May Markets/Plant Sales/Garden Tours

25 March 2020

We’ve received several calls and emails from clubs looking for advice on how to handle upcoming events. With spring already here, this is a busy time of the year with annual plant sales, May markets and garden tours all scheduled in the early May to mid-June timeframe. Potting sessions would have been really early this year after the mild winter we’ve experienced.

What every club across the State is facing with COVID-19 is unprecedented. There is no playbook for how to deal with it. It is a temporary new state of the world in which everyone is struggling with how to live and adjust as it changes daily.

Many clubs are canceling their meetings through the summer. Others are waiting a few more weeks before deciding to make their final decision. The majority of the New England Garden Clubs state meetings are canceled. There is no real consensus. The drivers behind the decisions need to be the health and safety of your members as well as the community in which you live. Please err on the side of caution.

For many clubs, plant sales and garden tours are revenue generators that enable you to present wonderful programs. Every club needs to think creatively − about how to derive new sources of revenue, new ways to meet and new ways to educate our communities. For example, here are several different ideas to consider.

Virtual/Drive-Through Plant Sale

Develop a list of the best-selling plants based upon previous plant sales. Concentrate on only the bestsellers. Offer them online or through club members selling directly to friends. Accept online or upfront orders only – no purchases on the day of the sale. Do you offer vegetable plants? This might be the year for those. You might even have people pick them up curbside on the scheduled day of the sale. This is taking a page out of how restaurateurs are dealing with the COVID-19 situation.

Plant Sale in the Fall

Change your paradigm and have a plant sale in the fall. Cooler temperatures in the early fall offer a great time to plant and divide existing perennials, especially iris and peonies. Have you ever offered bulbs to your community? You might start a new tradition or create a new revenue stream for the club with fall plants sales.

Adopt a Program/Speaker

Even with revenue severely down from canceled plant sales or garden tours, you still want to present exciting programs with informative and entertaining speakers. Think about having an individual or a group of individuals sponsor a program or speaker. That way it ensures the quality of the programs continues. Everyone does their part.

Recruiting from Within

Consider looking within your club for a speaker or workshop, or both.

One-Time Dues Assessment

2020 is shaping up to be unlike anything clubs have faced in the past. It may require asking club members to contribute a one-time additional dues assessment as part of a shared sacrifice to ensure the future viability of the club. There is no question that many club members will be totally behind the need for the assessment. Don’t be afraid to ask for their support.

The overriding key moving forward in 2020 is developing new ideas and creative thinking that allow your club to continue to grow and thrive. Ironically, while we’re apart, the Coronavirus pandemic gives us the chance to come together and be closer in our collective love of all things gardening. We’ll all come out of this uncertainty in a far better place if we come together as one.

Arlene Field
Federated Garden Clubs of CT, Inc.