AmericanFarm.com

Rutgers’ flower, plant sale attracts record turnout

By RICHARD SKELLY
AFP Correspondent

NEW BRUNSWICK (June 1, 2015) — Started back in the mid-1990s, the annual Rutgers Gardens flower and plant sale now draws crowds of hundreds.
Each year, the four-day vegetable plant and flower sale culminates on Mother’s Day Sunday on the grounds of the Rutgers Gardens off of Ryders Lane in New Brunswick, just off Route 1.
On Mother’s Day, Professor Bruce Crawford of Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences took time out for a few minutes for an interview with The New Jersey Farmer by ducking out of the throngs of people who had questions.
“This is both a fund-raiser for the garden and an education process,” Crawford said.
“A lot of people don’t know how to grow herbs or vegetables or flowering plants and we try to provide as much information as we can to them. Each year we sell close to 100 varieties of tomatoes alone,” he said, noting the sale also showcases more than 90 varieties of herbs and more than 50 varieties of peppers.
“Each year we hire 16 students through the summer months to help do all the maintenance and two of the students work with the children’s program. We make field trips to Longwood Gardens, Central Park, and we go to Cornell University for an overnight trip. The idea is they get exposed to public gardens and learn that it’s more than just pulling weeds, it’s all about interaction with the public, it’s about volunteers and it’s about providing an escape from everyday life.”
The annual flower and plant sale was the brainchild of former Rutgers professor Bruce Hamilton, now retired in North Carolina.
“The sale benefits this program so we can afford to have the students working here over the summer and the superintendent to oversee it all. We’re only partly funded through the university: they pay for electric, gas, and water but they don’t pay for the employees or our equipment,” Crawford said.
This year’s Plant and Flower Sale drew a record turnout of 450 people for the annual Rutgers Gardens’ membership night on May 7, he said.
While the sale itself was Hamilton’s idea, the idea of selling memberships in the Rutgers Gardens was Crawford’s.
Members of the Rutgers Gardens get discounts in the gift shop, at the annual sale and they get a monthly newsletter via e-mail, as well as special invites to various educational seminars held at the site.
Memberships in the RU Gardens start at $45 per year.
“This event is a kind of a mini-festival. We find many people come back several times over the course of the weekend.”