When this year's April plant sale was canceled, members of the Livermore-Amador Valley Garden Club had a problem to deal with besides losses from their annual fundraiser.
The gardeners have worked all year to propagate their favorites to share with the public. Now what could be done with the plants?
"We have decided to hold a Virtual Plant Sale, beginning with the edibles," a notice informed members. "If we're successful with the edibles, we'll hold another one with the ornamentals."
Longtime member Kim Billingsley took the lead, and members are making lists of their edibles by variety and sending the compilations to her. Some gardeners are bringing the plants to the headquarters – the Billingsley home – and she is arranging pickup for others.
"I was already to be in charge of the edibles section for the plant sale," Billingsley said. "Now I am borrowing tables to set up in my back yard for the plants, which are being delivered to my house."
The virtual sale is scheduled for this Saturday (April 4), when the sale had been set for the Amador Valley High parking lot. On that day, members will be emailed a list of the edible plants for sale, and they can respond with what plants they want to buy, due by the evening of April 5.
"I will fill your order from my back yard," Billingsley said.
She will arrange a time for pickup, in front of her home. Payment, on the honor system, is to be left in cash or check in a special box on the front porch.
"I will take the money out of the bin and put out the next person's stuff," Billingsley said. "I will keep doing this until everything is sold."
Edibles are special to her. She has a big "edible" garden in her back yard, which includes blueberry bushes, pomegranate and lemon trees, cucumbers and asparagus, among other fruits and vegetables.
"I share with the neighbors and close friends but we do eat a lot of it," Billingsley said. "And I do a lot of canning."
She is also in charge of the large organic garden at Camp Arroyo in Livermore.
"When it has science camp during the winter, it is a demonstration garden, and the extra produce is feeding the children," Billingsley said. "During the summer, Camp Arroyo is for the Taylor Family Foundation (for children with serious illnesses), and the produce goes to help offset their produce needs, too."
This weekend's virtual plant sale is open only to members of the garden club.
"Since we haven't done it before and don't really know how many plants there are, we are afraid to open it up to the whole community," said acting garden club president Karen Abbruscato, who was heading up this year's sale.
If all goes smoothly selling the edibles, she said, perhaps the club might open the next phase, the sale of ornamentals, to the public.
Meanwhile, Abbruscato said, anyone interested can join the club on its website, www.lavgc.org, and be included in the sales.
"People can join, or they can reach out to a member," she said. "We are asking members to reach out to their families and friends."
Abbruscato said new members are constantly joining the club, especially when the Weekly runs stories about its activities.
"It's been amazing how many people come to the meetings and volunteer," she said. "We are always getting new blood."
Abbruscato is hoping this year's sale is a success as people are staying at home.
"This might be a good time to pay attention to your garden," she said.
The annual sales generate at least $5,000, which is used to attract good speakers for the monthly meetings, to rent the multipurpose room at Alisal Elementary for the meetings, and to print the club's annual yearbook, which goes to press by Aug. 1. It lists speakers for the upcoming year, members' names and contact information, names of officers and committee heads, and the club bylaws.
Funds are also used for the club's community service projects, which include maintaining the Sensory Garden at the Pleasanton Senior Center; organic Eden Garden in Livermore, which donates more than 2,000 of pounds of produce each year to a food bank in Hayward; and the pesticide-free garden at Camp Arroyo.
One expense the club will not have this year, Abbruscato noted, is paying the school district for use of the Amador Valley High parking lot and insurance for the event.
The garden club began in 1984 with six members. They held the first plant sale in 1986 on Main Street, in front of the Community and First National Bank, now the site of USBank. The sale netted $100 but the club members were satisfied they'd found a way to reach out to the public – plus find homes for all their extra plants.
The Livermore-Amador Valley Garden Club now has more than 225 members. Many of them work year-round propagating plants and dividing perennials in preparation for the April sale, and work parties are held when help is needed. Some gardens produce 100 or more plants for the sale, which has been held at the high school since 1997.
To learn more, visit www.lavgc.org. Its monthly meetings and activities have been cancelled until further notice.