Across the Quad-City region Saturday, eager gardeners lended a hand — or at least their green thumbs — to help area organizations grow.
Garden enthusiasts arrived in droves as a handful of Quad-City organizations kicked off the start of plant sale season. The sales are a profitable fundraiser for area gardening clubs, parks and attractions, as well as other volunteer efforts.
Shoppers crowded into the narrow aisles in the conservatory at Vander Veer Botanical Park, Davenport, to choose from annuals, perennials and tropicals for sale. The plant sale, which continues until the plants are gone, benefits Friends of Vander Veer, which in turn supports efforts in the park.
Kay Downing, a Friends board member, said the first-day shoppers come “to get the cream of the crop.” “It’s fun to see what goes first,” she said. “We have lots of wonderful plants grown right here in the greenhouse.”
Part of the appeal, said Susan Anderson, Vander Veer’s horticultural operations manager, is that customers can buy plants that they can’t just find anywhere. “We try to present the best temperennials, colorful tropicals and subtropical plants all propagated here by volunteers. We also buy in some of the best perennials.”
Vander Veer expects to raise nearly $15,000 from its annual sale, Anderson said.
Jerry and Bekky Anderson filled a cart with plants for their Davenport home Saturday, while already making plans to hit some of the area’s other big sales later this month. “We follow all of them, they’re very good,” Jerry Anderson said.
His wife knows she not only needs to fill her three gardens that cover 100 square feet, but said “I like that the sale is supporting the park.”
Gretchen Lewis was attending her first plant sale at Vander Veer with her boyfriend Aaron Klein, who was in visiting from Vermont. Living along Vander Veer, she often visits the conservatory.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to grow some at my house,” she said, holding a tiny Sensitive Plant, which has leaves that close up when touched.
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Meanwhile, dozens of volunteers, big and little, set up for Big Brothers Big Sisters Annual Plant Sale at the Northwest Bank Tower at NorthPark Mall, Davenport. It opens today at 11 a.m. and runs 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the rest of the week.
Jay Justin, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley, said this marks the 20th year for the plant sale. Volunteers spent Saturday organizing 3,000 bedding plants, green plants and hanging plants for the sale and filling nearly 250 pre-sold orders.
The sale will raise nearly $70,000 for the organization, which matches adult mentors with children. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers,” Justin said. The group has a $1 million budget. Besides Davenport, the group will hold similar plant sales in western Illinois in Geneseo, Sterling and Macomb all this week.
For Paul Lunneberg, a big brother, and his “little” Kerry Davis, the workday served as a chance to get together. The two were matched nine years ago.
Davis, 18, will graduate from Davenport Central High School in June. He credits the program with helping him mature and become more responsible. It also has let him “meet new people and go to cool places. He’s the guy I go to when I need help with homework and I make fun of him,” Davis kidded.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of him,” Lunneberg joked. “I’ve had a lot of fun with it. Kerry and I are like brothers.”