Friday, May 7, 2010

Matthaei Plant Sale

The Matthaei Botanical Garden's plant sale runs today through Sunday. Click logo for details!

I volunteered to help set up for the sale on Tuesday and Friday mornings. The sale is a huge endeavor, requiring a lot of staff and volunteer time and planning. My little bit of help was only a small cog in a much, much bigger wheel! If you're in southeast Michigan, be sure to stop by for some plants. They have a huge selection, and a plant list is available by clicking the logo. The sale is a major fundraiser for the gardens.

We had wonderful weather on Tuesday, sunny and warm, but not hot. This morning was another story. Lots of rain. There were also very strong thunderstorms going through this afternoon and evening, once the actual sale opened.

On Tuesday morning, our group of volunteers put price tags in flats and flats and flats of plants...

...and recreated any missing plant tags.

Once that was done, we started moving plants from the holding areas to one of two tents. The garden tent booked pretty bare on Tuesday morning (this is only about half of the space!)...

But ended up full, lush, and ready to rumble by noon on Friday. Some plants include:

Oenothera missouriensis 'Lemon Sunset'...

Digitalis purpurea 'Camelot Rose.' I've always adored foxglove — they seem like a quintessential faerie garden plant. (Which is ironic as I don't have any!)

Poppies (Papaver nudicaule, 'Flamenco') just popped in the dark tent.

The parking lot tents were also ready by noon on Friday (note volunteer in rain parka and wet pavement!).

Plants were also set up in the auditorium.

Another volunteer, Chris, and I were responsible for getting the rhubarb plants (which you can't see) and the raspberries (which I'm sure you see standing tall in the back) from one of the greenhouses to the auditorium. We also pruned the raspberries as needed.

We used this kind of cart to wheel the plants through the conservatory to the auditorium. The hanging baskets and other accent plants are located on the patio. Note the wet pavement. It thundered and rained Friday morning, which didn't deter the brave volunteers assigned outdoor duty.

After finishing my volunteer shift, I took a closer look at some things in the conservatory. I love this display of a huge lobster claw (Heliconia vellerigera), orchids, and ferns.

The lobster claw was fascinating up close. It grows yellow flowers, which turn into berries, first yellow, then turning green, and finishing up blue. Doesn't that berry look like a marble? I found it stunning. And I love the fuzzy texture!

I was also fascinated with this sausage tree (Kigelia pinnata). Now if only there were a bacon tree!

The most amusing thing in the conservatory is this flower kaleidoscope. At first glance, it looks like cool garden art; a decorative and imaginative container planting. But the kaleidoscopes really work.

I put my camera lens right on the eyepiece so you could see what I mean.

You get different patterns by moving the lens...

This may actually be intended for kids, but I got a real kick out of it.

Special thanks to Deiatra, who let me use her camera on Tuesday and emailed me the photos!

And, finally, unrelated to my plant sale experience, I've been wanting to show this sculpture on the Matthaei grounds:

Shadow Pavilion by Karl Daubmann in collaboration with John Marshall. (The mulch is incidental.)

I like how it looks different, depending on where you're standing.

And that it's easy to interact with. You can touch it!

This is my favorite angle.


  1. The plant sale looks like it had a very nice selection and the Lobster Claw is very interesting. The Sausage Tree and sculpture are wild, I like them!

  2. Looks like great fun, despite the weather. LOVE the sculpture and the lobster claw. Did you take home a foxglove?

  3. Looks like loads of fun. Unfortunately I am several hours away :( Hopefully the sales went well even with all the rain we have gotten. It was thundering and lightning this morning here so they canceled my son's school field trip.

  4. Looks like an awesome plant sale. The kaleidescope pics were really cool. I can just imagine your reaction to them from hanging out with you. LOL.

  5. What a wonderful endeavor!! I'd LOVE to be able to be there... I'm sure you must have had a great time.

    I'm hoping to get to SW and Central Michigan by the end of the month!!! Gotta see the rest of our family! :-)

  6. What a great plant sale. I sure wish I lived close by so I could go. Cool plants-that lobster claw is awesome!

  7. But of course you liked playing with the kaleidescope - you're still a kid at heart! :-) I'm glad I made it through the plant sale without getting wet last night. But now I'm wondering how all the tents are holding up with the wind gusts.

  8. Oh a plant sale...wish I were there. I, too, love kaleidescopes and those pictures are quite fun.

  9. I forgot to comment on the sausage tree! We have one here in the Lincoln Park Conservatory and this year it got a lot of attention. Yours, is ummm...bigger? :0/ And a lot more impressive than the one in Chicago.

    One of my fave trees that I wish I could grow in Chicago.

  10. Hope that the plant sale went well Monica - looks as if there were some choice plants there. Well designed poster too :)

  11. I have been to this place and looked through the kaleidascope. I thought it most interesting and beautiful. Wish I could have gone to the sale.

  12. Looks like a lot of hard work Monica, and a lot of fun. You don't need to beg, borrow, or steal any kids to enjoy those movies we were talking about - the kid in you is alive and well! The kaleidescope shots are delightful.

    We have Digitalis grandiflora here - not as showy as some others, but reliably perennial, and nice with natives. They're so easy to grow from seeds. Let me know if you'd like me to save seeds for you.

  13. Hi Monica, our botanic garden had it's annual plant sale last Saturday. This is a very old fashioned sale where gardeners bring in surplus plants to sell. It's a tradition dating to before the time the botanic garden became such a huge, complex organization. It used to be more of a garden club project.

  14. Monca, I love the new look of your blog! What fun the plant sale must have been. I would have had a hard time not buying at least one of everything. You should treat yourself to those foxgloves. I love the freckles in them.

    I also liked the sculpture and the fact that you can walk around it. Hope you didn't get too wet hauling all those plants.

  15. I think your volunteering for these beautiful gardens is wonderful, Monica, hard work but so rewarding. Thanks to dedicated people like you, they will remain awesome. Thanks.

  16. Monica, that is one truly massive plant sale! I would have had to bring a truck to haul all my purchases off! I do like that kaleidescope. And the sausage tree! I haven't seen one of those since I was in Africa.

  17. Wow that looks like a fantastic plant sale. Everything looks so healthy and lush. Hope you snagged some good things on your way out. :)

  18. What? You haven't any foxglove...but you must get some! It looked like a great time, wish we had something like this around here.

  19. Very cool! I can't believe how many plants you had! Glad I wasn't there, it looks totally irresistable.

  20. I love kaleidoscopes! I can assure you, if I would have been in this area over the weekend, I would have gone home with a trunkload of plants:) Wow, this looked like a great sale! I missed a plant sale here while I was gone this weekend, but dear Beckie picked up some lemon verbena and pineapple sage for me, so I'm happy.