Learn and grow

ALPENA – Students at Pied Piper Opportunity Center are getting ready for their annual spring plant sale starting Monday and running through May 23, from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.. The sale is also open on May 11 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. for Mothers Day.

Students have been busy watering and pruning beautiful flowers in bright reds, pinks, yellows, oranges, and purples every day under the supervision of vocational teacher LeeAnn LaRue, and para-vocational greenhouse aid Carol Cooke.

Some of the plants were ordered, and 200 geraniums were donated by the Besser Foundation, but many have been planted by the students, teaching them about seed germination, growth, watering times, and re-potting, along with giving them a feeling of accomplishment when they see the flowers bloom.

“Over 300 of the plants were planted by our students,” Cooke said. “The rest were ordered, so we have a bountiful amount of plants available.”

Students also run the cash register at the sale and help their customers carry their flowers, herbs, or vegetables to the customers vehicle. LaRue and three other students will be helping run the sales this year.

“They planted 150 geranium plugs and smaller petunia plugs, and we donated 2-4 flats to the clean-up for US-23.” LaRue said. “The sunflowers were started from seeds by the students.”

When the flower sale first started over 10 years ago, the students and teachers were working out of an old wooden greenhouse behind the school. Since 2000, when the new greenhouse was built, they have had a sprinkler system installed to water the plants at 10 minute intervals during the morning hours, and students water the plants and clean up at the end of the day.

“The students ask us questions, and let us know when they need help with something,” Cooke said. “We ask for a lot of independence with the students, and they enjoy it.”

Colorful wooden ladybugs, flowers, and butterflies in an array of colors and patterns have been painted and varnished by students for the sale, along with ceramic pieces to add flair to customer’s gardens.

All the profits from the sale go to Pied Piper to help with programs and activities for students.

“We have a lot of customers that are very loyal to us and the sale,” LaRue said. “Some only buy their plants from us.”

For more information on the flower sale or to place an order, call Pied Piper Opportunity Center at 356-1414.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.