West Chicago Garden Club (WCGC) members have been hard at work preparing for their annual plant, shrub and tree sale fundraiser scheduled for this Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. in downtown West Chicago at Blooming Fest.
The WCGC sale was the original inspiration and has become the anchor for the larger festival which has grown over the past 18 years to include a craft sale, live entertainment, a car show, art exhibit, and many other family friendly activities.
According to WCGC President Barbara Bizzarri, who is also serving on West Chicago’s America in Bloom committee, the proceeds of the fundraiser support the services the Club provides to the community. “We use the Plant Sale as our only fundraiser to keep our dues low so that everyone in the community interested in gardening can join us. Not just from West Chicago, but from many of the surrounding towns,” she explained. “We spend money on monthly educational programs at our meetings. The Club sponsors field trips for members. We support a variety of causes including the West Chicago Garden Club’s maintenance of all the gardens at the Kruse House Museum. We participate with the City of West Chicago and the Park District to fund projects.”
The sale itself has grown in popularity over the last 18 years with avid gardeners throughout the Chicagoland area for good reason. The wide selection of perennials offered for sale, most being dug from member gardens, are well acclimated to the growing conditions found in the Western Suburbs and are vigorous additions to existing gardens.
Also for sale are a variety of annuals, including flowers and vegetables, mostly grown from seed lovingly nurtured by Club members. These have been prepared early in the year, with seeds planted 8 to 10 weeks prior to the sale.
But the hard labor begins in early spring when perennials in member gardens begin erupting from their winter sleep. That is when the “digging squad” goes into action, removing/thinning plants from their gardens and those of members who can’t dig themselves. This process of thinning actually helps the remaining plants, preventing overcrowding and depletion of needed nutrients and water, as well as increasing air circulation between plants.
Once the plants are dug, the potting begins. Typically, about 15 members work in assembly-line fashion at scheduled “potting” parties, and the newly potted plants are kept in three locations where they are watered and nurtured by members. About a week prior to the sale, all the plants are labeled and priced.
Members place yard signs in strategic locations around town to promote the event the week before the sale, and the Friday before the sale, they arrive on Galena Street to supervise the mega-tent that is professionally erected for the sale. In-tent signage is mounted and several hours are then spent transporting all the plants to the tent that evening.
The day of event requires staffing by volunteer Club members who answer questions of the large crowds who flock to the tent, offer garden-related advice, serve as cashiers and monitor the holding area. After a long day of sales, which typically results in a sell-out of all plant material prior to Blooming Fest’s 3:00 p.m. closing, Club members clean up and go home.
While the anatomy of its plant sale involves a long and arduous process, WCGC members approach it with passion and zest as they realize their Club’s guiding principle of “growing gardeners”. The Club welcomes all levels of gardeners, from absolute beginners to Master Gardeners, and the plant sale allows it to keep the dues low so that everyone in the community, as well as in surrounding towns, interested in gardening can join.
For more information about the West Chicago Garden Club, visit its website at www.westchicagogardenclub.org.