Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
I have seen all the flowers, but courtesy of Becky Wehoy, program coordinator at the Scott Arboretum, I actually learned something too.
DG: What is your favorite part of the plant sale?
Becky: I would have to say this year our feature plant, hydrangeas… we have, all kinds, from oak leaf hydrangeas which are native [to] have cute little honey hydrangeas… it stays low like that, and it’s a great chartreuse color.
DG: So what kind of light do the hydrangeas need, how do they need to be taken care of?
Becky: Most of them, there are a few exceptions… become like a small hedge. We have a lot of them around campus, we actually have a whole collection of them if students would like to see them, up by the Du Pont parking lot right next to the science center. They’ll look great this time of year, they are going to start turning a beautiful red color in the fall. So they’ll look great under the red maples. [The hydrangeas] are a pretty low maintenance shrub, depending on which type… but they are great for putting them in the garden.
DG: So they bloom once a year?
Becky: It depends on the hydrangea. Time after time, hence the name… blooms multiple times during the season. Now… the natives, they only bloom once a year in the spring. But the nice part about these is that they have gorgeous red fall color. And they’re really unique because they have leaves like an oak, which looks very different from some of our other hydrangeas.
DG: And the leaves just kind of stay like that, or do they fall off and grow new ones?
Becky: The leaves will fall off and then, because these plants are a little young, you can begin to see it, they have this cool, flaky bark then in the fall. So these are things that students can look for throughout the season. We try to plant plants that look good all year round because we know you guys are here in the spring, the fall, and the winter.
DG: I personally love the fact that it’s an arboretum, it makes things so much more pleasant!
Becky: Well, I’m glad you enjoy it!
DG: So how long have you been hosting the plant sale, how many years?
Becky: At least 15 years. Personally I’ve been here for three years and because we do it every other year this is my second plant sale. And it’s quite a production. I was told when I started that I wasn’t officially a staff member until I did a plant sale.
DG: Like your initiation process?
DG: So what else other than hydrangeas do you have? Just a little overview?
Becky: I would say probably the most interesting thing for students would be the house plants.
DG: What kind of support is there for people who want to purchase a plant but are worried about keeping it healthy?
Becky: Tons of support. Actually the handbook has all kinds of information about it. Also the day of the sale we’ll have plant experts…they’ll be wearing red smocks, you can just go up to them and ask them any question you can think of and they’ll be more than willing to help you.
DG: Now if someone took a plant home and it was starting to die, could they e-mail you and would you respond to that?
Becky: Definitely. The best way to get a hold of us is to shoot us an e-mail… or you can drop by the office and we will try and find who’s available to answer your questions.
DG: Inside the handbook given at the plant sale?
Becky: There is a map of the plant sale field, a reference sheet, probably for some other contact information, as well as a whole thing about hydrangeas themselves.
DG: How many people do you have on staff?
Becky: The arboretum is kind of a two prong thing. We have the staff, which consists of eight full time staff members and that consists of the director, the curator, several program curators like me, and then we have the grounds crew, which is twenty-five gardeners, and they are the ones who maintain the grounds. And the other thing we have is one hundred volunteers, who help us do all of that.
I was told by another programs coordinator, not associated with this arboretum, that we have the best volunteer program around. I think it’s the cookies.
DG: Any new additions from last year in terms of flowers that you’re excited about?
Becky: Every year the sale is different. So the handbook that I was talking about, about one third of it we can use from last year. Two – thirds of it is brand new.
DG: Where do all the plants come from?
Becky: What we do is we order them in from nurseries , we don’t have a big enough growing facility to do that. So we actually have two committees, one for woodies and one for perennials, all volunteer run again, and they pick the plants.
So the thing about them being live plants… sometimes when we order them what happens is we have crop failures… so last minute changes occur, so sometimes there’s great plants in there we didn’t know we were getting.
DG: So where do the proceeds go?
Becky: The proceeds all go to our education and greenhouse fund.
Want to help? Students can buy a student membership, $30 for four years. With this you receive a ten dollar gift card and two complementary plants each year. You can always volunteer, even just once at Arbor Day in the spring. Or attend the sale and buy a pepper plant!
For more information on the plant sale and the Arboretum’s free guided tours, including a cell phone tour for those that are a bit attached to those little devices, visit www.scottarboretum.org