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DON’T MISS BENEFIT PLANT SALES

Spring plant sales abound in April and May with everything for the garden, from ornamentals to veggie starts. All sales are benefits for the sponsoring clubs, scholarships and community projects.

Santa Rosa Junior College: Horticulture students sell plants they’ve raised in the school greenhouses. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the Lark Hall Greenhouse located in the same building as the Planetarium. Parking is available for a small fee in the Beck parking lot off Elliott Ave. Free parking up to one hour in the surrounding neighborhood. Cash, check and credit cards are accepted.

Willowside School: Middle school students help support this nursery, which also raised money for school programs. They have thousands of plants each season, including a variety of low-water and drought-tolerant perennials, California natives, a multitude of succulents, grasses, salvias and many ornamental plants to invite beneficial insects, butterflies and hummingbirds into the garden. $4 for 1 gallon container. They also have specialty Japanese maples that are 3 to 6 feet tall selling for $25 to $50 per tree. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. rain or shine. Today, May 5 and 26, June 16. 5299 Hall Road at Willowside, in Santa Rosa. 707-569-4724.

Santa Rosa Garden Club: A large variety of healthy plants propagated by club members, with an emphasis on drought-tolerant plants including an outstanding selection of succulents and perennials. Also look for deer-resistant plants and succulents, many in unique and fun containers. One fun aspect of the sale is a rummage sale of garden-related items. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. Rain or shine. Luther Burbank Art & Garden Center 2050 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa. Gardenclubevents@yahoo.com

Santa Rosa Men’s Garden Club: Many varieties of geraniums and some 50 varieties of tomatoes, as well as succulents, both individual and dish gardens. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Sunday. Inside Coddingtown Mall, Guerneville Road and Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa.

Harvest for the Hungry Garden: This is the Mother of all Vegetable sales. An abundance of more than 100 varieties of tomatoes and dozens of varieties of peppers, squashes, eggplants, cucumbers, melons, herbs and some other edibles. In addition, there will be ornamental plants, garden art, books and gently used garden tools for sale. Proceeds support the garden and other charities committed to feeding the hungry with sustainable garden practices. Master gardeners will be available to give planting and gardening advice. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21. 1717 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, behind Christ Church United Methodist. Harvestgarden.org

Green Thumb Garden Club: Members offer plants that they have grown or transplanted from their own gardens, including tomato plants and other vegetable starts, succulents, drought-tolerant transplants and a variety of outdoor and house plants. Check out the white elephant table for gardening finds. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21. Ace Hardware parking lot, 750 Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale.

Windsor Garden Club’s Spring Plant Sale: Tomato, herb and veggie starts, Drought-tolerant starts, cut flower starts and succulents. Part of the Windsor Town Green Earth Day Health and Wellness Festival with music, environmental information and activities. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday

Graton Community Club: New Orleans is the theme for the club’s spring show, which includes a big plant sale featuring hundreds of tomato and other veggie starts, succulents, perennials, drought-tolerant plants and more. Also available are handmade novelties and recycled treasures, a raffle, garden art, flower arrangements, live music and refreshments. A $10 lunch is served both days. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27-28. 8896 Graton Road, Graton. 707-829-5314

Luther Burbank Experiment Farm at Gold Ridge: A chance to pick up garden plants developed by the Plant Wizard himself, Luther Burbank, at what remains of his farm in Sebastopol. Part of an open house with other activities. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 28-29. 777 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, accessed through Burbank Heights and Orchards. 707-829-6711, wschsgrf.org

Healdsburg Garden Club: A wide variety of plants propagated from members’ gardens. Heirloom tomatoes and water-wise plants such as succulents will be featured. The sale will also include air plants (tillandsias — great for the non-gardener) and own-root heritage roses. Also shop for crafts such as accents for your home and garden, Mother’s Day gift baskets, tea cups filled with succulents, dried flower arrangements in teacups and other small succulent planters. The sale includes garden supplies like tools, pots, gardening books, and even a new reel lawn mower. Bring your clippers for sharpening ($5), your orchid for repotting ($5), your gardening questions to pose to experts, including medical marijuana information. Breakfast offered for $5, lunch for $8, $10 for both. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. April 28, Healdsburg Senior Living Center, 725 Grove St., Healdsburg.

Santa Rosa Iris Society: The club’s annual spring show and sale. 1-5 p.m. April 28 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 29. Luther Burbank Art & Garden Center, 2050 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa.

Redwood Empire Rose Society: Roses for sale grown by members of the Rose Society as well as companion plants for your rose garden. 1-4 p.m. May 5. Luther Burbank Art & Garden Center 2050 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa.

Hessel Community Guild: Look for a large variety of annual and perennial landscape plants and hundreds of vegetable starts as well as a white elephant area filled with garden-related items and local crafts. Coffee, tea and baked goods will be available by donation. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 12. 5400 Blank Road, Sebastopol. hesselguild.org

The golden poppy, with its showy, cup-shaped flowers in shades of orange, yellow and red, grows wild throughout California, but the Valley of the Moon Garden Club regularly intervenes with — or rather, assists — Mother Nature.

Every Fourth of July, when the population of Sonoma Plaza swells with thousands of townspeople and visitors for a spirited Independence Day celebration, club members come out in style to promote the brilliantly hued state flower.

Atop decorative floats or marching in the parade, members in wide-brimmed straw hats, garden clogs and work apparel distribute countless packets of golden poppy seeds to enthusiastic spectators.

Their hope is to see the ornamental plants popping up everywhere — around town and in rural areas and cities across Sonoma County and beyond. They’ve distributed thousands of seed packets during the parades, an annual gift since 2006 to celebrants and the environment.

“Those seeds go like hotcakes,” said Doreen Proctor of El Verano, an 84-year-old certified master gardener and lifetime garden club member. Whenever she glimpses a poppy, she likes to think its roots began from those Fourth of July seed giveaways.

The effort is one of numerous community service projects that define the long-established Sonoma Valley educational and social club. It will hold its annual spring plant sale from 9 a.m. to noon April 21 on the back patio at the Sonoma Community Center, a fundraising event to support club projects and expenses. The sale features affordable herbs, flowers, pollinator plants, vegetable starts, succulents, grasses and nearly two dozen kinds of tomatoes, plus garden art and decorative pots crafted by members from recycled materials.

When the club’s first meeting was held at the local high school in September of 1951, 50 gardening enthusiasts showed up. Today the active club has a membership of more than 100, mostly those with “graying hair,” said Linda Schill, 69, co-president with Adrienne Love, 54.

Although there also are younger members, the club’s directors would like to step up social media efforts to attract millennials and Gen Xers to carry the club into the future.

Having shared interests bridges the generation gap and allows for an exchange of information between more seasoned gardeners and members just developing their skills, the co-presidents said.

If history repeats itself, new members will discover a legacy of community service and a broad and up-to-date delivery of gardening tips and information. Monthly speakers address topics pertinent to novice and experienced gardeners: from pest control, composting and plant propagation to water-wise landscaping and irrigation.

Recent topics have included fire-safe landscaping and restoration. Discussions are underway to present a program on cannabis, a particularly hot topic. Many of the monthly programs address the club’s goals of protecting natural habitats and environments, emphasizing organic practices when possible and using drought-tolerant and native plants in landscaping.

Gardening trends are a focus, and there always are tips about where to find specific plants, or places to visit that are of special interest to gardeners. Those at club meetings may learn about anything from environmental issues and global warming to gardening with the specific soils and microclimates of Sonoma Valley.

The club strives to keep current. “We have to change and focus on what’s going on,” Schill said. “We have to change with the times.”

Love said, “There’s a whole range of people. That’s why I joined. I knew nothing of gardening.” She already was an enthusiastic gardener when she lived in Philadelphia and her outdoor space was limited to “the back fire escape” where she tended a clay pot with geraniums.

Today the Sonoma Valley transplant calls her corner lot in the city limits “Jurassic Park,” in tribute to the lush yard she maintains with a green thumb and a wealth of knowledge gained through membership in the garden club.

As a full-time tech designer with Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco, Love doesn’t have an abundance of free time. Yet, she grows vegetables in raised beds, has focused efforts on bee and hummingbird-friendly gardening, plants flowers for their fragrance and learned to grow apple, cherry, peach and fig trees on espalier frames.

Even Love is amused, impressed even, with her own horticultural accomplishments. She could be the poster child for the club’s motto: “Anyone can be a gardener.”

Schill, a registered nurse who retired earlier this month from Kaiser Permanente in Martinez, confesses she’d rather be outdoors tending plants than tackling indoor chores. She uses the tips and skills she’s developed to beautify the small outdoor space at her Sonoma townhouse, expanding from her initial interest in the medicinal properties of aloe vera plants.

Other members have vast acreage or postage stamp-sized backyards; there’s information and opportunity suitable for everyone.

“It’s a nice group of people who care about health and growing things and I learn a lot,” said Lynne Joiner, who particularly enjoys the “pretty darn good” lectures featured at meetings.

She joined the club six years ago, shortly after moving to Sonoma. An author and retired broadcast journalist and news anchor, Joiner lives in a “pretty precious” 1929 cottage-style home, with a popular bike path nearby.

Passersby have a view into her well-tended front yard, with roses peeking over the white picket fence along the sidewalk. Her array of plants and long-developed gardening skills complement the charm of the vintage home, one of the original farmhouses in the area.

Even those with no outdoor space can utilize public gardens at places like Sonoma Garden Park, managed by the Sonoma Ecology Center. Members also donate time at school gardens at Sassarini Elementary and Altimira Middle School, or help spruce up the Tranquility Garden at Sonoma Valley Hospital, an inviting spot of respite outside the hospital entrance and its adjacent emergency room. The club created the garden of roses, grasses and native plants that welcomes hospital visitors, and also planted the Italian Rose Garden in the Sonoma Plaza.

Other service projects have included distributing starter plants and seeds for nonprofit organizations and school gardens; awarding scholarships to high school students interested in horticulture; presenting books on gardening and environmental topics to school libraries; and hosting a class for the public on canning, freezing and drying produce.

There have been plant shows with friendly competition among members; displays at local fairs; and exhibits and informational booths at various community events. One member researched the original plant species at the historic Sonoma Mission and, with others, located and planted them, complete with identification maps and tags for public education.

Guest speakers have prompted members into action; a talk about decreasing butterfly habitats recently encouraged a member to spearhead the creation of a monarch garden at a local church.

A member of the Luther Burbank District of California Garden Clubs, Inc., the club offers online resources and links to gardening sites, and provides a monthly newsletter with horticultural information and updates about speakers, workshops, classes and volunteer opportunities.

There’s no discounting the club’s social influence. Nine monthly meetings feature gardening topics and club business, but an hour is dedicated to socializing. A garden raffle is popular at meetings as well. The remaining months are devoted to picnics, potlucks and holiday celebrations, as well as tours of members’ gardens and various field trips.

Proctor, the lifetime member, said her husband encouraged her to join the club to make friends and have a social outlet. He was ill at the time, and hopeful his wife, a former EKG technician and Arthur Murray dance instructor, could find some fun and joy with like-minded gardening enthusiasts. That was nearly 30 years ago.

Proctor has made numerous friends, has plenty of fun and continues to pick up gardening tips (she’s a pro at pruning, for one thing). She’s become somewhat political, too, fighting for her right to own chickens at her home in an unincorporated area of Sonoma Valley, and writing a letter to the editor about the controversial plight of the pretty-but-smelly ginkgo trees in the plaza.

The octogenarian is doing her part to stay current and make a difference in her community. Being a conscientious gardener, she said, isn’t just about beautifying a neighborhood.

“We’re trying to maintain the charm of the town,” Schill said. “It’s community-building.”

For more information, visit vom-garden-club.org

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