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Six tips for the ignorant or expert spring gardener

If you think you’re a hopeless plant killer, fear not. The Wing Haven Plant Sale April 7-9 in Myers Park is packed with experts in green aprons that can help you out. If you’re a gardening guru, good for you.

Either way, take some time to sift through the ground cover, bulbs, herbs, annuals, perennials, native plants and other items like legacy plants (grown from Wing Haven’s two gardens) that are for sale to benefit the nonprofit’s programming. Prices range from $1 annuals to $250 trees. There are also fun yard trinkets and arrangements crafted by local artists.

Like this (particularly pricey) flying pig.

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What I learned from garden curator Ben Fletcher at the plant sale in 15 minutes:

(1) Where to start if you are currently garden-less.

Try your green thumb out with the perennial Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susans. Plants that are easy to take care of also include Hostas (which come up in spring with gorgeous leaves, typically flower in the summer and then disappear and come back next year) and Lenten Roses (aka Hellebores, which are evergreen, flower in early spring and seed themselves.)

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Lenten Roses

(2) Spring plants will more than likely be flowering.

Some will flower all through the summer, and some just in the spring. “But if you choose to plant in the spring,” Fletcher said, “you must make sure to water your plant all the way through summer.” (To make sure it, you know, lives. It’s actually best to plant in the fall.)

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(3) How to prepare your soil.

Fletcher said to create a planting bed. Is that complicated? “Not really,” he said. “You just get a shovel and dig out the grass.” Once you dig a hole to install the plant, it’s best to mix compost with the existing soil to provide organic matter. (And, behold, that compost is available at the Wing Haven plant sale.)

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Compost

(4) Wait. So what other utensils should I have for gardening?

In addition to your shovel, get a pair of work gloves, sunscreen, bug spray and pruners. Wing Haven recommends Blackhawk Hardware at Park Road because they sponsor the Wing Haven garden tour. (They also have free popcorn.)

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Ben Fletcher

(5) What the home chef might like to grow.

Herbs, which are on display at the plant sale in the form of basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram and more. Herb tips: “If you’ve killed basil, you’re a special person,” Fletcher said — after I said I’ve killed basil. “It means you probably overwatered it. Herbs need a lot of sun and as long as they are not wilting, they don’t need a whole lot of water. They like well-drained soil, they don’t like to be sitting in wet dirt.” (Pots and containers help drainage.)

Other edibles on display are Heirloom tomatoes, strawberries and thornless blackberries.

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Sage

(6) Which plants are high-maintenance.

“Some of the native plants that are pushing their microclimate,” Fletcher said. “So finding the exact right spot for some of the natives is tough.” Among the natives are Bird’s Foot Violets (which the squirrels love to eat eat unless you cage the plants). Trilliums are a little tough to establish – they are at risk of getting planted too deep or could stay too wet in the winter and rot.

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Bird's Foot Violets

Ultimately, Fletcher said: “Don’t be afraid to put a plant in the ground. Come have a look.”

The plant sale is open to the public April 7-9 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and benefits Wing Haven’s mission to cultivate the legacy of Southern horticulture.

248 Ridgewood Ave.

Photos: Katie Toussaint

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