Central Coast District Online Plant Sale – safe and successful

By Catherine Stofka

Lambertia formosa

Our meetings and other activities were suspended in early 2020 due to Covid, which in turn meant no fundraising to cover our ongoing expenses. The large selection of plants grown by members could not be sold by traditional methods, so our committee decided to try an online plant sale.

A small working group was established to plan and operate the sale. Heather Miles assisted by setting up the online sale function on APS NSW website (Wild Apricot software). Plant types, available stock, photos and descriptions were compiled by volunteers from the working group, and uploaded. Information was taken from various reliable sources such as books, botanical gardens websites, and of course ANSPA.

The sale was publicised by radio interviews, flyers, facebook, newsletters and local newspapers. Whilst Covid lockdowns inhibited in person activities, it did tend to increase interest in the sale, as many people filled their home time with gardening projects.

Woollsia pungens

Pot sizes were restricted to 90mm forestry tubes and 140mm round pots, to keep things simple for our first sale. The minimum quantity for each species sold online was three, although for some species there were up to about 25 of one species.
The final stocktake, weeding and tidying was done a few weeks prior to the sale, and plants transferred to the location where they would later be packed. As we don’t have a dedicated nursery, this was a member’s backyard.

Ordering was done online, on APS NSW website. The only payment method was paypal, which gave payment security to both purchaser and seller. There were one or two refunds made but this was done by cash at time of collection. Paypal fees were 30 cents plus 2.6% per transaction. A further amount (1/11 of sale total) was deducted by APS NSW to cover GST. Nett proceeds were reconciled monthly, and paid by bank transfer by APS NSW into our account.

Veleia lyrata

Plants were well watered and given a day to drain, so they could be packed into cardboard boxes the evening prior to collection day, which was contactless drive through. Cars were met at the driveway entrance and their names conveyed to the plant packers by walkie talkie. Drivers were asked to remain in their cars and open their boots, and boxes of plants were placed inside. Masks and hand sanitiser were used, and all volunteers kept 1.5 metres apart. We were fortunate that the weather was fine so this could all be done outside, but we had 2 marquees set up for shade and in case of rain.

The sale was very successful, in terms of fundraising and also promoting our society to the broader community. Another online sale was held in Autumn 2021 (70 species and 250 plants), and one more is due in Spring 2021. As we sold most of our stock in the first online sale, plants for the second sale were either propagated by members or purchased as tube stock and grown on. We feel that at least 200 plants and 40 different species are needed to make the sale inviting for the public.
If you have any questions regarding the online sale process, please contact Catherine Stofka by email cmstofka@gmail.com.