Sharing plants with others – great community event
Every year since its founding in 1921, as the snow begins to thaw and the first signs of green begin to peek from the earth, members of the Wilton Garden Club spring into celebratory action and begin harvesting plants to share with the community at their annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale.
This springtime harvest tradition has come to be known over the years simply as The Digs.
“The Digs are a very special way to share a commitment to gardening,” says Yolanda Bonomo whose black Chevy pickup gets filled each season with dig supplies and is cheerfully dubbed The Dig Mobile. “It’s absolutely wonderful as we get together and laugh and enjoy working in the garden.”
During the short few weeks of acceptable weather in the month before the sale, a hundred or so active Garden Club members disperse across approximately ten large digs at ten Wilton homes (occasionally, one or two representatives of the Club may do a targeted mission at an additional estate or two to harvest a single, rare species like hellebore, dahlia, or bloodroot).
“When it’s nice outside, it’s heaven,” says Suzanne Knutson, president of The Wilton Garden Club. “We are always looking for gardeners who will share their plants.”
Anywhere from 60 to 200 plants are dug up, potted and labeled at the major digs with military precision and organization. Around 1,500 plants from approximately 150 different breeds are typically aggregated for the Garden Club’s annual sale.
“We are so thankful for the gardeners who share their plants with the community,” says Knutson. “It is so generous of them to open up their gardens.”
One such generous gardener is Tom Harris, who hosted a major dig at his property last spring. He believes The Digs are a great way to share in nature’s abundance.
“When you garden, you put one in and nature gives you three back the next season,” says Harris. “The Digs perfectly complement the natural growth and spirit of the garden.”
The selected plants form the foundation for the Wilton Garden Club’s biggest fundraiser of the year: the Mother’s Day Plant Sale. The event not only gives Wiltonians the opportunity to spruce up their gardens with locally, sourced and proven-to-grow-here plants, but also spawns funds to support the Club’s non-profit mission to support town gardens, youth programs, social service flower donations, conservation, the Pollinator Pathway, and other various workshops and community growth activities.
Once the plants are dug up, they are then meticulously potted (in donated pots collected throughout the year), labeled and taken home for care and safe keeping by Garden Club members until the sale. Each Garden Club member cares for around twenty dig plants during the month leading up to the annual sale.
“The first dig I went on was a house where it snowed,” says Sharon Frost, co-chair of The Digs. “We would dig and then run into a barn on the property to pot the plants and label.”
Sunshine, drizzle, or snow-dusting, at each dig, there is an appointed Dig Captain who assigns tasks to each of the eager volunteers. Typically, the younger members can be found digging in the dirt and collecting the pre-tagged and designated “dig plants.” Older members are at folding tables, putting dried leaves and fresh soil in pots and potting the incoming plants. The more senior or disabled members are assigned the important task of beautifully labeling each sale specimen with its proper name, colloquial name and other important information like how much sun the plant needs and highlighting if it’s a pollinator plant.
“It’s a lot of fun, with the responsibilities divided across all ages and skill levels,” says Frost. “It’s a great bonding time and truly a learning experience.”