Friends and fronds take part in 35th annual Botanic Gardens plant sale

The UC Riverside Botanic Gardens held their 35th annual Fall Garden Market and Plant Sale last weekend from 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 22 with many local vendors selling a variety of plants; a number of volunteers and staff members were also there to share knowledge and tips on horticultural care and maintenance.

Interim Director of the Botanic Gardens Jodie Holt shared that this year’s plant sale has been drastically changed from the past years’ models by augmenting their infrastructure in order to gain more revenue for the Gardens while reaching out to more of the student community on campus. Holt explained the differences that she and her team made. “This spring was the first time we did this garden market model (moving the vendors and check out lines differently) and it was successful but it took a lot more time for the staff to plan it and lay it out … people seemed really happy and the staff are relaxed.”

This year, the Gardens made the decision to grow their plants instead of purchasing nursing them until they were ready to be sold. This new approach to their sale has benefited them in conserving maintenance and nursing costs while allowing more of their staff to better understand the process behind growing and maintaining their plants, giving a better approach to their customers. “We still have the same amount of inventory, which was what our goal was, but then we’re not trying to act like a retail nursery,” shared Holt, “The benefits are that the nurseries that are here are local to the area.”

Many vendors, both returning and new, arrived to share a variety of specialty plants. “It’s good advertising for them (the vendors) and it’s good for community service and it links us more with the community than ever before,” said Holt.

One vendor in particular, Paul Chambers, shared a variety of native Australian plants. Co-founder of the Australian Outback Plantation, he noted how excited customers have been to find plants in Riverside that have originated from Australia, “We find that everybody that comes through are interested in Australian plants and talk about how they’re very interested in drought tolerant, quick-growing, heat-resistant plants that flower and bring hummingbirds to their garden.”

Carolyn Chambers, co-founder of the Australian Outback Plantation, shared how their native lemon-scented eucalyptus has had a diverse market, ranging from people’s gardens and public zoos. “We’re the number one provider for zoo food in the U.S. — we feed koalas, kangaroos, giraffes, rhinoceros. Our eucalyptus leaves are shipped overnight twice a week. So any time someone buys an Australian Outback plant, they’re essentially helping to feed zoo animals in the U.S.”

Danielle Hamilton, a fourth-year biochemistry student, described her experience being a student volunteer: “This event was way bigger than I expected and it’s really well organized. I’m surprised at how successful it is.”

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