It's the Plants, Darling

Everything I Wanted to Know About Gardening I Learned on eBay

If you believe those plant associations, we all want hardy, reliable, carefree, grow ’em anywhere plants.  But go to eBay, which is, after all, the nation’s garage sale, and you’d come away believing that we are a nation of outlaw plant freaks.

Take a look at all the plant auctions that have at least one bid on them, sorted by price, and you will learn that:

1.  People will pay over $1000 for a "specimen pond cypress bonsai."

2.  In fact, every plant priced at over $100 is a bonsai.  Not that there’s anything wrong with bonsais, but–well, actually, there is. They’re like the bound feet of the plant world.  Creepy. Leave that plant alone and let it grow.

3.  From $50 to $100, it’s all pretty much orchids and cacti.  Plants that attract fanatics.

4.  Highest-priced single seed/bulb/root on eBay seems to be a voodoo lily–there are several auctions ending soon in the $75 range.

5.  For $99, you can get a Windowsill Garden Year of Seeds Months of Bloom kit, which includes twelve little pots, twelve little packets of seed, and twelve "soil pellets."  Our advice:  Don’t.

6.  In the "don’t show this one to Michele" category, we found an antique Victorian garden conservatory for only $23,500.  I think it’s actually "antiqued"–as in, antique-y, not actually old.  But very, very cool nonetheless.  You could live in this thing, if you didn’t mind undressing in a glass house. (Hey, that’s what the fig leaves are for)

7.  Or you could have a giant copper dinosaur in your garden for seven grand.  Local pickup only.  How you get a 17-foot T-rex home is your problem.

8.  Need a 100-foot roll of plastic grass?  Got three grand? No problem.

9.  The most expensive garden books/publications on eBay?  Also bonsais.  What is it with you people?

10.  If you love strange old Victorian mechanical creations, do not, repeat, do not, check out this auction of an 1890 Antique Portland Lawn Sprinkler.  Imagine the fun you could have with this baby at your next garden party.  Eliz, don’t tell me you’re not already figuring out how to get this thing to spray gin and tonics!

Posted by on January 28, 2008 at 5:18 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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9 responses to “Everything I Wanted to Know About Gardening I Learned on eBay”

  1. susan harris says:

    I rise in defense of bonsais! If you love the art of pruning, and I do, you gotta love the intimate relationship that bonsai enthusiasts have with the plants they create. It’s a plant-human partnership that’s totally cool, requiring unbelievable patience (far more than I have). Take a virtual tour of the Bonsai Collection at the National Arb:
    http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/collections/VirtualTours/BonsaiVirtualTourThumbnails.html

  2. What a fun post! I clearly need to broaden my eBay horizons and move beyond cheap oriental rugs and old kerosene lamps into the world of antique garden ornament.

  3. eliz says:

    Speaking of distorted view of gardening: go to a bookstore. See what at least half of the gardening books are about. Anyone visiting a Barnes and Noble here would assume most gardeners in the US are busy cultivating their cannabis plantations.

    I’m not a fan of bonsai, but then I don’t care for Japanese gardens much. Too neat. Also, as houseplants, bonsai are WAY easy to kill, and as you point out, very expensive. Orchids are a snap in comparison.

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    An antique sprinkler squirting gin and tonics…I want to be invited to that party.

  5. Lisa Albert says:

    One of these days I might venture into eBay but that will have to wait until after I get over the shock of the immensity and spectrum of auction items. Until then, thanks, Amy, for giving me a humorous summary of what I might find.

    I also want to be invited to the gin and tonic spraying antique sprinkler party. Swimsuits would probably be the wise party attire. Or maybe full-on rain gear with rolled-up cuffs to catch the boozy drips. “Need a refill?” “No thanks, I’ll just sip from my hem.”

  6. Swimsuits? Rain gear? I’m thinking clothes optional and a 100-foot roll of plastic grass.

  7. In the past, I bought a lot of perennial divisions for pocket change at Ebay to get my garden started – ahh, good times. Now I’m giving my own overgrown plants away at local garden club plant exchanges – no need for postage or ebay sale charges.
    A agree with you, Amy – Bonsai gives me the creeps, but I don;t begrudge those who indulge – just keep it out of my home.
    3000 for plastic grass!!! It better grow when you push a button and release that “fresh cut grass” smell whenever you step on it. Home Depot has rolls of astro-turf for just pennies a foot!!! I know this as I had to buy “booth carpet” for a tradeshow I did last year and this was the cheapest floor covering I could find anywhere.

  8. Hey, I’m an orchid fanatic, and I’ve never paid more than $40 for a plant. Or maybe that just means I’m cheap. But you can’t always use price as a guide to who’s a plant freak.

  9. Elizabeth Stump says:

    Bonsai on eBay? That’s like buying a wife through mail order. If you’re investing that much on a specimen, a few pics on eBay will not show you all the personality tics (faults) of a tree inspected in person. Inverted trunk? White aphid infestation? Nematodes? Lack of nebari?

    If you want to have a discussion about bonsai, then let’s YIM and discuss the pros and cons of the hobby. But to judge the whole hobby by what you’ve gleaned off of eBay bids is like judging the hobby of collecting antique glass by that one bid where an antique amber glass pickle jar went for over $40,000 on eBay.

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