The flower auction crew gathers for a photo before heading off to their battle for blooms. In front, is Jenny Bradt. Laying horizontal, is Shannon Glenzinski. Sitting, from left, are Kim Muller, Vicki Dietz, Bonnie Hedrick, Andrea Mueller and Beth Clark. Standing are Margaret Viss, Danette Hompe, Toni Higgins, Treyce Stringer and Angie Grant.
The flower auction crew gathers for a photo before heading off to their battle for blooms. In front, is Jenny Bradt. Laying horizontal, is Shannon Glenzinski. Sitting, from left, are Kim Muller, Vicki Dietz, Bonnie Hedrick, Andrea Mueller and Beth Clark. Standing are Margaret Viss, Danette Hompe, Toni Higgins, Treyce Stringer and Angie Grant.
At long last, spring is here! Time to get our hands dirty! This is the time of year that my gal pals and I get more excited for our annual road trip to buy plants than a child gets for Christmas!

The big day this year is May 27! As soon as all the kids are safely off to school, 10 to 15 friends meet for a breakfast potluck.

This is more than just fueling our bodies for serious spending. This is our pre-auction strategic planning meeting. We have our gardens plotted in our minds. We share with each other what plants we want so we can efficiently bid and get the most bang for our buck.

After the first year we learned it's important to share this kind of information so that three of us don't each bid on 200 pansy six packs! That was A LOT of pansies!

Our mini vans and SUV's are ready for hauling mass quantities of hanging baskets, flats of perennials and annuals and various vegetable plants.

When I say they're ready - I mean it! This is our third year making this trip, so I think I speak for all of us when I say we're seasoned plant packers. Custom built shelving, lovingly built by Bonnie's dear husband, outfits the back of her rig. All seats are folded down flat. Vicki used one of her old cabinets after her kitchen remodel to accommodate more greenery in her van. A closet rod across the back of my Suburban works perfectly for the hanging baskets. Plastic milk crates and a couple of sheets of plywood make two beautiful shelves for flats of annuals.

A driver and one passenger per vehicle; coffee in hand, our lists of wants in our pockets and we're hitting the road by about 9 a.m. Five or six rigs fully equipped and operated by fully plant-primed women are kid-free and husband-free for a whole day! Did I mention this is better than Christmas?

At last we arrive! The ride to our destination is about an hour. This hour is filled with great conversation about whatever women talk about without interruption - free therapy - you ladies know what I mean!

First, we get our bidding numbers and then we divide and case the joint. Literally, thousands of plants of all different kinds fill the giant building. Rows and rows of racks of rolling shelves filled with beautiful perennials for the sun and shade; annuals for the sun and shade; large and small hanging baskets exploding with blooms!

Next, we gather and share our findings and figure out who wants what and who's going to bid on what. See, you don't just buy a couple of plants at a time. You're generally bidding on anywhere from 50 to 100 plants at a time or two to six hanging baskets at a time. These plants can be bought at a fraction of the price you pay at a nursery, greenhouse or even a big box retailer.

A big, beautiful, hanging basket can be won for between $5 and $20; which would easily cost $40 or $50 elsewhere. Perennials and annuals can be scored for $.25 to $2 for a four- to six-pack. My friend, Jenny, bought 20 pounds of asparagus the first year for a steal! She really likes asparagus! Remember, this is an auction, so prices vary depending on the crowd there that day.

When the auction is done, we all go find our purchases, which are tagged with our bidding numbers and the loading begins. We all help each other load up and begin our journey home where more fun entails!

Generally, we unload all of our "green gold" at Vicki's house; sorting the plants and keeping back what we each want to keep from our own purchases. Then we shop, barter and trade with each other from the leftovers.

By now the kids are coming home from school, just in time to help reload the plants that are coming home to be planted in our own flower beds and pots for our summer enjoyment.

For us, this trip is highly anticipated for so many reasons. Sharing a day together doing something we all love, flowers and gardening, cultivating not only our rich soil and beautifying our homes after a long winter; but enriching and cultivating our friendships and ourselves after a long winter as well.