I am a big fan of spring plant sales. It seems like every organization has one; they show up at schools, churches, and sidewalk sales. These groups take advantage of the Wisconsin spring fever for home gardeners. It is kind of like Seasonal Affective Disorder, but instead of depression in the dark months, it causes maniacal behavior when the sun shines.

You go from this.


To this.

rmadness9And you don’t even remember how it happens. You just wake up the next morning in a pile of ragged plant tags and perlite and all of your checks are missing.

I know this feeling first hand, and have been managing the addiction for a few years now. But, just like eating and buying shoes, you can’t just stop the gardening. So how does one manage this inevitable affliction? I bring you:


  1. Plan, plan and plan in advance. I spend the winter months figuring out what areas I want to make gardens, identify the available light and natural moisture, and come up with a viable list of plants to do said planting. I even draw pictures.


  1. Schedule dates of plant sales to attend, and stick to them. This helps avoid those “pop up” sales and garden centers that can cause stress, anxiety, and an overwhelming sensation that you must visit every sale event. It’s not possible. There are too many. I have tried. By focusing on known, safe plant sales, you can keep the crazy under control. I attend the Southeast Wisconsin Master Gardener’s annual perennial plant sale in May, and it happened to be last weekend. It is one of, if not the, largest plant sales in my area, and all the plants are dug up from around the city. This is not for amateurs, as it can get out of hand fast, like coupon day at a Coach Factory Outlet.
  1. Set a budget. You know what you need, but the problem is you want everything you see. Set a budget and stick to it. My budget is $456,890, and not a penny more.
  1. If available, download a list of plants that will be at the sale or identify the general type of plant sale, and you can streamline your trip. For example, don’t look too hard for annuals if you are at a perennial sale. This will save some time.
  1. Wake up early and start with coffee. There are some serious plant sale pros out there and they all know that the best selections go to the early risers. This was the line this weekend 30 minutes before the start.


  1. Bring a friend. Or a wagon. You need something to help you carry the goods. I brought CFO. He was superexcited to wake up at 6:00 am on a Saturday just to wait for an hour in line to help me buy more plants.
  1. If a plant says it is free, take it. Nine of out ten times these are dead and will not recover, but maybe it will. And it was free! Or it was a trick and next year you will have a yard full of garlic mustard and clover. Hmmm.
  1. Be civil. This isn’t Walmart on Black Friday.
  1. Assume cash only. Sometimes these sales will accept checks, and rarely credit cards. Don’t show up unprepared and have no way to pay for your haul. This also helps control the budget, see rule #3.
  1. Commit rules #1-9 to short-term memory, get super excited, forget them all and go crazy. Admire your madness.


Spring Seasonal Affective Disorder may cause extensive sleeping in front of sunny windows.

Spring Seasonal Affective Disorder may cause extensive sleeping in front of sunny windows.