After last big plant sale, Audrey gets her garden back
Sometime in the evening of May 5, Audrey Barnes gets her garden back. For good.
That’s when the last of about 6,000 plants will be transported to the New Westminster Armoury for the Horticultural Society’s annual giant plant sale which is being held the next day. It will be the last sale of its kind.
After 15 springs of giving over her entire garden, garage, part of her lane and back deck to the primulas, roses, shrubs, trees, lungworts and hellebores grown and donated by members of the society to be sold as their biggest fundraiser of the year, Barnes is retiring. So she can reclaim her own garden. And her life.
From its humble beginnings when gardeners brought their young plants to a central location to be sold willy-nilly, the garden sale has grown into one of the largest of its kind in the Lower Mainland, and a logistical and organizational chore that consumes much of Barnes’ time from the day after the annual sale to the morning of the next one.
As a result, other chores have been left wanting. Her Upper Glenbrooke neighbourhood home is in need of a paint job, the garage needs work and her own garden tends to run amok. All will get her attention once the last toad lily is carried out of the armoury on May 6.
Until then, there’s a lot of work still to be done.
The cool, damp spring has meant a slow start for most gardeners, so Barnes’ back garden isn’t as choc-a-bloc as it usually is a couple of weeks before the sale. But, she says, the quality of the plants this year is outstanding.
“Last summer was really kind to the plants, and the slow start this year has allowed the roots to really grow,” says Barnes, 65.
As the plants start getting delivered, though, Barnes’s backyard is transformed into a veritable leaf factory. They’re sorted and grouped together with common species, then teams of volunteers report to the shelter of the dilapidated garage to check the plants for pests, cull any that show signs of disease or distress, groom and replant them into individual pots, and then tag each one.
“It takes a lot of time,” says Barnes. “We don’t want to spread weeds or pests.”
The gardeners of New West would likely never forgive her if they did. After all, garden sales’ plants have greened much of the city. Barnes says she still recognizes some of the plants when she walks around town, “hey, I tagged that one.”
The sale is a true team effort that involves about 80 per cent of the Horticultural Society’s members who grow the plants, transport, sort and pot them, or help with the sale itself. The money raised by the sale helps support various gardening programs the society conducts with the city and the school district.
In fact, it’s so successful, there’s enough money in the group’s bank account to sustain those programs for a couple of years while the executive decides what other fundraising efforts to pursue. Barnes says nobody wanted to pick up her considerable mantle now that she’s stepping down.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Barnes, who will continue to be involved with the society. “I’ve put so many things on hold.”
Not for much longer though.
The New Westminster Horticultural Society’s last giant plant sale is being held Sunday, May 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Armoury on Queen’s Avenue. For more information about the sale, and the society go to www.newwesthortsociety.org