Although the weather has been fickle and most of the trees are still bare, businesses and residents were getting ready for planting on a sunny yet windy Sunday.
“When the magnolia trees are blooming, that to me says spring is here,” said Beth Steward, a grower at Burnett’s Country Gardens in Salem, who is now seeing that happen.
Steward said she has seen more people coming into the large store, excited for spring’s arrival — a statement supported by the parking lot that was filling up within an hour of the store opening on Sunday.
Some of the more popular plants people are buying right now, she said, are pansies because they are somewhat tolerant of the cold.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Steward said, interest in gardening spiked and demand was so great for plants and supplies and no one was prepared. But she said this year, her store is better prepared as supply chain issues with pottery, fertilizers and more have improved.
In addition, Steward said the store grows about 80% of the annual plants its sells.
Lynn Vanvoorhies of Niantic said she recently started gardening for the season and was happy to have her hands on a purple streptocarpus, also known as a cape primrose. She said Burnett’s usually sells them just once or twice a year and she has been unable to purchase one in the past.
Malarie Buller, a teenager from Salem, said she is a collector of plants and a regular at Burnett’s, visiting once or twice a month. Buller, accompanied by her two younger sisters, said they were taught to garden by their grandmother.
In her basket, Buller had some new gardening gloves and a small pot with a string of turtle plant.
“That’s the thing about plants, there’s so many possibilities,” Buller said. “Even if it’s small, by the end of the summer, it can be three or four times its size.”
Marcia Kiggans of Oakdale said she was going to her daughter’s home on Sunday to garden with her. Kiggans purchased some poppies, sunset shades, violas and irises for her daughter’s garden.
About five minutes away on Route 85, Plant Lot Farms, a garden center in Oakdale, sells mainly shrubs, trees and all sorts of perennials. Jeff Gohn, the owner, was out Sunday with his workers on the lot, arranging and putting out hundreds of plants.
Gohn said he has been waiting for it to warm up, looking at the 10-day forecast, waiting until there is no longer frost on the ground at night. Even so, he said, there has been a decent flow of people every day and they’ve been selling plants “like crazy.”
Offering competitive prices, Gohn said they grow most of the perennials themselves and bring in most of the shrubs from other areas of Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland.
“I’m hoping for a good season,” Gohn said.