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Annual Arboretum Plant Sale switches to online auction format

Online auction runs from Sept. 18 to Sept. 27
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For local gardeners and plant enthusiasts, the annual Guelph Arboretum Expo and Plant Sale is an event not to be missed.

This year, the plant sale will not see its usual swarm of plant lovers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Arboretum will be hosting a virtual plant sale as an online auction.

“People in Guelph have been such supporters of this plant sale,” says Justine Richardson, director at the Guelph Arboretum. “In previous years, people have lined up two hours ahead of time and even fought it out for that last plant.”

The online auction will run from Friday Sept. 18 to Sunday Sept. 27.

Plant pick-up will be arranged at the end of the auction with physical distancing protocols in place.

Historically, the plant sale has been an important community engagement and fundraising event for the Arboretum.

And this year, funds raised from the sale are important more than ever.

“In normal circumstances, over 70 volunteers prep the pants starting in March but this year, it was not possible,” Richardson said.

This year, staff, primarily, have taken on the task.

Income from sales helps support various projects and on-going maintenance at the Arboretum.

Programs include outreach, conservation, environmental research projects, biodiversity education and plant collection development.

“Many of our programs are possible because of fundraising efforts and donor support,” Richardson said.

The Arboretum encompasses 400 acres featuring plant collections, gardens, walking trails, natural woodlands, wetlands and meadows.

Established in 1970, it continues to connect people with nature, enhancing teaching, research and outreach within the community.

The living plant collections and grounds have continued to require care and maintenance, but due to the pandemic, income sources have been limited.

“Many programs have converted to virtual programs and at the same time, our grounds and trails have remained open,” Richardson says.

“But our usual income from events like weddings, workshops and room rentals has been limited.”

Those attending the virtual plant sale will be able to browse online through the sampling of plants being offered on the auction website beginning Sept. 18 at 9 am.

“People will have time to take a look and then bid,” Richardson said.

“There will not be a massive selection of plants this year, but they are special. In many ways, this is a symbolic plant sale.”

A limited number of plants are available this year, representing the same unique qualities the plant sale is known for.

Some of the plants available include, American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), Hardy Rubber Tree (Eucommia ulmoides) and Autumn Willow (Salix serissiam).

“There are lots of woody plants. The sale is great for plant enthusiasts and those looking for something a little different,” says, Barb Watson-Ash, marketing co-ordinator at the Arboretum.

Sean Fox, manager of Horticulture at the Arboretum, has included a description of each plant being auctioned.

“Many of the plants have been propagated from seed and many from our grounds. Each one has an individual story as to where it originated,” Richardson said.

“During the week-long event, activities and virtual stories will be shared. We hope this brings continued support as well as ongoing connections for community members.”

The Guelph Arboretum Plant Sale Auction can be found here.