Flowers, ferns and trees will cover the First Congregational Church parking lot on May 7 for the Webster Groves Women’s Garden Association (WGWGA) annual Plant Sale. For decades, the WGWGA has hosted this event – but this is the first year it will be outside, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Native and non-native perennials are to be sold at the sale. These include potted celandine poppies, lamb’s ear, irises, lilies of the valley, candy tufts, Lenten roses, black-eyed-Susan’s, hydrangeas and primroses along with hostas and other ferns. There will also be Crepe Myrtle and tulip tree saplings.
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, they will also be selling specially decorated pots for gifting.
The potting, planting and growing for the annual sale is a community-wide effort. Club members as well as independent gardeners from the Webster Groves area grow and bring their plants by the main storage location, which is always another club member’s yard.
The WGWGA consists of three individual clubs, each with around 60 members. In this area, there is Group 4, Group 5 and Group 23. All groups bring their matured plants to the storing location; Group 5 president Valerie Murray’s house.
For over 20 years, gardeners have brought their plants to Murray’s backyard, where they can either drop them off or stay and pot them. The potted plants are then sorted into sections, separated by plants that need sun and plants that need shade. It’s there they will stay until the sale.
“They dig it up in their yard, and they bring it and leave it or they bring it and pot some. Sometimes people just don’t have time to stay and pot,” Murray said. “People show up every day, different times, doesn’t matter to me.”
Karen Halla, president of Group 4, said the location on Gore Street is conveniently central to all three clubs and the Webster Groves community.
“Valerie doesn’t get control of her yard until after the sale,” Halla chuckled, alluding to the sea of potted flowers and plants in Murray’s backyard. “Some of us will take pots home and pot stuff there and then bring it back, but it all winds up here so we can get it organized and priced before it gets moved to the sale location.”
Plants are marked with colored sticks to indicate price. Yellow, $2; blue, $3; orange/red, $4; green, $5; purple, $6; white, $7; plain wood will be priced individually.
Murray said the WGWGA hosts the plant sale to raise money for local horticulture enrichment and education projects. Jan Chamberlin, vice president of Group 4 and Treasurer of Group 5, said additionally, the Association also organizes fundraisers, garden tours, garden therapy and speaker programs where they invite someone to talk about mushrooms, birds or flowers.
“The big reason for the events is so that we can give back,” Murray said. “At the events, mostly the [plant] sale, we earn money to give back to our community, to the schools, to the city itself.”
In previous years, the Association has used tens of thousands of dollars earned from events to improve their educational outreach programs, renovate local parks, and donate to charities, schools and Scout Troops.
The WGWGA funded Ruhe Park’s renovations of the day lily garden, butterfly garden and circle garden and saw the completion of a project to connect the three gardens with a stone stairway. They also take care of the Blue Star Memorial Marker in the park, a monument to honor veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
They have also visited Hixson Middle School students in their sustainability class and invited them for hands-on learning experiences, collaborating with teacher Eric Hayes.
“They came over to our garden at Ruhe Park and all the kids got to dig some plants to take back with them. And plant over [at Hixson],” Halla said.
In fact, students at Webster Groves district schools are a large part of the annual plant sale. Halla said high school students, who need volunteer hours to graduate, help tabulate inventory and sales, sell raffle tickets and help customers at the sale carry boxes of plants to their car.
“We kind of work with the high school. Every year, they would also all get t-shirts; they would have a design contest. And then they would have the shirts printed,” Halla said. “So the Scouts and the teacher and her students would all be wearing these certain shirts they made for our sale, and we would give them money to pay for the shirts.”
However, the plant sale and its related activities have been suspended since COVID-19. But after a two-year hiatus, it is returning this weekend. Chamberlin, Halla and Murray all expressed confidence in the return of booming business.
“[In the past] sometimes we’d have 40 or 50 people lined up before we open,” Halla said.
The trio also said they are ready to get back to fulfilling the goals of the WGWGA: Nature, Community, Friendship.
“One of the reasons for being is friendship. I found the garden club as a place I didn’t have to talk about politics or religion or money,” Chamberlin said. “And I didn’t know anything about plants. I wanted a place where I could have informal conversations to learn about plants, like “what is this? And what is that?’”
Information on more upcoming events and activities from the WGWGA can be found at wgwga.org/events
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Kate McCracken (she/her) is currently a staff writer for The Journal. She has previously worked as the lifestyle editor. She is a double major in Philosophy and History, minoring in Professional Writing. She has always loved to write and create stories, and she wrote her first book at age 10. Aside from writing, Kate also enjoys photography, environmental/animal activism, paranormal investigation and oneirology, the study of dreams.