PROSPECT HEIGHTS — It's long been a yearly "must" for green thumbed Brooklynites, but the Botanic Garden's annual plant sale has sprouted out of the borough.
The event, marking its 59th year on May 2 and 3, has become the largest sale in the northeast.
What started as a few geraniums sold to ladies' auxiliary members now sells 20,000 blooms, shrubs and vegetable plants — so many that this year's event will cover an area the size of two football fields.
The offerings will spread along the garden's Cherry Esplanade, which last weekend was packed with thousands of visitors to the famed cherry blossom festival.
"Almost every inch of it is covered in the plants," said Lois Cardwell, co-chair of the plant sale.
The event — which is a fundraiser for the gardens but is organized by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden Auxiliary — brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to tax documents.
"At a lot of benefits they jack up the prices and say it's a benefit," said Cardwell.
"Here, that's not our theory. Our theory is, we want to encourage people to grow plants, so we grow them at a reasonable size and at a reasonable price."
Most of the plants, with the exception of several tree varieties and larger shrubs, have been grown to fit easy-to-transport size containers, such as a one-gallon pot, instead of the three or five gallon containers sold at many gardening outlets.
Dozens of red Radio Flyer wagons will be loaned to shoppers to use for bringing plants home, and a free "plant check" setup is available for buyers who want to return for a later pick-up.
One example of the kind of delights available at the sale is the ligularia, a very urban-friendly shade-growing perennial.
"If you were able to even come across this plant at a garden center, you might see one or two," said Cardwell.
"But we have seven varieties at this sale. They have very large leaves, the flower sizes change ... For a real plant-lover, this is like a voyage of discovery. It's like candy."
It's just one of many types of flowers that were curated for the city dwelling set, garden spokeswoman Kate Blumm added.
"There is a better selection of plants for shady urban backyards than anywhere else," she said.
The event starts with a preview sale held exclusively for BBG members (and the public on Tuesday.
Other highlights of the sale include:
Exclusive varieties of plants, including an unusual specimen of rhododendron.
A wide selection of native plants, such as Jack in the pulpit which Cardwell said won't be found anywhere else in the city.
A large collection of perennial and annual vines, including 20 to 25 varieties of clematis.
Many varieties of veronacastrum, "a native that's wonderful for a perennial border"
Bonsai clinics and demonstrations, led by BBG curator Julian Velasco, offer pruning, repotting and advice on pest-free bonsai in two sessions on Wednesday, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Seminars and free clinics on Wednesday (more details on the BBG website).
To get to the plant sale, look for a special sale entrance and pickup gate on Flatbush Avenue at the Cherry Esplanade, between the Brooklyn Public Library and Prospect Park Zoo's entrance.