I was supposed to write this blog about our annual Heritage Plant Sale with our 15th anniversary in mind. I was supposed to do a blog featuring 15 of our top plants. But this blog is not going to do that.

Gardening requires two things: hope and adaptability. Hope is planting seeds and young plants. It is an exercise in optimism, because you start with the hope that what you are placing in the ground now is going to grow and flower and fruit and thrive and bring joy and satisfaction sometime in the future. Adaptability is recognizing those hopeful goals don’t always go as planned. It means if pests attack your plants you treat them. If your plants aren’t getting enough rain, you water them. If a global pandemic sidelines your plans for a plant sale, you change the plant sale.

One thing I love about our annual Heritage Plant Sale is that everyone gets to come in and see the quality of the plants. More importantly, they get to talk with our staff about these plants and what will fit best in their garden. Then, people would be able to go home with some great plants and some basic knowledge, it is, in a sense, taking a little bit of the MSV with them to their own garden. And the proceeds from the sale help fund the care of the gardens here at the MSV. It’s a win for everyone.

It was that sale we were preparing for when everything changed with COVID-19. Seeds had been planted, plugs and full-size plants had been ordered. We were not just hopeful; we were confident about that sale. So now we must adapt.

Time to go online.

Sounds easy, but as many people have found out in the last few weeks, taking your regular analog way of doing things and putting it online is not that simple. Our website is set up well for selling tickets to programs and events, but not goods and inventory. A lot of people went to work (many remotely) to sand off the corners of our square peg so it could better fit in the round whole of our website. Special shout out to our media manager Imelda Terzian who got much of that done. Knowing we couldn’t talk to each customer face to face, we scrambled to produce a “catalog” to better inform everyone of what we are selling. In the meantime, our garden staff had to adapt our production methods to ensure their personal safety, clearing out much of our equipment building so we could pot up plants using social distancing. We had to figure out how to establish a curbside pick-up system. We continued to adapt.

So here we are, ready to sell plants…online.

What does our new plant sale look like? To make the ordering process a little easier, we have broken the plant listings into categories for you. First thing to know is how much sun does your garden get. We have sections for perennials (read: flowers) that like sunny spots, perennials that want shade and perennials that want some of both. Ferns and foliage plants are included in those categories. We have trees, shrubs for sun, shrubs for shade, vines, annuals, herbs and vegetables. We have a new category this year – woodland natives. Many of these are spring ephemerals and most are hard to find at many nurseries. We have worked with a wholesale nursery in West Virginia to responsibly source these plants.

Once you order, we will work with you to set up a time for curbside pickup. You can arrive at the museum, where our order has been pulled according to your pickup time and our staff will load the plants into your car. Side note: if you are ordering trees, don’t come in a sub-compact car – some of the trees are 8’ tall. The next step is up to you – take your plants home and plant them. That is where hope starts anew.

So, what about the 15 plants I am supposed to highlight? Well, that is sort of like picking a favorite child. Many of the plants we offer for sale we already grow in the garden. We know they work in this part of the Shenandoah Valley. Below are photos of 15 that I would buy for my home. Please take the time to look through the offerings and see what best suits your site. The online sale runs May 4–15. If you have questions, contact us at gardener@themsv.org. Thank you for your support and like all good gardeners, may you continue to hope and adapt.