Plants, Art, Alpacas and a Big Hotdog

Plants, Art, Alpacas and a Big Hotdog

Pumped-up gardeners were ready to prowl, peruse and purchase.

Clyde Lake from Virginia Spores and More grows mushrooms, sells growing products and teaches home mushroom growing.

Clyde Lake from Virginia Spores and More grows mushrooms, sells growing products and teaches home mushroom growing.

By 11 a.m. on April 12, the rainy drizzle ended and River Farm’s front lawn was jam packed with vehicles. Pumped-up gardeners and plant lovers poured out, more than ready to prowl, peruse and purchase at the American Horticultural Society’s annual spring garden market on West Boulevard Drive in Mount Vernon.

Around 2,300 people shopped at the American Horticultural Society's annual garden market on April 12 and 13.


From peonies to peppers, milkweed to marigolds, bluebells to borage, the 47 vendors’ tables were bulging with greenery, crafts, treats and gardening know-how. By noon, wind gusts were dismantling tents, sending hats aloft and blowing down banners, but the “plantophiles” were undeterred. By Sunday’s close, 2,300 people had visited, browsed and shopped.

Mount Vernonite Dorothy Keough goes every year to buy tomato plants and pineapple sage that lures hummingbirds to her Hollin Hall garden. It was a first time for Alexandrian Emily Seaton, a gardener, and a fun outing for her daughter, Aelin, age three, who slurped up a gelato from the Moo Thru Ice Cream Truck.

“I’m a berry guy,” said Matt Goldman, from Ashland, Virginia’s Plants with Purpose Farm. He promotes using yards to grow food and was selling blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Two of his specialties are yellow raspberries and white blackberries which he says birds don’t eat because the birds are attracted to bright colors.

Shoppers were picking up Virginia-grown Japanese maples at the Acer Acres stop, trees native to Japan. Radical Roots Community Farm had organic vegetables, herbs, heirloom tomatoes and many pepper varieties shimmering in the breeze. Peony’s Envy (get the pun?) offered bare root peony plants. 

Nature by Design, Hillhouse Farm and Bee American sold plants native to Northern Virginia.

Alexor and Meaghan Moore from Rio, West Virginia, offered medicinal herbs and flowers. Tobacco plants for sale can get up to five feet tall, Alexor explained, and their white flowers bloom all summer and attract pollinators. He also offered hops, a perennial herb, which among other purposes is used to make beer. “It has relaxing qualities,” he maintained.

Shoppers enjoyed more than botanicals, like fungi, ungulates, arts, crafts, gardening accessories and a large hotdog on wheels.

Lisa Marie Meginnis came from her farm, Peasant’s Parcel in Pawpaw, West Virginia, to sell shiitakes. She explained how they grow mushrooms on oak logs and displayed a waist-high, box-shaped stack of logs. They drill holes into the logs and inject mycelium (mushroom spores), a process that propagates mushrooms in six months.

Clyde Lake from Springfield’s Virginia Spores and More sold mushroom-growing supplies which include three pounds of a wood-based product like sawdust and mycelium packed into a plastic bucket. “Anyone can grow an oyster mushroom,” he touted. 

Nature Art

Oyster shells were attention grabbers at the Gryffin Conservatory and Conservancy’s stand, where Ashley Smith sold handmade oyster shell wreaths and garlands. She gets the shells from the Alexandria restaurant Whiskey and Oysters and advocates for oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Mount Vernon-area resident and potter Bruce Ciske was selling his Kurinuki-inspired vases. He explained that for the squarish vases he starts with a clay block and carves the texture and inside opening.

Alluring Alpacas and a Hotdog

Two big-eyed, female Huacaya alpacas enchanted all. Judy Howe from Fredericksburg, assisted by local Joyce Diedrich, sold alpaca yarn, dryer balls, hats and other products, as their two patient alpacas sniffed visitors. On Wednesday, the alpacas will “get naked,” quipped Howe. Now sporting four-inch-thick fleece, they’ll be sheared for summer comfort – and more products.

The bright red and yellow Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was hard to miss. Chloe Van Caeseele said that the vehicle “is 27 feet long or the length of 60 hotdogs,” and versions have been around since 1936. Visitors examined the interior’s “six ketchup and mustard seats for 12 buns.” There are six wienermobiles total that travel all over the country. “Our mission is to spark smiles,” Van Caeseele said. “It makes people's day.”

Rocklands Real Barbeque food truck offerings satiated many appetites with tasty barbeque, baked beans, macaroni and cheese and coleslaw. 

The 25-acre River Farm was the northernmost of George Washington’s five farms and once home to Tobias Lear, Washington’s secretary. It’s been AHS’s national headquarters since 1973.    

This year’s market sponsors were Bartlett Tree Experts, Wegmans, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, Lauren Bishop, Thomas Fannon and Sons, Alexandria Living Magazine, Linemark Communications and the Zebra Newspaper.

For a list of the vendors and links, visit .