huge gardens with plants from the sale, and I’m running out of places to put them.”
Another regular participant is Peggy Wight of Newry.
“My gardens are full of plants purchased over the years at the plant sale,” she said. “Each year I try to note in my garden book from whose garden the plants originally came. As I divide these plants for another sale, Ilike to add the name of the original donor. Having a person associated with the plant makes it more fun and creates good memories.”
Gardeners who have plants to donate to the sale can stop by the library to pick up pots and plant markers. To have plants picked up, call Susan Day at 824-2741 or Susan Parker at 824-4767.