A young man balancing two hanging baskets while riding a unicycle along Southwest Marine Drive is what Sybil Jamieson recalls. Audrey Litherland says it's commonplace to see students on bicycles struggling with two-metre palms.
UBC's 22nd annual indoor plant sale takes place Sept. 16-18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Botanical Garden. No one knows for sure if it's the biggest event of its kind because there is nothing else quite like it. Everyone is certain, however, that every single plant will be sold.
"We didn't set out to make money," says Jamieson, one of the founders of the sale. "We wanted to raise a few dollars for the Botanical Garden and let students know they can enjoy it for free. Most of all we wanted to put a little greenery in their lives and their new residences."
The first sale took place in the garage at the President's house.
"People lined up in the teeming rain with umbrellas and wheelbarrows and we were stunned to see that everything was gone in just a few hours," she says.
For years Jamieson's son joined the all-night watch to guard the plants when the event moved to the tennis courts. Litherland, another long-time Friend of the Garden (FOG) says, "a FOG and her dog caught someone trying to climb over the fence at the entrance to the Botanical Garden in the middle of the night last year."
Ultimately it's the selection that inspires thoughts of larceny and long lineups.
"We have several thousand plants, everything from orchids and herbs to tropical and flowering plants, from two inches to six feet," says Ray Moon, current chair of the FOG student plant sale committee.
Jamieson says people's tastes change.
"One year we sold hundreds of ferns, another year it was plants in a bottle and many men seem to want something big -- the bigger the better."
Litherland says many want "a plant like Mom has," although they can't remember the name.
Perhaps it's the need to own and scratch the tiniest bit of ground and watch the renewal of life that makes students risk the humiliation and guilt that comes with a dead houseplant. Undoubtedly the prospective plant owners want to set down roots in the dorm. Like scholarship, the new plant may demand long hours, single-mindedness and resiliency in the face of setbacks. Undoubtedly there will be realization of how little one knows.
Perhaps the biggest draw to the sale is the wisdom of the FOGs who can pick out something for a north window or dark basement where only students and a few plants live. The advice is free and all plants come with written instructions. Prices start at three dollars and include tax. Faculty, staff and the public are welcome as well. UBC's Botanical Garden is at 6804 Southwest Marine Drive.