Plant sale gives gardeners the thrill of the hunt

Erin Schanen

The phrase “the thrill of the hunt” has different meanings for different pasttimes. Its orgins conjure images of hunters, or perhaps animal predators, stalking their prey, but I’ve heard people who frequent rummage sales and secondhand shops use the same phrase to describe the adrenaline rush of finding a quirky trinket.

A similar feeling is known to gardeners when they find a new-to-them plant. Learning of and procuring a plant that is different from what everyone in the neighborhood grows is a bit of a rush in a hobby not known for its thrills. And if you happen to spot such a plant in another garden, just ask the gardener about it. I guarantee you they’ve been casually hanging out by their new prized plant willing someone to ask them about it.

One of the first places I realized how many plants are out there to be discovered was the Ozaukee Master Gardeners’ annual plant sale, which I first attended nearly 20 years ago. Back then, I thought basil was basil until I saw the multitude of varieties at the sale. This year’s sale, which is being held Saturday, May 20, in Cedarburg, has 17 different varieties, including the beautiful variegated Pesto Perpetuo.

Some of my favorite garden plants have been discoveries from the plant sale. Angelica gigas is an eye-catching plant that grows 5 to 6 feet tall in a season and produces purple umbrella-shaped flowers that are beloved by every pollinator in a five-mile radius. It’s a biennial that self-seeds easily, so buying it two years in a row has created an excellent supply that blooms every year, with plenty of seedlings to share or thin out.

A whole world of tomatoes was opened to me when I discovered varieties beyond the hybrids I found at garden centers. I loved the look and flavor of the heirloom tomatoes I found at the sale, but not the size, which towered far above any tomato cage I could construct. That led to my discovery of dwarf tomatoes, which are crosses of dwarf and heirloom varieties that produce regular-sized fruit on shorter plants. A handful of dward tomatoes will be offered at the sale this year, including my favorite ‘Firebird Sweet.’

The addition of hard-to-find native plant to the sale has again opened my eyes to new plants for my garden. This year, I’m after a shorter-growing variety of rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) called ‘Prairie Moon.’ The irony of discovering a “new” plant that has grown wild in this part of the country for thousands of years is not lost on me.

I think I’ll plant it in the garden close to the road, so when an inquistive neighbor walks by and admires it, I’ll be standing by to tell them all about this great “new” plant.

The Ozaukee Master Gardeners heirloom and herb plant sale will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 20, at the Ozaukee Pavilion at the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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