UCSC Farm's annual plant sale May 6-7 features "Granny's favorites!": Hard-to-find flowers and vegetables

Garden favorites, like fashion trends, tend to come and go, so the flowers and vegetables your grandmother loved may now be hard to find. But don't despair--this year's UCSC Farm & Garden Annual Spring Plant Sale features a range of hard-to-find organic annuals, perennials, and vegetable starts.

The theme of this year's sale is "Granny's Favorites: Old Fashioned Plants and Heirlooms." The sale takes place Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7, in the Barn Theater parking lot at the intersection of Bay and High Streets in Santa Cruz. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Only cash and checks will be accepted. Members of the Friends of the Farm & Garden receive a 10 percent discount and enjoy early admission on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.; memberships will be available during the sale.

Among the highlights of the unusual heirloom varieties that will be available are flowers such as 'Danebrog Lace,' a poppy variety with a red exterior and an elaborate cream inside. Also on sale will be the Centaurea americana 'Basket Flower'--an intriguing bloom that combines shades of gold and pink--and 'Whirly Bird Mahogany,' a deep, dark-red nasturtium unlike the more typical orange flowers.

Rare perennials include several raspberry varieties--the prodigious 'Heritage' and the fragrant 'Autumn Bliss' among them--as well as standouts such as Iris unguiclaris, a beardless iris that blooms mid-December to mid-February. A range of California native perennials will also be available, including flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) that blooms in March, and white sage (Salvia apiana) that is used in ceremonial smudge sticks.

As always, the sale offers a wide selection of vegetable starts. Heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants will be available, as will a broad assortment of unusual lettuces both mild and spicy. Many types of Asian vegetables still unfamiliar to some will also be there, including bok choy, baby bok choy, and tatsoi.

The sale is the largest all-organic event of its kind in the Monterey Bay Area. All of the herbs, flowers, and vegetable starts were propagated using organic methods. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides were used in growing the plants from seed, and no artificial growth hormones were used to stimulate root development.

The sale benefits the UCSC Farm & Garden Apprenticeship, a six-month training course in organic farming and gardening. For more information about the Spring Plant Sale or the Friends of the Farm & Garden, call (831) 459-3240 or send e-mail to jonitann@ucsc.edu.