EAST MADISON — An East Madison woman plans to open her perennial gardens to the public Friday and Saturday for an open-house flower swap for Mother’s Day.

Carmen Gonzalez said she will trade plants and shrubs for labor and materials from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. both days at her Tupper Road farm.

“Mother’s Day is not one of those Hallmark holidays,” she said. “I think we should really, really take the time for whoever’s been like a mom to us to tell them how much we appreciate what they’ve done for us. While you’re down there planting them, say a prayer, ‘Bless my momma.'”

An hour’s labor will earn area residents enough perennials for a mother, aunt, girlfriend, wife or grandmother for the annual celebration of mothers on Sunday, said Gonzalez, 57.

Labor can include rototilling, mowing, transplanting, pruning, chain saw work, house cleaning, sewing, carpentry and weeding. Gonzalez said she also will accept wood mulch, cardboard and straw for weed control and flowers she doesn’t have already.

She said she also will accept payment for the perennials, but prefers trading and bartering.

Gonzalez, who ran the Head Start preschool program in Madison several years ago, was a cottage parent at the Good Will-Hinckley school in Fairfield and worked at the Halcyon House for homeless teens.

She sold off many of her perennials earlier this spring, she said, adding that the sales were not enough to make room in her gardens to plant vegetables this year. Hence, the flower swap.

Available plants include oregano, edible nettle, comfrey, valerian, baby lupine, echinacea, bee balm, primrose, blackberry bushes, daffodils, narcissus and spurge.

Gonzalez said she carved out her 1 acre of gardens from land that was wooded when she moved there in 1988. A house was built, the driveway put in and the gardens began growing. She said her methods of gardening are called “biodynamic” and “permaculture” — holistic, organic systems in which culled plants and weeds are reused for mulch and fertilizer.

She said her gardens, while appearing to be a hodgepodge of garden pathways, comprise a living system at work in which herbs, flowers, vegetables, fruit trees and berry bushes are planted together to keep insects away and to recycle plant waste back into the soil.

Gonzalez said the system allows her plants to thrive and to produce so much that the Mother’s Day swap is needed to make space. She recommends that visitors on Friday and Saturday bring shovels, trowels, pots, boxes and bags to take the plants to their mothers.

“Take them to your mom and plant them,” she said. “The whole idea is to get presents for people to give to their momma.”

Gonzalez’s farm is at 140 Tupper Road in East Madison. From Madison Avenue in Skowhegan, visitors should follow East Madison Road, turn left onto Bagley Road and then left again onto Tupper Road.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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