A Well-oiled Plant Sale

A NH Master Gardener Volunteer Profile


Joan VanLandingham says that the plant sale she’s chaired for seven years is “run like a well-oiled machine” and her committee, part of the Stafford County Master Gardener Association (SCMGA), has the process “down to a science.” The 20th annual event will happen Sunday, May 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The fundraiser, held at Durham Town Hall’s parking lot on Rt. 108, supports SCMGA projects and funds the school grant program aiding K-12 school teachers in gardening programs. It was founded in 2018 to honor long-time Master Gardener (MG) Carolyn Bassage, an educator who was instrumental in forming the SCMGA. The sale averages about $4000 in yearly proceeds.  Due to the pandemic, the 2020 sale was online and raised $1900.

There is a large variety of perennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs, shrubs and trees for sale, she says. “Some of the plants we have are monarda, black-eyed Susans, day lilies, European ginger, hellebore, hosta, balloon flower, Siberian iris and many colors of coral bells, and a lot more.” The SCMGA volunteers have a twice yearly potting party. They planted 500 plants in fall 2020 and expect to pot 500 more this month. The sale, Joan says, not only provides plants, but valuable information at their “Ask a Master Gardener” table that has books, fact sheets and resources. The Master Gardener volunteers working the sale also instruct customers who need help with plants.

Preparing for the sale also involves insuring that customers only get what they intend to purchase. Due to the presence of invasive jumping worms in some areas of Strafford County, MG volunteers clean any donated plants before they are resold to be certain they are not spreading the worms or other “unwanted hitchhikers”. Learn more about associated best practices at plant sales.

All of the preparation takes a dedicated team which is made up of nearly 20 people. Another 10 join the effort on sale day.

“It is truly organized chaos,” Joan says of sale day.  At 9:00 a.m. “customers are waiting anxiously to get in and see what we have.  We always have the bold ones that sneak in, or start gathering before everyone else.  And then it’s over. About 800 plants have been sold and taken to new homes.”  Any plants that haven’t sold go to a local group, the Barrington Bloomers, for their coming plant sale. “Within 30 minutes tents are down, tables packed and the parking lot is being swept,” Joan says. “It is truly amazing.”

Joan, and husband Richard, left Denver in 2007, where they lived for 30 years, coming to Dover, then more recently to Portsmouth. She has been a MG since 2010 and has volunteered for projects at Joe B. Parks Riverwalk in Dover. She is a 5-years docent at Bedrock Gardens in Lee. Joan is also a Natural Resource Steward (2016) and a Marine Docent (2019) for UNH Extension, and has been secretary and membership chair on SCMGA’s board. In 30 years of professional life, Joan worked in Denver banking. Her last job at a division of Wells Fargo Bank was human resources director. Her “other passions are knitting, golf and, of course, gardening.”

UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers share information about home, yard, and garden topics with the people of New Hampshire. Got questions? Master Gardeners provide practical help finding answers to your questions through the Ask UNH Extension Infoline. Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at answers@unh.edu.


Pauline Pinard Bogaert
Master Gardener & Natural Resources Steward Volunteer