‘A community of spirit’: UC Botanical Garden holds annual Spring Plant Sale

Deborah Chen/File

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The UC Botanical Garden is nipping winter in the bud — over the weekend, the garden held its annual Spring Plant Sale, bringing in nearly 2,000 visitors and raising $55,000.

More than 100 staff members and volunteers participated in the sale on Saturday and Sunday, according to Bryan Gim, the garden’s coordinator of volunteer propagation. The funds will go toward the garden’s daily operating expenses, Gim said.

The plant sale not only serves as a fundraiser for the garden, but it also raises awareness of the garden and its services, according to Lewis Feldman, chair of the garden’s faculty advisory committee.

“It draws people to the garden who might not go there otherwise,” Feldman said. “People who go think they might be able to find unusual plants for their garden. … Knowing that it’s free, they come to the sale but wander through the rest of the garden.”

Feldman added that the garden has a large collection of insectivorous plants, such as Venus’ flytraps. He said that kids “love that” and later admitted that he loves them as well.

Garden members had the option of purchasing from the “Room of Rares,” an offering of unique, collectible plants such as the South African buttonbush or the cloud forest magnolia. The plants from the Room of Rares sold out completely, and the revenues amounted to more than $9,000 for the garden, according to Gim.

“The Room of Rares, it sounds like something from ‘Harry Potter,’ ” said Eric Siegel, director of the botanical garden. “But it has plants that are very unusual, and some of them sell for $200 or $300.”

Students often go to the sale to look for plants to decorate their apartment or dorm room, Feldman said. Succulents, he said, are a popular choice.

Feldman volunteered at the sale and described his job as that of a “rover.” During the sale, he walked around the garden and educated visitors on the plants they were looking at. He said that although fundraising is important, his goal was to make people, especially kids, “enthusiastic about plants.”

Sieger said this plant sale was one of the “most successful” sales that the UC Botanical Garden had ever seen. There was a high turnout, and some people came from as far away as Merced and Southern California to attend the sale, he said.

“It builds a community of spirit,” Feldman said. “In these times where the university is under severe financial constraint, having the resources of these volunteers who help grow and sell the plants — it’s a way of drawing the community in and letting them know they have a role in making Berkeley a special place.”

Contact Anjali Shrivastava at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anjalii_shrivas.