Patrick Thompson

Patrick Thompson, curator of Auburn University's Davis Arboretum, sorts native azaleas for last Saturday's native plant sale

After cancelling its last spring sale due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Davis Arboretum is back in business with the return of its spring native sale on Saturday. 

The sale will take place beside the pavilion on Garden Drive from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Space within the sale area will be limited and guests will be required to wear masks at all times while in the Arboretum. 

According to Patrick Thompson, arboretum specialist, in years past the sale has been the source of great feedback from the Auburn community, which has a heightened interest in native plants.

“The community’s feedback has been outstanding,” Thompson said. “Every year for the last decade when we have done this sale, we have sold out of all the plants available.”

Thompson said fundraising efforts and proceeds from sales like this have allowed the Arboretum in past years to exceed the funds that it receives from Auburn University. 

“We have ambitions at the arboretum, that has financial need, and we were eager to get native plants into the landscape while giving people a source to get their native plants,” Thompson said. “Through this fundraiser, the sale helps the arboretum accomplish its mission while also getting native plants out in the landscape around town too.

“It’s a win-win for us.”

Shoppers can expect to see native oaks, native fruit bearing plants like blueberries and plums, uncommon Alabama native plants and plants with an added emphasis on diverse options of azaleas. According to Thompson, native plants, particularly ones that are native to Alabama, play an active role in the health of the overall environment. 

“'Native plants,' in itself, is sort of a loaded term because when someone hears native plants, they think of plants native to North America,” Thompson said. “But when we say native plants, we are speaking about plants that are native to Alabama.

“In the case of some of the azaleas, we do have hybrids that are Alabama species crossed with other hybrids, so in a sense they are not fully native but they still actively participate in the ecology of Alabama — interacting with the animals in the environment and that’s a big benefit. A plant being able to get the sun’s energy and then moving on into the food chain is important for supporting local things like birds, butterflies and all the other creatures that eat plants.”

Thompson also shared that the Arboretum will be introducing four new varieties at the sale that are specifically unique to Auburn. This will be the first debut of the varieties for sale.

“The Auburn Azalea series, that we will have available at the sale, is a group of azaleas that were created by Auburn professors and gardeners over the last four years,” Thompson said. “Auburn people might take for granted all the nice orange azaleas we have blooming around town but that's actually a pretty special Auburn thing.

“They are difficult to buy and that’s another reason for the sale. We want people to get their hands on hard-to-find plants.”

For anyone who may have more questions, you can contact the Arboretum at arbinfo@auburn.edu or by phone at 334-844-5770.

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