Chapter Plant Sales - NARGS Appreciation

Submitted by RickR on

What kind of Chapter plant sales would we have without the National organization?  Pretty dismal, I would say.  The sources, knowledge and connections for interesting materials would be drastically reduced.


Sometimes it’s hard to fully convey what NARGS does for Chapters without concrete, in your face, evidence.  So as the Minnesota Chapter Plant Sales chair, I tried something new.  Show them, prove to them how NARGS impacts all Chapter members.


This past season (2016) I implemented a new benefit for our (national) NARGS members at the Chapter level:

 At our plant sales, we have a $1 discount on plants designated as NARGS generated.


What is a NARGS generated plant?  In short, it is any plant that is at our sale because of NARGS.  In other words, the plant would not exist at the sale if NARGS did not exist.  These would include:

--- plants from seed from the NARGS seed exchange, and their descendants

--- plants derived from purchases made because of discoveries made through the NARGS website, sales, publications, presentations, conferences, etc.

--- plants derived from personal exchanges found through the National organization.


The purpose is to show yet another way that we ALL are benefiting from the National organization, whether we are members or not.  Of course, the other purpose is to encourage NARGS membership!


At my Chapter's sales, each NARGS designated plant is marked with a green dot on the tag. (I want to be a ble to say: "Look! All these green dot plants wouldn't be here if it weren't for NARGS!") 

The $1 discount for NARGS members is subtracted from the marked price.  At the end of the sale, a tally of green dot tags will determine the size of the financial donation to NARGS that will come from the Chapter plant sale receipts.


NARGS members pay $5 for this plant.


I did not make the green dot designation a rule.  The plants donated are the donors’, and the donors decide how they want to handle this, but I would hope that they see the value and logic behind supporting the benefits we receive from NARGS.  We had a lot of plants that missed the designation this first year, and I admit some of that was my fault.  But it was a good start.


I understand there are still Chapters that sell their plants for under a dollar or at least very cheaply, consequently this $1 discount would be extravagant.  If I may interject my thoughts on this:


  At our Chapter sales, donors price their own items.  I encourage them to price them at two-thirds to three-fourths of what we might expect to pay at a nursery.  In my view, we don’t want to short cut the specialty nurseries by underselling.  I don’t want to put them out of business, but I do want to expand a buyer’s knowledge and palette of available plants.  By using ridiculously low prices, are you not misleading buyers away from their actual value?   Many are not even obtainable in the marketplace at all!


My Chapter has two plant sales: a big spring sale that is open to the public, and a smaller late summer sale that is for members and guests only.  At the second sale, prices do tend to be somewhat lower and I bill that sale as one of our member benefits.




So now that our Chapter has gone through a trial season, there are a few more things I can suggest if you want to try this at your Chapter:


--- People seem to automatically view this as a penalty or a surcharge for not joining the National organization.  Even NARGS members might subconsciously have this tendency.  Start with your Chapter board members and make it very clear: this is a discount, not a penalty, not a surcharge!!!


 It is no different than a food coop.  If you are a member, you get a discount on the marked price.  If you are not a member, you get the privilege of being able to shop for goods not found anywhere else, and you pay the marked price.


I also use a Minnesota Arboretum membership as an example.  As a member, you get a discount in the gift shop and for classes and workshops, and free entry.  As a non-member you still have access to all these things, but at the normal rate.


--- Be prepared to explain the details of your method multiple times.  It seems to be a difficult idea to grasp.  Put it in clear concise wording in your newsletter.


--- It was suggested by one of our Chapter members that a simpler way to achieve “the same thing” would be to just make a donation to NARGS.  We could do that in addition, but this would certainly not be the same thing!  For me, generating revenue for NARGS is secondary in this case.  The real purpose is to get Chapter members to realize that they are not separate from NARGS, and that the availability of NARGS generated plants is just one of the benefits they enjoy from NARGS.


This is why I settled on the name of “NARGS Appreciation” for the discount.  I would be honored if you would use it or something similar.  Try to keep people focused on the reason for the discount, not the $$$.


And I would love to hear your comments and improvements on my venture.


Submitted by CScott on Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:20

You have good ideas, Rick.

I see them as useful for Sales where there are mostly Chapter members.

If I were to run a Plant Sale to try to encourage recruitment to the Chapter,

I would have NARGS info available, but would not charge for NARGS.

The Chapter could perhaps make a donation to NARGS?   Or perhaps the table rent could include a $5 surcharge for NARGS?

Perhaps give a preference for tables, or selling plants to NARGS members?


What ideas does any one else have on this???

Submitted by Mark McD on Sat, 03/04/2017 - 10:30

New England Chapter NARGS has two plant sales events each year.

1)  The spring event is a "rare plant auction", the favored event of the two, gets high attendance. It depends on the generosity of chapter members donating some "good stuff" to be auctioned, bidders are chapter members. The event results in the majority of the Chapter's fund raising. 

a) while some rarities may be had for a reasonable price, or even a bargain, most go for astronomical prices in bidding frenzy; people willing to bid high because the know the proceeds benefit the chapter. I typically bring $100 cash, so that I can't spend more than I can afford. The bidding action can be lots of fun for all, I try not to miss the event.

b) sometimes a person attends that's zealous about winning bid on everything, willing to pay any price no matter how high, it's frustrating for all who attend because there's little chance of winning a bid, or if they do, they've paid a high price.  This is not normally the case, but it has happened before.

c) the event is typically held too early, with a dearth of herbaceous plants out of the ground. In the "black spring" of 2016 when a sudden 3-day deep freeze wiped out most tender spring growth on perennials and bulbs, in this special case it was decided to push back the auction date.

d) Lots of what is donated is very common stuff, or trees and shrubs, or even big greenhouse plants like Clivia and such. Too often there are droopy plants hastily thrown into pot or bag and looking sad.  All of this makes for a very long auction of plants people don't really want, I do wish people would concentrate on the "rare plant" part of the event name.

Yet, with these problems, it's generally a financial success and fun to attend.

2) In autumn we have a Chapter seedling sale. It can include whatever plants people bring, not just seedlings. In recent years attendance has dwindled.  I've heard comments to the effect, that approaching end of the growing season it can be a burden to load up on a bunch of young plants, when one is focused on prepping the garden for winter. The prices are rock bottom cheap, such that one can lose control and buy way too much than one can actually handle (my personal experience).  Donators get a certain quantity of free selections based on qty of what they donate. I believe if the seedling sale was moved to some time in summer, people would be more enthusiastic, and would have a real chance of getting things planted and established before onset of fall/winter.