OK, people, I get the message. From the absolutely ZERO RESPONSE to my protestations about high prices for flowers these days (see “Sticker Shock”), I gather that I am the only person on the planet who resents having to pawn his wedding ring just to buy a lousy petunia.
That being the case, please come to my office next week. I’ll sell you a handful of lovely monkey grass for 50 bucks and I’ll also trade that pathetic crepe myrtle sucker I yanked up and stuck in a pot of mud in return for your house on the lake. Good dealing with ya.
On to Business
Now to the main point of today’s ramble. This past Saturday, I presided over a good, old-fashioned plant swap at Aldridge Botanical Gardens in Hoover, Alabama. (Justly famous for its fabulous collections of hydrangeas which are now in full bloom, Aldridge Gardens is one of the more beautiful botanical gardens in the Southeast. Check it out at www.aldridgegardens.com).
Over the years, I’ve participated in a lot of plant swaps and they’re always fun. People may come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but when they’re trading plants, everyone’s just a gardener with something neat to share. Nobody knows more about how something grows than the person who has so blamed much of it that they need to give some away, so I learn as much from them as they learn from me.
One thing that makes plant swaps special is that you’re not only sharing plants, you’re sharing memories. Often the plant you bring has a good story to go with it. It may have been your mama’s plant or your grandmama’s. Maybe it was given to you by that nice little old lady down the street when you were admiring her flowers one morning. The point is, every time you see the plant in your garden, you remember from where it came and the people connected with it. And now you want to pass along this particular plant to someone else.
Plants Traded Last Week
I was astounded at the variety of plants people showed up with. Some brought a single plant; others hauled in wagon loads. Many of the plants are things you can’t buy at your home center or even your local garden center. They survive simply by ordinary folks passing them on.
The plant I bought was a pot of daffodils called ‘Quail.’ Folks, this solid yellow bloomer is the sweetest smelling daffodil I’ve encountered. You get multiple blooms per stem and it’s a good naturalizer too. An excellent mail-order source is Brent & Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, Virginia (www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com). You can order now for fall delivery.
Here’s a partial list of other cool plants you could have swapped for had you joined us last week:
• Sedums — all kinds, never need watering, cuttings root quickly
• Texas star hibiscus – huge red flowers, grows in wet or regular soil, leaves resemble marijuana so be prepared to explain
• Mexican bush sage – the showiest fall salvia, either solid purple or purple-and-white, hummingbirds and butterflies love it
• Garlic chives – great in cooking, easy to grow, multiply like crazy
• Blue flag iris – native, tolerates shade, blooming right now, needs no care
• Hardy begonia – great shade plant, pink blooms in August, comes back every year, handsome foliage, makes lots of babies
• Rose campion – gaudiest magenta flowers imaginable, soft gray leaves, comes back from seed
• Lenten rose – wonderful shade plant, evergreen foliage; white, pink, or burgundy flowers in February-March
• Daylily – flowers in every color except blue, great perennial for beginners, can be divided in any season
• ‘Petite Pink Scotch’ rose – creeping ground cover type, small leaves, great for cascading over a wall, needs no spraying
• White shamrock – pretty flowers and foliage, comes back every year, nice in garden or container
• French hollyhock – lots of lavender or purple flowers in summer, loves the heat, grows about 3 feet tall, comes back from seed
• Banana tree – actually fruits in Alabama; this guy digs the whole think up in fall, wraps it, and puts in the crawl space under his house for winter; forms offsets at the base you can give away
Hold Your Own Plant Swap
Like I said, plant swaps are fun. You meet lots of new people. Here are some guidelines to make the whole event proceed smoothly.
1. Everybody has to bring a plant, preferably something they think someone would like to receive. No poison ivy or privet.
2. Place each plant on a table with its name on a label in front
3. Each person gets a number. A corresponding number is then placed in a basket.
4. The master of ceremonies picks up each plant and asks the person who brought it to tell the crowd why it’s special and how to grow it.
5. After all the plants have been talked about, it’s swapping time. The MC pulls a number from the hat. Whoever has that number gets to choose whatever plant tickles his or her fancy. One-by-one, this goes on until all the numbers have been called and everyone has a plant.
6. Chances are, by the end of this, plenty of plants will be left over. At this point, it becomes a free-for-all. Anyone can take any plant left, provided they get to it first.
Before you plant your new baby, remember one thing. Most plants that are easy to swap multiply readily, making them easy to dig, divide, root, gather seeds, etc. So if someone seems a little too eager to share something, pause for a moment. There may be a very good reason.