Saturday, July 16 marked the annual Friends of the Horticulture Farm (FHF) plant sale at the UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center in South Burlington. The hot and steamy weather that day did not discourage curious plant collectors, enthusiasts and others looking for a good deal, from taking advantage of discount prices on a wide variety of donated trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.
The plant sale is an important fundraising and outreach event for FHF, and it is adeptly managed by the organization’s board and members. UVM students, Extension master gardeners and other volunteers also support the sale by helping to collect plant donations, organizing the sales area, pricing plants, and answering customer questions about plant care. Plants are donated for the sale by local greenhouse, nursery and landscaping businesses, and a few private growers.
The FHF has an interesting back story. Their mission is dedicated to protecting, enhancing and promoting the significant plant collections and natural areas of the “Hort Farm”, and to offer educational programs about horticulture to members and the public.
This volunteer-run, nonprofit organization was established 28 years ago, after a group of neighbors and exercise enthusiasts who used the farm for walking and cross-country skiing heard that the Hort Farm might be sold for development. They organized a group that convinced UVM to use the land for educating the general public about horticulture, and agreed to be responsible for managing several plant collections on the farm, which include:
- The Cary Garden – a collection of distinctive trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and vines that are well suited for New England landscapes.
- The Pollinator Garden – a perennial garden that was redesigned by UVM Plant and Soil Science student Hanna Brill in 2015 as a class project, and renamed the Pollinator Garden due to its focus on showcasing native plants that attract beneficial insects, notably bees.
- Rhododendrons – the collection was started in the 1960’s by Harrison Flint who propagated seed purchased from a woody plant supplier and planted numerous seedlings. The original objective was to evaluate these plants for hardiness and suitability for landscape use in Vermont.
- Lilacs – a collection that was started in 1952, with more specimens added through the 1970’s. The FHF started a pruning and rejuvenation effort in the 1990’s which continues today.
Joining FHF as a “friend” is open to the general public, and members enjoy many benefits including free or discounted prices for online and in-person educational programs, a newsletter, opportunities to join other members for Hort Farm work days, and early entry to the annual plant sale.