As promised, here is a review of my first experience at the epic Friends School Plant Sale held at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand.
It was great.
When we got there, we got a wristband. The wristband (at no charge) had a number on it and was our entry ticket into the sale. The MC (yes, she was on the mic) told people when it was their turn to go through the gate and all those with that number on their wrist band could enter. We had to wait a bit, but I was with a wonderful longtime friend and it was a gorgeous morning, so it was no chore. Plus there were vendors sprinkled around the waiting area, so it made for interesting people watching.
Lots of gardeners brought their own wagons or carts, some rigged up with various devices to fit as many plants as possible into their cart without them getting squashed (think shelving systems). These guys were the hard-core plant salers. Even if you didn’t bring your own, there were plenty of carts available to use.
Now the fun started. We got inside and I was amazed by the organization and variety. All the plants were sorted by category and were then in alphabetical order. It was a type-A’s dream come true. There was room between the aisles and plenty of clearly marked “employees” to ask for help (all the people working the sale were volunteers, parents, teachers and lots of students of the Friends School).
You should have seen all the varieties they had. I mean, things you’d have to special order if you relied on most local nurseries. There were a few things missing due to crop failures sad little empty places on the wooden shelves, but these were sandwiched between such abundant replacements that I can’t imagine people could complain much. The whole Grandstand was filled with plants front the front to the back, all the way across the whole first level, and some of them had multiple tiers. Crazy amounts of plants. And there were trees, shrubs and roses outside. It just kept going!
When it came time to check out, the process was simple. You were given a tally sheet at the beginning and it was up to you to write down what plant, how much and how many. You gave that sheet to a friendly lady at the tally table and she’d tippity-tap her big calculator and write up your total. Push your cart to a cashier further down and you’re done.
The whole thing took us about an hour and a half, and that was with a few backtracks and additions.
Overall there are a couple things I would mention to any person interested in going to the sale in the future:
#1. If you can avoid bringing your kids, you will have an easier time.
You can bring kids, of course, but it is a big place, concrete floors, I have no idea where the bathrooms were, and there are A LOT of people there. The whole experience will be more relaxing for you if your kids are playing with a nice friend or grandparent at home.
#2. You should go in with a plan.
Because of the magnitude and the crowd, it is not the place to plan out your planters. They have a great website where you can get organized ahead of time by creating a wishlist. When you print out the wishlist, it has the code for each plant, and that will help you find it’s location at the sale. And you’ll definitely want to have that list.
#3. You are among kin.
I was surprised at the patience and general good attitude of everyone in attendance. I watched people crush rosemary and smile as they inhaled the scent. I saw people oogle flowers in other people’s carts and comment on how pretty it was going to look. People were polite, patient, and nobody stole my purse even when I left my cart unattended multiple times. What nice folks.
Since you know you’re going to spend the money on your plants and flowers anyway, if you want to support a school in the process and have fun making an event of it, I think you’ll really enjoy the Friends School Plant Sale. And no, I don’t have kids at the school nor am I a paid spokeswoman for them. But it was a wonderful day with a great friends and beautiful weather. You’ll have to ask me in a few years when I’ve made it through the sale by myself and in the rain. It might just be worth it.