The plant sale must go on at the Nature Center, despite COVID-19 pandemic

It seems like there’s always some act of nature that tries to meddle in events at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. “You name it, we’ve had it,” says Kim Bihler, the Nature Center’s events and engagement manager. They had heavy rains during their annual fundraiser last June, and then a microburst at the Hike and Run race in September.

This year, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is interfering with the 28th annual plant sale, which features the region’s largest selection of hard-to-find native plants, perennials, and annuals.

But the Nature Center staff has come together to bring the entire sale online—offering patrons a month to shop for their favorite stock and support the Nature Center. This year’s plant sale day on Saturday, May 9, has been cancelled, but the online shopping began March 18 and will run through Friday, April 17.

Volunteers will then deliver orders Wednesday, May 6, to destinations within 20 miles of the Nature Center. Delivery fees are $20 ($15 for Nature Center members). Order pickup is unavailable, due to the pandemic.

But ordering has been up this year, despite the cancellation of in-person browsing, Bihler says. “We have five times as many sales as last year at this time,” she says. “People are worried that garden centers will not be open in time, or we’ll still be in lockdown and not able to buy plants.”

Previously, large numbers of customers have stocked up at the annual plant sale, but this year, the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is moving the entire sale online.Additionally, people are looking for activities to keep them busy, Bihler says. “They’re looking for things to do in their own backyard,” she says. “

And the Nature Center’s plant sale is the perfect place to find some unique native plants, pollinator attractors, and vegetables to grow and harvest.

Perennial best sellers include garden phlox and bluebells, while basil—available in sweet, Thai, and purple varieties—is a popular herb, says Nick Mikash, the Nature Center’s natural resources specialist.

“To me, basil is summer,” he says. “When you smell fresh basil in the garden, [it’s] summer.”

Plants native to Ohio include petunia, bee balm, and raspberry, while pollinators include wild bergamot, blazing star, and goldenrod. Prepared Plug Pack Gardens group complementary plants together for a ready-to-go garden. There is also a selection of vegetable plants to choose from, as well as shrubs, trees, and vines.

“We have a nice selection of annuals too, and some of them are already potted so you can just put them on your porch,” says Mikash. “We really have something for everyone.”

The Nature Center plant sale raises about $25,000 annually, says Bihler, and the money helps support the public trails, natural habitats, and environmental education programs that bring more than 40,000 people to the Nature Center each year.

To browse the selection or to place an order, click here.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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