September at the University of Guelph Arboretum usually means elbow-to-elbow throngs of gardeners and plant enthusiasts at the Arboretum Expo and Plant Sale.

Since the popular sale is not possible this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an online plant auction has grown in its place.

The auction, which began Sept 18 and continues to Sunday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m., offers a limited number of unique plants the sale is known for. They include hardy rubber tree (Eucommia ulmoides), American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) and autumn willow (Salix serissiam).

The plant sale has historically been an important fundraising event for the arboretum. Income from the sale helps support ongoing maintenance across its 408 acres of grounds, as well as supporting special projects in conservation and environmental research, biodiversity education and plant collection development.

The arboretum gardens, forests and wetlands have continued to require care and maintenance throughout the pandemic, even while so many of the arboretum’s usual income sources, such as weddings, workshops and room rentals, have been limited, said director Justine Richardson.

“Area gardeners have been such supporters of this plant sale, with more than 70 volunteers preparing the plants and buyers often lining up for hours ahead of opening,” she said. “We hope this online event brings continued support as well as ongoing connections for community members.”

The online auction continues to Sunday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. Plant pickup will be arranged at the completion, with physical distancing protocols in place.