WESTFIELD – With some breaks in the rain and the sun peeking out early Tuesday, gardeners flocked to the first day of Westfield Technical Academy’s Annual Horticulture Technology Plant Sale.
The sale continues at WTA’s Greylock Street entrance Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. – noon, unless sold out.
Gardener Charlene Kareta was there at lunchtime Tuesday for her first – but not last – time. Her granddaughter is a WTA freshman studying horticulture, so she came to support her, but found many bargains.
“I never knew about this,” Kareta said as she loaded vegetable plants into her wagon. “I’ll always come back now that I know about it.”
Karen George has been a regular at the sale for more years than she can remember. She contemplated which herbs to purchase with help from sophomore James Frisbie.
“I enjoy supporting the kids, and I love plants,” said George.
Frisbie said he transferred into Horticulture Technology this year and enjoys that it’s an active program versus his previous program where he found himself sitting in a classroom all day.
“I like the active aspect of it,” he said, “and my grandmother has a plethora of plants and I look forward to helping her in her garden.”
Judy Lamothe purchased a hanging basket for her mom for Mother’s Day as well as several plants for herself. She touted the quality of WTA’s offerings.
“I bought a basket of herbs last year and they’re actually coming back,” she said.
Horticulture Technology Instructor Nathan Sperry said the 24 students started the plants in February in the WTA greenhouses.
Customers have thousands of plants to choose from, including vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers starting at $2, to large planters filled with multiple plants for $25. Single potted annuals range from petunias to coleus for $5-$8, and colorful hanging baskets from $15-$18.
“We try to make some changes to what we offer every year,” Sperry said, “but we do have customers who come every year looking for the same plants.”
Trendy plants, such as succulents, are among the newer offerings. They come in single pots or planters. Sperry said the herbal planters are also popular this year.
“Impatiens are the number-one selling bedding plant in the United States, but we never sold very many, so we don’t have them this year,” he said.
Sperry joined the WTA staff in 2006 and began expanding the sale, which had been held previously.
“We added to our greenhouses and expanded what we offer, and it keeps growing,” he said.
Typically, the sale nets around $8,000, which is used for the next plant sale and to purchase items not in the budget.
“We often buy needed tools, and we’d like to buy a new tractor and a trailer,” Sperry said. “But we probably won’t have enough for that.”
The current tractor used by the program is 23 years old and has seen better days, Sperry said.
Sperry and his students respond to customer questions about the plants, such as which ones are best for sun or shade, which ones are best for hummingbirds, how to care for them and more.
“They do a nice job,” said Lamothe.