Native Plant Sale becoming mainstay for area gardeners

May 26, 2015

Native plants, including blueberry bushes, for sale at Hyattsville Elementary School. Photo courtesy Caroline Selle.

BY SCARLETT SALEM — Just in time for spring gardening, the Hyattsville Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) held their 6th Annual Native Plant Sale on Saturday, May 16 at Hyattsville Elementary School on 43rd Avenue.

What may seem like a novel fundraising idea has proven widly successful over the past few years, though this is not surprising in a city that has a waitlisted community garden at Hyatt Park, a horticultural society, area beekeepers, an urban growers Facebook page and more.


The idea for this unique fundraiser came during a meeting approximately six and a half years ago when the parent organization’s officers brainstormed fundraising ideas. It was at this brainstorm session where Ken Williams, then PTA treasurer, came up with the idea.

“There were a bunch of us that were frustrated with the amount of fundraisers that we have seen that target the families/friends of those fundraising, providing only junk food or other less than useful items,” Williams said, who is still a PTA member and self-described “proud parent” of two students.

“Our Native Plant Sale is well received by the local (and not so local) community surrounding the school, providing native easy to grow plants, while also fundraising to support the many great projects of the PTA,” he said.

“The plant sale was all Ken’s idea,” said Bart Lawrence, a former PTA president. “I remember meeting in, then-PTA president, Rebecca Robert’s house and when asked to write down event ideas Ken wrote Native Plant Sale. I can still see the yellow post-it note with those words [in my head]. It was the best idea Ken ever came up with-except for marrying his wife … and having two amazing children,” he said.

Highbush blueberry plants. Photo courtesy Caroline Selle.

Highbush blueberry plants. Photo courtesy Caroline Selle.

Six years later, the sale is still going strong.  According to Lawrence, “Last year and the year before, we had a clicker and checked in approximately 500 people each year.”

“The plant sale is an amazing fundraiser for the PTA that also responds to the needs of the surrounding community,” said current PTA President Mary Warneka. “We have countless gardeners among us and folks are increasingly aware of the importance of using native plants to create habitats for wildlife and to decrease the need for mowing, fertilizing, etc. which creates pollution.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, plants which are native to an area do not need fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or watering, once they have become established which consequently benefits the environment and gardeners also save because there is a reduction in maintenance costs.

More than 6,000 individual plants, of 45 different species were sold this year, according to Williams, such as Swamp Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, Blazing Star, etc., many of which are listed on the PTA’s website in advance of the sale. Plants come from two nurseries based on both consumer demand and availability.

“Sometimes varieties we want to carry aren’t available at the time of the sale, and we have historical knowledge/data that gives us a good idea of what people will buy,” said Lawrence.

PTA volunteers put in a great deal of effort to pull off the sale.  “I help plan and promote the plant sale, along with Ken and Christine Williams. The sale wouldn’t happen without them,” Lawrence said. “This is by far the PTA’s biggest fundraiser.  And, it’s really the only fundraiser that takes a lot of planning and effort.”

Volunteers also pitch in, with an average of about twenty to thirty pitching in the day before and the day of the sale, organizers said.

It takes a lot of preparation, but it is also a lot of fun to be involved in,” said Williams. “We are very fortunate to have had the support of the community and be part of what makes this city a great place to be.”

“This is a fantastic event that supports student learning and brings out hundreds of people from within and without the community to enjoy one of the many events that make Hyattsville special,” said Lawrence.

“The thousands of dollars raised through this sale provides much needed equipment for arts and recreation at Hyattsville Elementary School,” said Warneka.

“The funds may go to PTA events such as the family movie night, but more often than not the funds go to purchase supplies such as musical instruments, art supplies, or outdoor recess equipment,” said Lawrence. “The PTA has very few overhead/administrative costs, so most of the funds they raise directly supports student learning.”

For more information about the sale and the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA head to their website: http://hyattsvillees-pta.org/ or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HyattsvilleESPTA