By Natasha Anderson
For Kristina Urquart of Barnardsville, the annual Growing in the Mountains Spring Plant Sale isn’t just an opportunity to purchase plants for her family garden, it’s a social event. “The sale has a laid-back atmosphere,” she says. “There’s time to ask questions or sit and talk with growers. I’ve actually struck up friendships that way.”
Those friendships include Beth Trigg and Christopher Fielden of Red Wing Farms, located in the Swannanoa Valley and specializing in organically grown heirloom and open-pollinated vegetables, herbs and flowers. “It’s a real experience of community,” says Fielden of the event, for which he is a volunteer organizer. “An amazing variety of people come to the sale, not just to buy our products, but also to talk about plants and gardening. Each year we see many familiar faces.”
Another draw for repeat customers is the quality and variety of seeds and plants on offer. The Blue Ridge Horticultural Association (BRHA), which founded the event 21 years ago and still hosts it today, expects participation from more than 40 specialty nurseries and growers this year. Visitors can find vegetable starts, herbs, Japanese maples, fruit trees and shrubs, perennials and native plants. Buncombe County Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions and offer advice.
“There is much more variety at the sale than at a big box store or nursery,” says Fielden. “Customers can buy all of the plants and trees they need for their growing season in one place.”
The mutually beneficial relationships fostered at the sale are in keeping with BRHA’s mission to support local nurseries and growers, who in turn support each other as well as community members desiring access to quality locally grown plants, seeds and foods. Whether customers are interested in native, regionally adapted or organically grown plants, flowers, open-pollinated seeds, or any number of other items, they will likely find them at this event.
“At Growing in the Mountains, I like to get plants for my own garden that we don’t have at our nursery,” says Debbie Lienhart, BRHA board member and manager of Useful Plants Nursery, which focuses on edibles and medicinals that are well adapted to the Southern Appalachian and Piedmont bioregions. Useful Plants Nursery offers hard-to-find plants including tea camellias, goumis, beach plums and bush cherries, as well as items in high demand, such as blueberries, figs and blackberries. “When we have a customer who is interested in something that we don’t grow, we refer them to another local nursery and others do the same for us.”
Most any local or regional grower in Western North Carolina or East Tennessee will attest to the importance of maintaining a close-knit community. Many are BRHA members who tour each other’s facilities and discuss best practices at meetings. The Growing in the Mountains Spring Plant Sale is another way to connect with each other and with customers.
“It’s definitely a networking and socializing event, as well as a fantastic sale,” says Lienhart. “I enjoy relaxing and talking with other plant lovers that I haven’t seen for awhile. There will be at least two new babies this year that I’m looking forward to meeting!”
The Growing in the Mountains Plant Sale takes place on Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at WNC Farmers’ Market, at 570 Brevard Road in Asheville. Ample parking is available. For more information, visit brhorticulture.org or facebook.com/growinginthemountains.