- Friday, May 11, 9 AM - 8 PM
- Saturday, May 12, 10 AM - 6 PM
- Sunday, May 12, 12 Noon - 4 PM
The Friends School Plant Sale is 25 years old.
It all started in 1989–90, one year after Friends School of Minnesota was founded. The fundraiser began simply with a few kinds of vegetables, herbs, perennials, and annuals spread out on the ground. We chose to sell plants because the school’s leaders saw a connection between our school’s belief in community and the community-building nature of gardening.
Our catalog has grown from a single sheet of paper to 60 pages listing 2,300 kinds of plants. Now, if you Google “plant sale,” guess what comes up first?
Fifteen- to twenty-thousand people come through our doors, and most shoppers also graciously “round up” for the school. Altogether, the sale and round-ups raise more than $250,000 for scholarships.
The first sale was organized by Henry Fieldseth, a school parent, and he’s still one of the core volunteers who works to make it happen. Regular shoppers may recognize the many other dedicated volunteers who seem to live at the State Fair Grandstand, from set up to clean up, every Mother’s Day weekend.
It takes over a thousand volunteers to run the sale, including a committee whose members work year-round to select plants and make each sale more streamlined. Our middle school students learn about community service and hard work as they help set up the sale, manage plant sections, and assist shoppers. Plant lovers or people who just love the sale donate countless hours to make it a success. We hope you feel their enthusiasm as you shop!
Even with the growth of the last 25 years, the Friends School Plant Sale is still about community. The sale brings together novice gardeners, master gardeners, and everyone in between. It’s a community of volunteers working to make the sale high-quality, pleasant, and efficiently run. And it’s for a great cause: making Friends School of Minnesota accessible, regardless of financial need.
Thank you for your support of our 25th sale!
Friends School Plant Sale cares about the health of your garden. We want to see healthy plants in healthy soil visited by a healthy assortment of thriving pollinators. Last year we focused on the health of bees, one particular pollinator, and encouraged the wide use of bee-friendly plants. But we have come to believe that even the best plants grown in the best places with the best practices can do harm when those plants come to the garden infused with long-acting, invisible insecticides.
Which brings us to neonicotinoid insecticides. This is a family of insecticides, with actions similar to nicotine, that was developed in the 1980–90s. These insecticides (see list below) have been very commercially successful, probably because they are supposed to be less toxic to mammals than previous insecticides. One of them, imidocloprid, is the most widely used insecticide in the world.
But the neonicotinoids have been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder, and in the decline of pollinators in general. What makes them particularly concerning is that they are systemic (treat one part of the plant or the soil around it and you have treated the whole plant including the pollen and the nectar) and they are persistent (after one treatment they may last years in soil, and up to six years in woody plants).
At lethal levels they kill, and at sub-lethal levels they may kill also, but indirectly, by disrupting the immune system and the navigational system, at least in bees. Responding to these concerns, in 2013 the European Union imposed a two-year moratorium on some uses of three of these neonicotinoids. In the U.S., they are “under study” with no action likely for at least another three or four years.
In addition to bees, songbirds and beneficial invertebrates may be negatively affected by neonics. There is data worldwide that neonic contamination of surface and groundwater is already above the level needed to kill aquatic invertebrates. The Plant Sale committee is particularly concerned because most neonic studies have looked at agricultural neonic usage; amounts used in horticulture may be up to 120 times higher, and in home use higher still.
In complex systems, we can argue forever about what level of certainty constitutes “proof.” But the Plant Sale committee has become quite sure that we don’t want neonics in our own gardens, and absolutely certain that we don’t want to sell neonic-treated plants to anyone else. So the Plant Sale had to become neonic-free.
Has it been easy? Essentially it has meant having conversations with each grower, asking growers to speak with all their suppliers, and in effect examining the history of every plant we sell. Often we have been the first to ask about neonics. Inevitably we have had to drop some plants, substitute others, and in a few cases raise some prices. Some things we have learned:
Unlike agricultural seeds (almost all soy seeds, for example, are treated with neonics), horticultural seeds are available without insecticide treatment. Since they tend to be grown by a single grower, if that grower does not use neonicotinoids, we can be virtually certain that the plant is neonic-free. Many of the smaller plants at the sale are seed-grown: all 4-packs in annuals and vegetables, vegetables in 3.5” pots, most perennials in 2.5” pots, all our native flowering plants and grasses marked with a Minnesota symbol, and some others.
Plants grown from cuttings tend to be the larger annuals and perennials. They begin their lives as a cutting from a mother plant somewhere in the world, often outside of the U.S., which makes treatment records difficult to access. These cuttings then get shipped to growers in the United States where they are rooted. They often pass through several growers on their way to becoming the plant that you see at the sale.
The Plant Sale committee has had to accept that we are unlikely to know about the early treatment of these cuttings (does early treatment matter? Or are the neonicotinoids diluted out by time and plant growth? We don’t know), but we have made every attempt to be sure that they have not been treated after rooting. This in itself has been difficult; some growers treat all the plants, but at different times; some treat none, and some treat selectively. And some consider the information private and won’t talk to us.
We have chosen to drop plants when it has been clear that they have been treated with neonics, or if there is, in our best estimation, inadequate information. Recognizing that we are working from second-hand data, unavailable data, and, for some plants, layers of information, we can’t absolutely guarantee that none of our plants has been touched by a neonic, but we come as close as is possible this year. Given what we are able to know, there is not a plant that we sell that we would hesitate to put in our gardens.
Many of the bulbs at past sales came from the Netherlands, where there is a ban on neonics, so we assumed these bulbs would be neonic-free. Not so. The lily (Lilium) bulbs that we have ordered for years are exempt from the ban and in fact are required to be treated with neonics prior to export. This discovery necessitated a last-minute scramble to find some good replacements, which we have done, but you’ll notice that they are not quite as inexpensive as in previous years.
Some of the growers we have spoken to have plans to stop using neonics, either because of their own concerns or because of ours. A few didn’t even know they were using neonics (see the product list below for multiple names for the same chemical)! Simply bringing up the issue is beginning to effect change.
We have done everything in our power to be sure the plants we sell are neonicotinoid-free.
Let’s carry this forward. If this issue is important to you, and we think it should be, then the greater community needs to hear your concerns. When you go to another nursery, garden center, or plant sale, ask questions:
There are alternatives, both chemical and non-chemical: tell them. Be willing to work with responsive and responsible vendors and growers, big and small. One of the things that we hear from growers is that they treat because of the expectations of the customer (are a few aphids all that bad?). Maybe we have a part in this; maybe we need to let some of that need for “perfection” go. And while we are on that subject, if you have ever used an insecticide, check your shelves to make sure that it is not a neonicotinoid; labeling is often unclear.
We are happy to welcome you to our best effort at a neonic-free Friends School Plant Sale, the first of many. If you have questions about specific plants, feel free to e-mail us, or ask at the info desk during the sale. We look forward to talking with you about this.
American Bird Conservancy, www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/toxins/Neonic_FINAL.pdf
TED Talk by Dr. Marla Spivak, www.ted.com/talks/marla_spivak_why_bees_are_disappearing
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
If you care about pollinators, be alert for neonics. They can hide under a multitude of aliases in lawn treatments, Japanese beetle sprays, and pre-treatments for Emerald Ash Borer.
Treatment in your neighbor's yard can kill the bees in your yard, so the time to talk about this is now. Be a good neighbor yourself and properly dispose of any of your own neonics. And don't buy new ones.
Avoid products that contain:
Foliar spray for garden fruits and vegetables, and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs.
Ortho Bug B Gon Garden Insect Killer
Ortho Bug B Gon for Lawns
Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer
Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Killer
Ortho Rose Pride Insect Killer
Granules for turf, and ornamental flowers, shrubs, or trees.
Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care granules
Green Light Grub Control with Arena
Granules for turf and ornamental flowers, shrubs or trees; soil drench for ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs.
Green Light Tree & Shrub Insect Control with Safari 2 G
Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Plus Miracle Gro Plant Food
Foliar spray for turf and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; soil drench for garden fruits and vegetables, ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; trunk injection for trees; granules for turf and ornamental flowers, shrubs, or trees.
Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, & Mite Control
Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control
Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed
Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control
Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care concentrate
DIY Tree Care Products Multi-Insect Killer
Ferti-lome 2-N-1 Systemic
Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Spray
Knockout Ready-To-Use Grub Killer
Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II
Ortho Bug B Gon Year-Long Tree & Shrub Insect Control
Ortho MAX Tree & Shrub Insect Control
Surrender Brand GrubZ Out
Foliar spray for turf and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; granules for turf and ornmanetal flowers, trees, and shrubs.
Amdro Quick Kill Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer
Amdro Rose & Flower Care
Maxide Dual Action Insect Killer
Photo credit: A green sweat bee (Agapostemon) on a fall-blooming aster. Photo by Heather Holm from her book Pollinators of Native Plants. Reviewed in this year's catalog, which you can read here.
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.
Pollinators of Native Plants
by Heather Holm
Pollination Press, 2014
306 pages, $29.95
When you first see the book, Pollinators for Native Plants, it draws you in quickly through its 1,200 color photos of flowers, insects, and their interactions.
Just as Doug Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home was an eye-opener for many folks in the understanding of the relationships of native plants and insects and how gardeners could have a positive role in the environment, Heather Holm’s new book carries the discussion to the role that pollinating insects play in the life of a plant and why that is important.
Holm, of Minnetonka, has done a fabulous job of organizing the complex and technical subject of pollination. This is a book that will be read and enjoyed for its illustrations, tidbits of information, and the larger view it presents. But, more importantly, it’s a book you will want to study. It’s small enough to fit the hand as a field guide, yet ambitious enough to cover the subject as portrayed through 65 perennial flowering native plants.
My recommendation is to spend a preliminary hour with the book to understand its organization. The vocabulary of the opening chapter will cause many readers to refer to the word glossary in the back of the book. You might even want to read the glossary first before starting page one. You’ll notice the color tabbed sections for a visual glossary and indexes, the suggested pollinator planting plans, and the common bee genera and conservation guides.
All of this is supporting the core of the book, which is devoted to the native plant/insect interactions in three communities—prairie, woodland edge, and wetland edge.
In a format that reminded me of Welby Smith’s technique in Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota, Holm has organized each of the featured plants into a left-hand page of plant information for culture, distribution, keying and additional notes. The right-hand page is for the insect interactions with that specific plant. Both pages are profusely illustrated.
For anyone who is interested in a better understanding of pollination and your role as a gardener, practitioner, small grower or farmer, this is a must-have book. It will add to your understanding of insects and wild plants and their role in the intricate web of life on earth.
—Kent Petterson, Terrace Horticultural Books
Pollinators of Native Plants will be for sale in the Terrace Horticultural Books booth Thursday (volunteer sale), Friday, and Saturday during the plant sale or by calling 651-222-5536.
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.
Many shoppers look forward to great deals on plants on the last day of the Plant Sale. Again this year, plants will be one-third off on Sunday, May 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
However, this year the selection is slimmer than in past years. We had a great turnout on the first two days of the sale, and, generally, about 5 to 10 percent of our plant inventory is left.
Here's what you might find:
There is a nice selection of the specialty basils: lemon, lime, dwarf, and purple varieties.
There are lots of great tomatoes and a really nice selection of tomato varieties. The same is true for hot and sweet peppers, rhubarb, lettuces, and salad greens. You'll also probably find a few of the mixes of broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprout, and cauliflower plants.
You are most likely to find gerbera daisies, impatiens, sun coleus, cotton, and spikes (the indoor plant variety).
There is a smattering of plants left in the perennial section, including some hostas. If you like water plants, you might find a keeper. About half of the original list of bulb and bareroot lilies and daylilies is left, though sometimes not many of each.
You need some cardamom for your water garden, don't you? Mmmmm, cardamom.
Several varieties of maples (plus more maples out in Shrubs and Trees), pineapple lily and a few peonies remain. And purple plantain — no one else has that!
There is a pretty limited supply of native plants and grasses.
We've got a good selection of hydrangea, and a small number of magnolias. Maples and birch can also be found.
Kiwis and many types of berries (strawberries, raspberries, honeyberries, and blueberries) dominate the remaining selection. There are almost no fruit-bearing trees.
Lots of beautiful David Austin roses in an array or colors are available.
During the sale, the Star Tribune building will be open (at the base of the entrance ramp to the Grandstand, just east of the Garden Fair) and will be hosting garden and weather experts and selling merchandise. Below is a sample schedule of the events at the Star Tribune building during the sale. Follow the @plantsale Twitter for updates.
Todd Nelson - Weather (9am-12noon)
Greengirls - Garden Experts, Home and Garden Blog
Lynn and Connie (9am-11am)
Kim and Mary Jane (11am-1pm)
Star Tribune Merchandise and Circulation (9am-6pm)
Rob Koch - Weather (10am-1pm)
Star Tribune Merchandise and Circulation - (9am-6pm)
Greengirls Connie and Helen - Garden Experts, Home and Garden Blog
Star Tribune Merchandise and Circulation - (10am-2pm)
Updated May 7 -- Occasionally growers surprise us with plants that we didn't order, and this year we have a few unexpected additions to the sale. We have limited quantities of these varieties, so shop early if you are interested in them.
Daylily Lace Doily
Daylily Frosted Vintage Ruffles
Mixed Herbs 4 pack of basil, thyme, sage, and oregano - located at the end of the herb section
6pack mixes of Brassicas
Broccoli - Premium Crop and Packman, both with large heads.
Brussels Sprouts - Falstaff Red and Jade Cross.
Cabbage -Ruby Perfection (F1), Copenhagen Market (heirloom with 7" heads, 4-5 pounds), and Late Flat Dutch (heirloom, 10-15-pound heads).
Cauliflower - Violet Queen and Snow Crown.
Kohlrabi - Grand Duke (green) and a purple F1
Spruce, Norway -- Abies 'Little Gem'
Interested in learning how you can protect bee populations? We've added a new workshop to the Saturday lineup.
Building Buzz: Protecting bees from pesticides, from your house to the statehouse
We know that pesticides are a major factor causing bee declines, and many of us are hungry for answers about what we can do. This conversation will start in our backyards and go all the way to the capitol: what kinds of practices and policies can turn the tide for bee populations?
Presenter: Lex Horan, Pesticide Action Network
Check out other workshops at the Plant Sale.
For decades, impatiens (Impatiens x walleriana) have been reliable plants for shade gardeners. But now that a blight called downy mildew is moving into our area, you may want to rethink and expand your plant choices for shady gardens.
When downy mildew strikes, the plants die quickly. They might look fine on Friday, but when you check them on Monday, they’re dead.
As far as we know right now, there is nothing you can do to prevent or treat downy mildew: no sprays to purchase, and nothing you can put in the soil. It doesn’t matter how much you water or don’t water.
Downy mildew is airborne, which is how it has spread so readily, and it stays in the soil. If your plants were affected last year, they will probably die again this year.
The only bright note is that the disease won’t spread to other plants in your garden, and that impatiens from different species, such as New Guinea impatiens, SunPatiens, and Poor Man’s Orchid are resistant to the disease.
Bush violet (Browallia), A113B
New Guinea, A323–A325
Poor man’s orchid, A327
Jamaican forget-me-nots (Browallia), A334B
Wishbone flower (Torenia), A587–A592
Serbian bellflower (Campanula), P051
Bleeding hearts (Dicentra), P071, P072
Bugleweed (Ajuga), P083–P085
Coral bells (Heuchera), P138–P147
Forget-me-nots (Myosotis), P237
Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium), P372, P373
Lamium (Lamium), P382–PP386
Periwinkle (Vinca), P486–P489
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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