Here in the Northwest, we cactus and succulent growers are reveling in “the dog days of summer”. For us it’s “the succulent days of summer” – our summer heat wave. Some growers are pollinating with brush in hand, others are lucky enough to be watching seed pods ripen. All of us are watering plants, watching for pests, and trying to keep up with the needs of our small seedlings in hot dry weather. Then there’s the disturbing question of “Did that plant just die or go dormant?”
Yes, it does get dry in the rainy western half of Washington. We are in the midst of our “drought” season, although those of us on this western side of the state were pleasantly surprised by a bit rain this week. It gave us a break from the heat and watering chores, and provided much needed moisture for our very dry native plants. Meanwhile our eastern Washington members are experiencing hotter than normal temperatures and the ever existent danger of wildfire – without the respite of rain.
Our club is working feverishly to prepare for our annual sale. We are at “one month ’til sale time” which means that all sale plants have been repotted if necessary, pest management attended to, and the process of pricing and tagging will begin soon. The cleaning of plants and pots is done at the last moment. One year the plants were all cleaned and ready a week before the sale, sitting outside enjoying the sunshine while the Douglas Fir trees dropped their small needles and small cones into the pots. Nothing like using tweezers to pick a fir needle out of the center of an Opuntia!
An annual plant sale for a club such as ours is an “all hands on deck” affair. With the popularity of succulents and the rising popularity of cacti, we have been experiencing increased numbers of shoppers, most of whom come within the first three hours of our sale opening. While we love seeing the nursery doors open and customers headed our way, the onslaught can be a daunting. It brings to mind the crowd scenes from the late 1950’s movie “The Blob”. We are fortunate to have some experienced crowd wranglers in our club who are proficient at handing out boxes for shopping, providing cultivation information, and membership details to people as they shop. Four years ago we added Square to our check out system and found our sales greatly improved over the cash and check system we were previously using.
We are grateful to have Sky Nursery as our sale sponsor, as they have been since before 1990. We have a large space configured to our specifications and a safe place to leave plants over night. Each year we make some improvements in our sale process and review their worthiness. All in all the basic approach of putting a lot of good looking plants out on a table and getting out of the way seems to work the best. Everything else is “top dressing.”
The annual plant sale for a club such as ours is our life blood. Membership dues provide enough to pay for the publication of the newsletter. In order to provide educational programs and support plant/habitat conservation, our club depends on the annual sale to supply us with the needed funds to achieve our mission. We are grateful for our returning customers, the familiar succulent lovers who return each year and find new plants to add to their collection. We couldn’t do it without those members who show up every year to muscle the tables around, operate the cash register, answer numerous questions, and clean up the space.