Plant-sale season is under way — a chance for gardeners to get some good plants at low prices and at the same time help a garden club or other nonprofit group.

If you want to treat your mother — or you are a mother wanting a treat — you could go to McLaughlin Gardens at 97 Main St. in South Paris. The garden opens the Friday before Mother’s Day every year with its plant sale and wildflower weekend, and that event is continuing today.

But most of the sales by nonprofit groups will be held between Saturday and June 4.

“The Longfellow Garden Club sale is May 14,” said Candi Oliver of Gorham, a member of the Longfellow club and of Osewantha Garden Club in South Portland. “May 14 is going to be really early this year. The hostas are barely up. Last year, it would have been great, with the spring we had.”

But don’t let Oliver’s worries deter you from going out to the North Deering Congregational Church, 1364 Washington Ave., between

8 a.m. and noon Saturday. There are going to be plenty of perennials, a few shrubs, the ever-popular geraniums and — although they aren’t plants — a lot of homemade pies made by Longfellow members.

“Our pies have really developed quite a following,” Oliver said. “They sell pretty quickly.”

The Longfellow Garden Club’s major missions are to support and maintain the garden behind the Longfellow House on Congress Street in Portland and the Longfellow Arboretum at Payson Park. The money from the plant sale will go to those projects.

One advantage to that link is that some of the plants at the sale will be from the Longfellow Garden.

“We are going to have some that we’ll dig up, and have some plants from heeled-in plants at my house, and those are going to be dug up for the sale,” Oliver said.

The sale will have a wide variety of other plants. Oliver said one member got a deal on 20 shrubs — PJM rhododendrons and a variety of azaleas — and will be bringing those in.

And Oliver will be digging up some clethra, which she loves for its sweet smell, from her house.

But most of the plants come because perennials — such as daylilies, Siberian iris, hostas, lady’s mantle, Solomon’s seal and other plants — expand in the garden and encroach on other plants. The way to make them healthier is to dig and divide the plants, put a smaller piece back in the ground to develop, and give the rest away.

Oliver takes pictures of her plants when they are in bloom, and when she takes them to the plant sale, she will put the pictures on the pot.

Most people are not that organized, and sometimes you can’t be quite sure what color the daylily you are buying will be.

But the prices are good.

“We try to look at the plant and then look at the O’Donal’s catalog, and then beat him on price,” Oliver said. “And our plants are often bigger than his. We’ll have a whole hosta in a pot, not just a few stems.”

Oliver, who used to live in South Portland, is also a member of Osewantha Garden Club.

And she says she is careful to save some plants for Osewantha’s sale, which this year will be June 4 at the Millcreek Shopping Center, even though the Longfellow sale is larger.

You might think that an experienced gardener like Oliver, who is a flower show judge, might not be buying many plants herself.

But that is not the case.

“Last year at a plant sale, I got a Japanese maple,” she said. “It’s not very big; maybe 4 or 5 inches tall. And those are really expensive in commercial nurseries.”


Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

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