Plants & Gardens Blog

How to Get the Most Out of the BBG Plant Sale

The annual Plant Sale is a spectacular event, offering the largest collection of quality plants in the metropolitan area. Many gardeners consider it their favorite place to buy plants and look forward to it all year. But it can be a bit overwhelming if you go in without a plan. So don’t! Instead, think ahead so you can make smart purchases. Here’s how.

Know Your Conditions

For any good garden design, you must know your garden. That means knowing its exposure. Is it north, south, east, west? How many hours of sun does each section get? Is the soil sandy, fertile, wet, or dry? Is the site windy? For indoor plants, you’ll need to know the amount of light your window receives every day. There will be many professional and passionate gardeners on hand to advise you. Make the most of their expertise by providing details. Consider bringing photos and measurements of your garden.

Know Your Plants

Also consider how any new purchases will fit in with your existing plants. Make a garden map or list of plants you already have as well as those on your wish list. Include the botanical name if possible. (All the plants at the Plant Sale are organized in alphabetical order by botanical name.) Keep in mind that if you buy plants that suit your site, chances are they’ll look good with your other plants.

Know Your Needs

Do you need a child- or dog-friendly garden? Do you want to attract pollinators? Do you prefer plants native to this area? How will you experience the space—do you see it from an upper-story window, or do you spend a lot of time sitting in it? Is fragrance important to you? Also, be honest with yourself about how much time you have to maintain (and water!) these plants.

Do a Little Research…It’s fun!

Talk to your neighbors about what works (and what doesn’t) in their gardens. Visit local nurseries, parks, and gardens like BBG to see what plants grow well in this region. Buy a pile of garden magazines or subscribe to nursery catalogs and clip out pictures of plants you like. Prepare a wish list as well as a list of questions for the experts who will be on hand.

Know Your Way Around

Cherry Esplanade will be covered with thousands of plants for sale. Most outdoor plants, including trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and vines, will be outside the tent, on the north end of the lawn, with the shade-tolerant plants organized on one side and the sun-loving plants on the other. Annuals, houseplants, and herbs are inside the tent. Be sure to come for the Members’ Preview, but don’t hesitate to come back a second time—you never know what you’ll find!

What to Bring

Bring your own cart if you have one—the little red wagons go fast! Bring a friend to help you and to share the experience. And don’t forget your cash or credit card!

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Plants & Gardens, Brooklyn Botanic Garden's member newsletter.

Joan McDonald runs a private garden design business, Gardens by Joan, and is a graduate of the BBG Certificate in Horticulture program.

Image, top of page: Rebecca Bullene