Greenhouses and garden centers all across Maine will be opening their doors Saturday in hopes of getting the season off to a good start.
Mary Lou Hoskins of Greencare Plantscape in Hermon came up with the idea of an event for garden centers that would be similar to Maine Maple Sunday — one that wold create a little bit of excitement, let people have some fun and bring in a bit of business for the garden centers.
“I think we have about 38 (participants) this year,” Hoskins said, “up from 31 last year. We have a few more in southern Maine this year, and a few more up north.”
Hoskins organized the event in 2010 through the Mid-Maine Greenhouse Growers Association, so most of the participants have been from central Maine. More information about the event is available at plants4maine.com, the association’s website.
The response last year was good enough to try again.
“It was kind of mixed,” Hoskins said. “A lot depends on where in the state they were.”
Hoskins’ operation in Hermon had one of its busiest May 1sts ever last year. Risbara’s in Portland reported an excellent day, which led to its best May ever. But for some, especially along the coast where there are a lot of summer homes, there was little activity.
“For us, the day was people out buying stuff and looking around, getting ready for the season,” Hoskins said. “This year, we are going to let people plant their own patio planter, just something so they can get their hands dirty.”
Broadway Gardens in South Portland did not take part last year, mostly because Jody DeKubber, Broadway’s manager, didn’t hear about it in time. But he is glad to be taking part this year.
“It just gives our customers a chance to see what is coming in that’s new for the season,” DeKubber said. “We have a lot of pansies and some other plants in bloom, so people can check things out.”
DeKubber is not planning any hands-on activities, but Broadway Gardens will be giving away four $50 gift certificates and a Jonathan Green four-step lawn program kit. In addition, the center is offering a 20 percent discount on all pottery for people who want to get their patio plantings ready.
Following on the success it had last year, Risbara’s is offering three lectures during the day. At 11 a.m., owners Peter and Claudia Risbara will give a demonstration for children on planting seeds of flowers and vegetables and transplanting these plants to their own container to take home. Then they will give tips on weeding and harvesting.
At 1 p.m., John Flanders will give a talk and demonstration on pruning trees and shrubs. And at 2 p.m., Stefanie Bateman will show the proper way to plant window boxes and patio containers, starting with the soil and continuing to compatible plants for sun and shade.
Donna Palmer of Plainview Farm in North Yarmouth said her husband, Steve, will be leading a tour — or tours if there is enough interest — through their woodland garden. But they are requesting that people sign up at the website (plainviewfarm.com) or call 829-5004, because the narrow paths will only allow so many people at a time.
“We’ll have a special launching,” Palmer said. “So many people say they miss the old-fashioned cardboard six-packs, and we have done about 100 varieties in that size priced at $3.99. Sometimes they will be a four-pack, depending on the size of the plants, but four plants for four bucks is still a good deal.”
Estabrook’s is taking part in all three of its locations in Yarmouth, Scarborough and Kennebunk, and Tom Estabrook promises some exciting events at all three spots.
“I don’t know what they are yet,” he said with just a bit of a chuckle. “But we will have them.”
For five years, O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham has held a two-day organic workshop weekend. This year, it’s combining the workshop with Open Greenhouse and Garden Day.
“The organic workshop is something we hold for two days,” owner Jeff O’Donal said, “but it is something we practice all year.”
O’Donal has lined up a list of expert speakers — and one garden writer — over the weekend.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, Kevin Kearns of the Morrison Center in Scarborough will speak on tropical plants for the home and patio; followed at 11:30 a.m. by Lois Berg Stack, an ornamental horticulture specialist and educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Orono, on edible landscapes; and at 1 p.m. by Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals on growing and using medicinal herbs.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, I — your friendly Maine Sunday Telegram gardening columnist — will speak on how I became a garden writer and erstwhile authority with no real training.
At 11:30 a.m. May 1, Rick Churchill — a horticulture consultant, faculty member at The Landscape Institute, former associate editor at People Places & Plants magazine, and founder of the horticulture department at Southern Maine Community College — will speak on attainable sustainable landscapes.
At 1 p.m. May 1, Steve Eveld of Ravenhill Orchard in East Waterboro will speak about his organic orchard, followed at 2:30 p.m. by O’Donal, who will speak about his new line of Barth Daylilies.
It is really a little daunting to be included in such a prestigious lineup.
Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at