- Friday, May 11, 9 AM - 8 PM
- Saturday, May 12, 10 AM - 6 PM
- Sunday, May 12, 12 Noon - 4 PM
As you lean on your hoe in that lovingly tended, highly productive early August vegetable patch, do you ever think about who else is helping you to get those vegetables to the table? Sometimes unseen, often unheard, paid only in nectar and pollen, those assistants are absolutely essential to the process of turning flowers into fruit and seed. Pollinators, be they beetles, bees, flies, ants, butterflies, hummingbirds, or bats, are responsible for apples, beans, cranberries, squash, tomatoes, sunflowers and hundreds more. Globally, one out of every three mouthfuls of food depends on a pollinator. And pollinators are in trouble.
Bees are the most important pollinators in North America. Since there are no native North American honey bees, the European honey bee (social, lives in colonies, makes honey!) is the species of bee most often raised by North American beekeepers. Since the winter of 2006–2007, unusually large numbers of apparently healthy worker honey bees have abandoned their hives en masse, a phenomenon that has come to be called Colony Collapse Disorder. But focusing on Colony Collapse Disorder, which is real and dramatic and troubling (and imperfectly understood), has in many ways obscured the more powerful fact that honey bees have been in accelerating decline for the last seventy years.
Wild bees are struggling as well, probably more than the honey bees. I suspect that most of us aren’t aware that there are bees other than honey bees and bumble bees, but in fact there are 20,000 species of bees worldwide, 4000 of them found in the United States, 500 native to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Most wild bees live in nests either in the ground or in holes in dead wood, stone walls, hollow stems, or other crevices in your garden. They are docile and hardly ever sting. Although they don’t make honey, they are terrific pollinators because they’ve evolved alongside the flowers that they pollinate. But wild bees’ numbers have been dropping, too. Some bumble bee species are on the verge of extinction.
Over the last 50 years, almost every change we have made as a society to how we live and how we farm has been unfriendly to bees. We have more concrete, more lawns, more pesticides, and more giant farms growing corn and soybeans. We have fewer weeds and fewer flowers. As individuals who care about the health of bees, there are some things we can’t do much about (bee diseases, bee genetics) but as gardeners we have a powerful tool: that little piece of ground we call our own back yard. Make some simple changes, and then persuade your neighbor and their neighbor to do the same. It will make a difference.
Wasps are different from bees. Most wasps are meat-eating predators that feed on insects, making them beneficial in the garden. They have little to do with pollination (one notable exception: the tiny fig wasp which is the sole pollinator of some kinds of figs).
Another note about wasps: Paper wasps, yellow jackets and hornets are types of wasps. If you have ever been stung at a picnic, it was probably by a wasp, not a bee. Bees rarely sting people when foraging on flowers, but yellow jackets in August—watch out!
www.beelab.umn.edu—Researchers from the U of M will be on hand in the Garden Fair to answer questions about bees and plants for bee habitat. See page 4 of the catalog for schedule.
www.queenofthesun.com—a documentary film about bee colony collapse disorder
Native Wild Flowers
Joe Pye Weed—Eupatorium
Purple Prairie Clover—Dalea
Saint John’s Wort—Hypericum
Poppies—Papaver (not red)
Once started, most annuals will contine blooming until frost.
Baby Blue Eyes—Nemophila
Bee’s Friend—Phacelia (Seed Savers)
Sunflower—Helianthus (Seed Savers)
Shrubs and Trees
Dogwood—Cornus (Cornelian Cherry*, Pagoda and Red Twig)
Dandelions and crocus are also great early flowers for bees.
Next weekend when you enter the Grandstand, a rosy-cheeked greeter will offer you a clipboard and a cardboard strawberry flat. Those flats seem innocent, but their journey to get into your hand is circuitous. They’re available to our customers only because of hard-working box-collecting volunteers and ace organizing.
Strawberry deliveries to groceries and co-ops ramp up in March, and that’s when our box collecting team mobilizes. John Levin heads the team of volunteers who visit produce departments, gather the saved boxes, haul them home, and store them in their garages as well as nooks and crannies. Think of all the help that’s needed to accumulate 8,000+ boxes in this fashion between March and the beginning of May! It’s a story of inch by inch, the job’s a cinch.
Lisa Lamb coordinates the boxes on-site at the Grandstand, which is great because she and she and John are high-energy and terrific collaborators.
It used to be that box collectors would adopt a grocery, and that volunteer’s household would cover that grocery. Every day for weeks and weeks. Pretty soon, even massive garages would become jam-packed with boxes. Makes it tricky to fetch a rake and keep late winter snow off vehicles. It was also a tremendous time commitment. So this year, John and Lisa rebooted the collection system, and now several households cover a single grocery or co-op. The hope is that the edges of the box-collecting burden will be lifted.
This is a big deal because if no one collects boxes, groceries recycle them. So if we arrange with a produce manager to save boxes every day, it’s uncool to no-show for the pickup. Thank goodness our box collectors are dedicated. And I have it on good authority that our volunteers have nice camaraderie with produce staff members. This is what happens when people do nice things for people for weeks.
After boxes are procured and stowed, soon another volunteer crew loads them onto a rented 24-foot truck and unloads them into a storage hut near the Grandstand. One or two full Saturdays of hauling doesn’t always take care of them. Crews also work several evenings during Sale week to ferry more and more boxes from garages to the Grandstand door.
As of the end of April, box collecting is slightly behind, but there’s hope we’ll obtain at least 7,000 (a thousand fewer boxes than last year, and last year we ran out Sunday morning). A dear couple – diligent box collectors for untold years – had to retire this year (long overdue for a break), so our collection crew isn’t yet what it used to be. So if you come across a strawberry box this week, consider bringing it along. It’s a nice practice. You can haul it in your wagon.
Thank you John, Lisa and all the volunteers who take care of the boxes for our customers. You are an inspiration.
Update: We managed to collect about 10,500 boxes this year and it appears to have been exactly the right number. Wow -- thanks to John, Lisa, and all the families who collected and moved the boxes, and the volunteers who moved even more stacks during the sale week.
We love our plant sale shoppers, but today I heard a story from a shopper that may top any others I've heard.
Marly wrote to ask about the Sunday discount sale. "For the first time in more years than I can remember, I (may) have to miss the sale this year," she wrote. "My daughter and only child is getting married Saturday the 11th, and we are just hopping busy those days!"
Despite the wedding, Marly thought she might be able to "squeak in a minute" before we close on Sunday.
I wrote back right away to make sure she realized that our Sunday hours have changed to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I couldn't bear the idea of her tearing herself away from her daughter's Sunday, post-wedding festivities early, only to arrive at 3:30 and find the sale closed.
But she assured me she already knew about the time change. And then she told me this amazing fact:
"I'm hoping we can make the event because it was our first date years ago and we come every year for our 'anniversary.'"
Well, that was just too good to not be shared. She and her partner Bob had their first date at the 2008 sale on a Friday. "He said he needed help picking out shrubs for his new landscaping project. (I later I found out he had it all planted! But he did buy things anyway.)"
She went on to say, "Of course, I shop and take much more time there than he does, and he's so sweet and just waits or watches me ooh and ah and drool over everything -- knowing how much I love it there."
And this: "I had gone many years before with girlfriends...now I include them in our annual trips if they can go the same day and we all celebrate together! Here's a cute pic from two years ago."
Friend Carol (left), with Marly and Bob at the 2011 plant sale. That's a nice improvised plant cart, too!
Marly ended with this: "My dad had a lot on Machinery Hill for years and the State Fair grounds have a very special place in my heart. Thanks for listening!"
Thank you for sharing that with us, Marly!
Do you have a story about shopping at the plant sale? Any traditions or special moments? We'd love to hear about them.
Every year -- once our plant ordering committee has chosen 350 - 400 new plants for the sale -- a small team of writers begins to research each plant as we prepare the catalog.
We gather and evaluate information from many places, including descriptions from our growers, Google images, local gardeners and plant experts, seed catalogs, Wikipedia, USDA, university and plant society websites, and especially from two quite reliable online sources: the Missouri Botanic Garden (MOBOT) and Dave’s Garden. Then we edit out unneeded details (and most hype adjectives like “amazing” or “must-have”) as we write and rewrite each description.
We are constantly amazed by the way “facts” change from one information source to another:
And so on. As best as we can, we sift through all this and we try to come up with some answers for you. This year, for instance, we wanted to know whether the name of a Russian tomato was Moskovich or Moskvich, because we saw both names in use online. A Russian website gave us the original name as Moskvich, meaning “from Moscow.” To answer similar questions this year, we relied on Google translations of Japanese, Dutch, and German websites.
In order to write accurate plant descriptions for our customers this year, we also looked up:
To double-check the origin and spelling of the name of the Smallwood’s Driveway coleus (spelled in a variety of ways online), we wrote to the nursery owner near Richmond, Virginia, who did actually discover the plant in her driveway. She was thrilled to find out how popular her coleus variety was at a plant sale in Minnesota.
Often, we learn fascinating facts that never make it into the brief catalog descriptions:
Our plant descriptions, both this year’s and all of the older ones, are examined and queried and edited by at least seven people. Further answers are sought, and more revising and condensing goes on, before the descriptions are ready for the catalog and website. And then, because so many of our plants are unusual and not commonly grown in Minnesota, we are eager to hear from people who have experience with them and can correct our information. Email us at email@example.com if you've tried some of the unusual plants we've had over the years.
We never consider our work to be the final answer!
All plants at the Friends School Plant Sale will be 30 percent off tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
What's left? A lot.
The best selection is in the annuals and perennials, but there are still tomatoes and quite a number of other vegetables, plus fruit, native wild flowers, and grasses. Lots of beautiful shrub roses, too. And the fruit selection is very good.
We'll also have a full array of the North Star vegetable seeds available, so if you want cucumbers, corn, and more, check there by the stairway.
Hanging baskets include lots of fuchsia for shade, plus ivy geraniums, petunias, and strawberries.
Shrubs are a bit more hit or miss, but if you've been wanting to do a rhododendron hedge, you're in luck. They look great and are close to bloming stage. Because of the late, cold spring, many of the other shrubs are sulking and so haven't leafed out yet. This means people are reluctant to buy them, which means bargains for you.
Just because it looks like a stick today, doesn't mean it's not going to pop its buds in the next week or two! Examples:
Examples from the annuals:
From the perennials:
Irises -- both bearded and Siberian
Coral bells and foamy bells
We hope you come out tomorrow. The weather will be better than today, despite the cold start!
Beez Kneez is offering our customers a $5 discount if they purchase a class during the sale and can show a receipt from the plant sale for more than $50.
This is combine-able with the Beez Kneez biking discount. Therefore, a regular bee-keeping class ($35) could cost $25 after all discounts ($5 off for plant sale and $5 off for biking).
Stop by the Beez Kneez table in the Garden Fair.
After the catalog went to the printer, we had a special opportunity to add more martagon lilies to our selection in the Rare Plants department. We hope you'll try out some of these varieties!
They're all priced the same as the varieties listed in the catalog: 4.5" pot, $29.00
U024B Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon 'Claude Shride'
Deep copper red to mahogany blooms lightly spotted with golden orange. Vigorous. Named by Hugh and Ruth Cocker of Rochester, Minn. 36-48"h
U025A Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon Dalhansonii
Chestnut red maroon with gold orange centers and spots. A cross between Lilium martagon cattaniae (dalmaticum) and Lilium hansonii from 1890, it's one of the oldest hybrid lilies. Vigorous. 36-60"h
U026A Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon 'Manitoba Morning'
Rich pink buds open to a rosy burnt red with dark speckles surrounded by yellow. Grown by Dr. Eugene Fox, martagon grower from Alberta, Canada. 48"h
U027B Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon 'Slate Select'
Dusty rose with a white interior and white spots with gold centers. Named by Rochester's Hugh and Ruth Cocker. 36-48"h
UPDATED May 8, 11:55 p.m. -- We apologize for the crop failures that occur, but want you to know that fewer than 5 percent of the plants listed in the catalog were crop failures last year. NOTE: The most recent crop failures have been listed here but may NOT yet be noted on your plant shopping list.
Crop failures occur for several reasons:
We will update the crop failure list here and on each individual plant listing as soon as we hear of any that occur through May 7. We can't guarantee that crop failures that occur once we've started setting up for the sale, between May 7 and May 11, will be announced on the website, but we'll do our best to update those as well.
At the sale, each crop failure is marked with a CROP FAILURE sticker on its sign.
Be sure to check out the list of late additions to the sale, as well.
A009 Elephant Ears -- Alocasia 'Mayan Mask'
A018 Princess Flower -- Tibouchina 'Rich Blue'
A091 Begonia, Rex -- Strawberry Lime
A099 Begonia, Tuberous -- Champagne SUB Amstel Carneval, bicolor yellow-orange, very nice
A104 Bird's Eyes -- Gilia tricolor
A200 Cosmos, Dwarf -- Cosmos sulphureus 'Kenikura'
A273 Geranium, Ivy -- Pelargonium peltatum White
A353 Lantana -- Lantana 'Luscious Grape'
A379 Lord Anson's Pea -- Lathyrus nervosus
A384 Mallow, Annual -- Malope 'Queen Red'
A457 Petunia, Blanket -- Petunia 'Lemon Glow'
A458 Petunia, Blanket -- Petunia 'Rose Star'
A481 Petunia, Hells Bells -- Petunia 'Hells Bells'
LATE ADDITION: Impatiens Mosaic Impression Mix
C032 Clematis, Sweet Summer Love -- Clematis 'Sweet Summer Love'
C064 Hydrangea, Climbing -- Hydrangea petiolaris 'Firefly'
None so far.
G035 Japanese Forest Grass -- Hakonechloa 'All Gold'
G039 Maiden Grass, Gold Bar -- Miscanthus 'Gold Bar'
G056 Switch Grass, Ruby Ribbons -- Panicum virgatum 'Ruby Ribbons'
H005 Basil, African Tree -- Ocimum gratissimum
H095 Mint, Spearmint, Curly -- Mentha
H130 Shiso -- Perilla frutescens crispa, Vietnamese, Tia To
N002 Angelica -- Angelica atropurpurea
N007 Aster, Heath -- Aster ericoides
N013 Aster, White Woodland -- Aster divaricatus
N064 Coneflower, Green-headed -- Rudbeckia laciniata Double
N071 Fern, Bulblet -- Cystopteris bulbifera
N083 Fern, Wood -- Dryopteris goldiana 'Goldie's Giant'
N085 Fire Pink -- Silene virginica
N122 Merrybells -- Uvularia grandiflora
N126 Milkweed, Sullivan's -- Asclepias sullivanti
P148 Phlox, Woodland -- Phlox divaricata 'Mary Helen'
P005 Anemone, Narcissus -- Anemone narcissiflora
P017 Astilbe, Taquetti -- Astilbe chinensis taquetii
P040 Barrenwort, Yellow -- Epimedium sulphureum
P092 Buttercup, Grouncover -- Ranunculus 'Buttered Popcorn'
P135 Coneflower -- Echinacea 'Flame Thrower'
P149 Coral Bells -- Heuchera 'Caramel'
P235 Fern, Japanese Painted -- Athyrium niponicum 'Apple Court'
P261 Ginger, European -- Asarum europeum
P263 Globe Flower, White -- Trollius albiflorus
P264 Globe Flower -- Trollius 'New Moon'
P269B Goldenrod -- Solidago 'Fireworks'
P323 Hosta -- Hosta 'Dancing Stars'
P371 Iris, Bearded -- Iris germanica 'Hello Darkness'
P404 Ligularia, Shavalski's -- Ligularia przewalskii
P426B Lily, Asiatic -- Karen North, Lilium 'Karen North' SUBSTITUTION Lilium 'Miss Libby'
P468 Meadow Rue, Shining -- Thalictrum lucidum
P518 Phlox, Moss -- Phlox subulata 'Appleblossom'
P552 Primrose -- Primula capitata 'Noverna Deep Blue'
P559 Rodger's Flower -- Rodgersia 'Bronze Peacock'
P572 Sea Holly, Blue -- Alpine -- Eryngium alpinum
P581 Solomon's Seal, Variegated -- Polygonatum falcatum 'Variegatum'
P586 Spikenard, Golden -- Aralia 'Sun King'
P615 Stonecrop, Old Man's Bones -- Sedum globosum
R031 Rose, Shrub -- Rosa 'Carefree Wonder'
R038 Rose, Shrub -- Rosa rubrifolia, Rosa clauca
R040 Rose, Shrub -- Rosa 'Tequila'
R041 Rose, Shrub -- Rosa 'Milwaukee's Calatrava'
S036 Bald Cypress -- Taxodium distichum
S057 Harry Lauder's Walking Stick -- Corylus avellana 'Contorta'
S066 Hydrangea, Big Leaf -- Hydrangea macrophylla -- Endless Summer Twist and Shout
S070 Hydrangea, Panicle -- Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lime'
S111 Magnolia, Saucer — Magnolia x soulangiana
S112 Magnolia, Umbrella -- Magnolia tripetala
S150 Winterberry -- Ilex verticillata 'Jim Dandy'
S151 Winterberry -- Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'
Beauty Bush, Kolkwitzia 'Dream Catcher'
Lilac, Syringa 'Betsy Ross' -- white
U003 Bamboo, Rufa -- Fargesia rufa
U015 Green Dragon, Little -- Pinellia pedatisecta
U034 Peony, Itoh -- Paeonia 'Cora Louise'
U035 Peony, Itoh -- Paeonia 'Sequestered Sunshine'
U036 Peony, Itoh -- Paeonia 'Singing in the Rain'
U038 Peony, Itoh -- Paeonia 'Little Darlin'
U057 Trillium Rare -- Twisted Trillium, Trillium stamineum
U069 Citrus, Tango Man -- Citrus -- SUBSTITUTION: Satsuma Mandarin, very similar zipper skin mandarin orange.
U024B Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon 'Claude Shride' -- 4.5" pot, $29.00
U025B Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon Dalhansonii -- 4.5" pot, $29.00
U026A Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon 'Manitoba Morning' -- 4.5" pot, $29.00
U027B Lily, Martagon -- Lilium martagon 'Slate Select' -- 4.5" pot, $29.00
unnumbered extra late addition -- Lily, Martagon, Lilium martagon 'Peppard Gold' -- 4.5" pot, $29.00
See the news story (with photos) about the late martagon additions.
U069B Citrus, Pumello, Valentine -- Citrus. Medium to dark yellow rinds and with mandarin flavor and juicy red pulp. The fruits are round, usually with a slight neck at the base. A new variety from the University of California, Riverside, it is a cross of a Dancy mandarin and Ruby blood orange hybrid with a 'Siamese Sweet' pomelo. 4" extra deep pot, $25
V028 Celery, Chinese -- Apium, Tianjin Green
V144 Salsify, Black -- Scorzonera hispanica 'Hoffmann's Schwarze Pfahl'
V203 Tomato, Other -- Carmello
V205 Tomato, Other -- Kootenai
LATE ADDITIONS (find them at the end of the vegetable section:
Sweet Pepper -- Carmen -- red, pointed frying and raw-eating pepper, very sweet
Sweet Pepper -- Tequila -- purple turning to red, 3-4" fruits
Tomato, Heirloom -- Inglehart's German Green -- winner of the Seed Savers Exchange tasting contest
New to the Friends School Plant Sale? Or a returning customer planning to buy even more plants than last time?
There are some grocery carts available at the sale, but many serious shoppers find that bringing their own wheels is the way to go.
For 23 years we have been privileged to observe amazing and ingenious examples of “the art of the cart” and would like to share some of our customers’ best ideas with you.
When planning your cart, remember that, unless you are shopping in the afternoon Friday or Saturday, there will be lots of other shoppers (all part of the fun!)
Also, if you have never been to the Plant Sale before, do check out the videos on our website to give you some idea of what 66,000 square feet of plants look like so you can bring a suitable cart.
What if you don’t want to use a cart? Bring a friend to help carry one of the thousands of strawberry flats our volunteers have gathered from area supermarkets.
But we think that you’ll be happy you brought a cart or wagon that can handle the job. Our guess is that you will want to buy more than you ever imagined you would. And with your own cart, you can!
Plastic or cardboard file boxes secured to a luggage carrier with straps or bungee cords. Tiers of wire mail baskets and recycling bins have also been used:
These shoppers used an existing hand cart or dolly and improvised additional shelves:
Repurpose that set of shelves. Add wheels, and it’s a plant cart:
This dog carrier was one of the most unusual re-purposings we’ve seen, showing that almost any sturdy container fitted with wheels can work!
(Yes, there are wheels under there.)
The Good Old Red Wagon, by far the most popular plant-transportation device. With added shelving:
Or stacks of plastic storage bins:
A baby stroller is handy and maneuverable:
Also easier to fit into a small car than some of the others!
If you are handy enough to construct your own cart, or know someone who is, here are a few recommendations.
An upright, possibly double-decker, push-style cart is easy to make. If at least its two front wheels are able to swivel, it will be even easier to maneuver than a wagon:
You could use a dolly or handcart as a base. It helps to design your cart to hold the exact bins, tubs, or boxes that you plan to use. This keeps them from sliding or toppling over without having to use straps:
A little bit of wagon, a few plastic containers, some scrap lumber, and who knows what you could come up with?
Friends School Plant Sale is a fund-raising event sponsored by the Friends School of Minnesota in Saint Paul. It's held just once each year on Mother's Day Weekend at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand (map and directions).
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Regarding reuse of photos from this site: Any plant photo with a credit line including the words "Friends School Plant Sale photo" may be used with credit to the Friends School Plant Sale and named photographer, under the Creative Commons license. Please include a link to FriendsSchoolPlantSale.com. Note: Where the aforementioned credit line does not appear, the Creative Commons license may not apply. Please contact the individual photographers.