What started as the simple sale of a few extra plants has become a can’t-miss annual event for gardeners in Southern Maryland.
Summerseat Farm in Mechanicsville hosted its 13th annual Plant Sale on Saturday, May 9, welcoming gardeners, families, and anyone who wanted to see the historic farm.
Event chairperson Sandy Wildes said she spends the year collecting plants for the sale.
“We pride ourselves on our vast variety of plants,” she said. “We have perennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs, shrubs, trees, roses, woodland plants, and succulents.”
“Many plants, particularly perennials, are dug at Summerseat,” she added. “I collect plants throughout the year from any resource I can find.”
That includes thinning out the plants in the gardens at Summerseat and in her own garden and those of family and friends. “Everyone is aware of my penchant for giveaway plants,” Wildes said.
And, at the end of the plant sale, anything that didn’t sell comes back to her nursery for a year of care until the next plant sale.
Other plants, she said, come from Russell Farms, including annuals, vegetables, some herbs, tropical plants, and hanging baskets. And, Wildes makes planted gift pots in unusual containers that she finds throughout the year.
Attendance at the event grows each year, and averages between 875 and 1,100, she said, adding that the crowd at the 2015 sale increased considerable over last year.
As the years have passed, the plant sale has changed.
Wildes has been chairperson of the sale since 2004 and has worked to add to the plant sale. That includes breakfast and lunch served in the courtyard, dubbed the “Courtyard Café;” a Kids Korner with activities for children; and a table staffed by local Maryland Master Gardeners to hand out information and answer questions.
For the last two years, local singer/songwriter David Norris has entertained the crowd. And, volunteers sell their homemade craft items.
“This year, we had a very successful ‘Southwestern Corner’ with old wagon wheels for sale and succulent cactus gardens and plants,” Wildes said. “We almost sold out!”
“It if works, we keep it,” she said. “I’m already thinking about next year, but I’m not telling!”
This growth means the plant sale has become the farm’s major fundraiser every year. “Summerseat is run solely by fundraisers with no outside help,” Wildes said. “We receive no local, state, or federal funding. We have no paid help, only volunteers.”
Funds from the sale are put toward the costs associated with operating the farm, including the historic Manor House.
One of the best parts of the plant sale, Wildes said, is getting show off Summerseat to visitors who didn’t know it was there.
“This event gives us a chance to open up the entire farm for the enjoyment of the public and introduce ourselves to those who are unaware of our existence,” she said. “It always amazes me when someone comes up to tell me that they had no idea we are right here, off Route 235, especially when they say they’ve lived here for years.”
The original land grant for the property is dated June 1678, and the present Manor House dates from 1884, she said.
While she had many people to thank, Wildes singled out her husband, Dick Wildes, who is also a member of the Summerseat Board of Directors; and her friend Barbara Darbie.
“He is there throughout the year, helping me with ideas, contacting folks who can help me, and keeping me grounded,” Wildes said of her husband. “He hauls the heavy things for me, does a lot of legwork and errands, rustles up helpers, builds tables and crafts to sell, repairs wagons, and does whatever needs to be done.
Darbie, she said, calls each spring to ask when it’s time to start dividing plant for the sale. She helps gather plants and coordinates the Kids Korner area. “She has helped me for years,” Wildes said. “She knows the plants, knows what they need, how to divide and clean them. She just jumps in and gets to work.
“I couldn’t do all this without her. She’s a dear friend.”
Summerseat hosts many events throughout the year and is also available to rent for weddings and other special events. The next public event on the calendar is “The Music’s Beat is on Summerseat” on Saturday, July 18. The event will feature the music of local bands Franklin Square Band and David Norris with The Long Time Friends. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Summerseat website at http://www.summerseat.org/.
Cori Shaw Meloney, Writer
Photos courtesy of Grace James, Jr. Photographer