The picturesque Hilltop Arboretum will be the site of the Spring Fling plant sale March 28. Photo by Collin Richie.

Two green thumbs up for Hilltop Arboretum’s Spring Fling plant sale

Flame azalea. Stock photo.

Nearly a century ago, Emory Smith believed that cultivating plants could bring people together. Today, the LSU Hilltop Arboretum founder’s philosophy lives on through the facility’s Hodge Podge Nursery, an all-volunteer nursery venture that nurtures more than 6,000 plants and 600 species. Every week, garden enthusiasts gather to tend to the tiny shoots and blossoming shrubs, and on March 28 the fruits of their labor will be spread out across the property at Hilltop’s annual Spring Fling plant sale.

Worried about your own lack of a green thumb? Never fear; resident plant experts will be on hand to advise which plants would work well in any garden conditions. Need a sure thing? Try one of Emory Smith’s favorite plants–varieties that still thrive in our climate so many years later:

  • Oakleaf hydrangea: Less fussy than their common garden hydrangea cousins, these native plants boast long cone-shaped clusters of flowers each summer and brilliantly colored leaves in the fall.
  • Flame azalea: The funnel-shaped flowers on this deciduous shrub don’t look like the azaleas you’re used to–and that’s what makes them special. Look for hues ranging from pale yellow to fiery red.
  • Cherokee rose: It’s the state flower of Georgia, but don’t let that scare you away from this plant that produces fragrant, yellow-centered white blossoms in early spring.
  • Bigleaf magnolia: This tree’s name stems from its massive leaves, which can reach up to 3 feet long. The creamy white flowers can grow to a third of that size.
  • Spicebush: Swallowtail butterflies love this native shrub with its aromatic leaves. Bright red fruit bring the birds calling, too.
Oakleaf hydrangea. Stock photo.

Gardening books and tools will also be available at the Spring Fling sale, along with the new cookbook Passalong Recipes from the Podge II: Digging Deeper. The event is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get all the details here.