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story.lead_photo.caption Getting ready for Saturday’s plant sale are, from left, Saline County Master Gardeners Joyce Spears and Sandy Morris, both of Avilla, and Sandy Rial of Benton. They have been propagating plants from seeds and raising them in a greenhouse for Saturday’s annual plant sale at the Saline County Fairgrounds. - Photo by William Harvey

— The Saline County Master Gardeners will have their annual plant sale from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Saline County Fairgrounds in Benton.

This year’s sale will take place in the arts and crafts building rather than in the commercial building, where it has been in years past.

“The arts and crafts building is a little smaller,” said Julie Kerr of Salem, plant sale chairwoman. “We won’t know until Friday morning when we get there to begin setting up if we will have to put up tents outside the building to help accommodate all of our plants. It will be a surprise … having to figure all of this out.

“We are hoping for a good crowd again this year. We will have a good supply of excellent plants for sale. We will have a variety of vendors, too.”

Master Gardeners have been busy the past few months digging plants from their own yards and growing plants from seeds for the sale.

Sandy Morris of Avilla and Sandy Rial of Benton were busy working a few weeks ago in the greenhouse of Sherry Faulkner in Benton, where members have been propagating plants from seeds.

“We have done a lot of propagating from seeds rather than cuttings,” Rial said. “It has been quite challenging.”

Morris said that among the plants the group has raised from seed are purple ageraturn, blue cascading lobelia, marigolds and bronze fennel.

“The percentage of germination has not been too high. We estimate about 25 percent of the seeds we planted germinated,” Rial said.

“We have propagated fuchsia and some apple geraniums from mother plants. We also have some columbine, which is a biennial. It’s a little plant this year that will bloom next year,” she said.

“This [propagation of plants] is a work in progress,” Rial said, laughing.

“We will also have some Velvet Elvis, which is an Arkansas Diamonds Plant,” she said. “The Arkansas Diamonds Plants are plants that have been selected by local growers that grow well here.”

Morris said the Saline County Master Gardeners “try to offer things that cannot be found at nurseries. We will have cleome, which is an old, old plant. It multiplies easily. Hummingbirds love it. We will also have milkweed and butterfly weed.

“Last year we had close to 300 plants. The weather has been tricky this year, so we are not sure yet what we will have.”

Among other items that will be offered at the plant sale are hanging baskets, coneflowers, phlox, bee balm, Mexican hat, garlic chives, lemon balm, pineapple sage, borage (an herb), hosta, sedum, dusty miller, lavender, lantana, parsley, salvia, coleus, verbena, impatiens and begonias.

Rial said money raised from the plant sale will support the group’s many projects.

“We maintain flower beds at the Hospice House of Bryant, the [Mabel Boswell Memorial Library] in Bryant, the Saline County Regional Airport in Bryant, a small bed behind Bryant City Hall and the beds at the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce,” Rial said.

“In Benton, we maintain flower beds on the corners in downtown Benton and at the Saline County Courthouse, the memorial in Tyndall Park and the Sevier Street Triangle,” she said.

“We also landscape beds at the Avilla Community Center,” Rial said. “A new project this year is a garden on the grounds of the Arkansas Health Center in Haskell.”

Rial said members of the Master Gardeners also choose a Yard of the Month at the Habitat for Humanity Village and help schools with their gardens when asked.

Proceeds from the plant sale also go toward scholarships for graduating high school seniors who plan to study agriculture.

The 40-hour training program for the Master Gardeners is offered statewide by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Following the training, participants are required to volunteer at least 40 hours to the program and to accumulate at least 20 hours of learning within the next year. To maintain the status of Master Gardener thereafter, individuals must provide 20 “working” or service hours and accrue 20 “learning” or education hours per year.

“Saline County Master Gardeners reported over 6,500 hours working on Master Gardener beautification projects during 2017 and over 4,400 horticulture education hours,” said Ron Matlock, county agent for agriculture and staff chairman of the Saline County Cooperative Extension Service. He is also the adviser to the Saline County Master Gardeners.

“The Master Gardeners plant sale has been a community event for over 20 years,” Matlock said. “Local gardeners look forward to finding some great buys on all types of plants that have been propagated by the Saline County Master Gardeners club. Several vendors will be on hand to widen the scope of plants and crafts available.

“Master Gardener doors will open at 8 a.m., but the vendors will open early for more convenient shopping. Master Gardeners will be on hand to assist shoppers in finding the plants they are looking for. Even if a particular plant is not at the sale, Master Gardeners will usually know where to find it. Plants sell out quickly because they are priced reasonably, and the sale closes around noon.”

In addition to Kerr as president, other officers of the Saline County Master Gardeners include Kathy Lewallan of Bryant, vice president; Jill McConnell of Bryant, secretary; and Rial, treasurer.

For more information on the Saline County Master Gardeners program, call the Saline County Extension Service office at (501) 303-5672.

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