A couple of new events are designed to get you out looking at plants — and maybe even buying a few.
The Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day is being held Saturday at greenhouses and garden centers all across the state. It was created over coffee during the Maine Agriculture Show in Augusta in January.
Mary Lou Hoskins of Greencare Interior Landscapes in Hermon (just south of Bangor) came up with the idea, and it spread quickly.
“I made the mistake of opening my mouth,” Hoskins said, “and they said fine, go ahead and do it.”
The hardest part was setting a date. People didn’t want it to be too early into April, because most years it could be cold and snowy.
And they didn’t want it to conflict with Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, when nurseries and greenhouses are busy every year.
“It is really just to promote the green industry and independent garden centers,” Hoskins said. “Maine Maple Sunday promotes syrup producers, and open farm days do that for farms. But there really wasn’t anything for the green business, and that is a fairly big chunk of agricultural business in this state.”
Of the 30 or so participating garden centers, a lot of them are in central Maine. Hoskins said that is probably because she is active in the Mid-Maine Greenhouse Growers Association, and its members got behind the project.
Southern Maine participants include Risbara’s Greenhouse in Portland; Plainview Farm in North Yarmouth; Estabrook’s in Yarmouth, Scarborough and Kennebunk; Steeplebrush Farm Herbs in Limington; JoAnn’s Flowers in Parsonsfield and Moose Crossing Garden Center in Waldoboro.
Hoskins thinks more nurseries and garden centers will get involved in the future.
“We all love growing plants. It’s not just to make money,” she said. “It’s a passion. But we don’t mind making money, too.”
The events are going to be varied, with participating businesses determining their own offerings.
“A couple different places are going to do May baskets because it is May 1, and they are going to try to revive that tradition, especially for kids. Some places are giving away pansies for kids,” Hoskins said.
“Longfellow’s in Manchester is setting up a line so people can see how their seedlings are produced. I’m going to have a popcorn machine, have the soil testing lab at UMaine set up and test people’s soil. That’s real easy, because I am married to the guy.”
That would be Bruce Hoskins, coordinator of the soil testing program at the Analytical Soil Testing Lab at Orono.
Claudia Risbara of Risbara’s Greenhouse just off outer Forest Avenue said it’s also their 20th anniversary in business, so they will have some promotions to celebrate, including 20 percent off all plants and shrubs. At 5 p.m. Saturday, Risbara’s will give away 20 gift certificates worth $20 each.
But to a great extent, Risbara just wants to get people to the nursery to see what they have in bloom.
“We have this white ornamental cherry tree in bloom now, and no one is here to see it,” she said. “And magnolias. There are so many plants in bloom in early spring, and if people don’t come out, they miss them. And whatever we can do to get the public to notice us is good.”
AND THERE’S MORE
Donna Palmer of Plainview Farms said they are going to have a tomato tasting from their first harvest of tomatoes from the greenhouse this season.
“And we are going to have Kelly Roth from Vitamin Sea Seaweed talking about their fertilizer from the Atlantic,” Palmer said. “People are really interested in learning about organic gardening.”
Other activities that I found out from a Maine Department of Agriculture press release received as I was writing this said Hoboken Gardens in Rockport features Maureen Heffernan, author of “Native Plants for Your Maine Garden,” with a talk and book signing; and Lois Stack and Caragh Fitzgerald from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension as part of Longfellow’s offerings.
The second event, National Public Gardens Day, is a bit more low-key. The May 7 event is in its second year and sponsored by Rain Bird, an irrigation-equipment manufacturer in California, and the American Public Gardens Association, based in Pennsylvania. The association said McLaughlin Garden in South Paris and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay were taking part.
Jennifer O’Rourke, interim director of McLaughlin Garden, said her garden is opening its annual Wildflower Celebration that weekend — May 7-9, which is Mother’s Day. O’Rourke said they opened the event on Friday because of Public Gardens Day.
McLaughlin’s big event is the Lilac Festival, which is always Memorial Day weekend, May 28-31. O’Rourke said a lot of people have been asking if the warm weather will move up the bloom time of the lilacs so that it misses the festival. She said there is no way to tell, but there will be some lilacs in bloom no matter what.
As an aside, O’Rourke is interim director because Michael Desplaines, the former director, left recently to become executive director of Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, N.H.
Barbara Freeman of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens said her garden has signed up to be a participant, but she does not know of anything they are doing different than a regular spring day at the garden.
Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at