Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Plant Swap

A section of a blood banana leaf

Back in my grandmother's day, gardeners regularly traded cuttings, seeds, and seedlings with friends and neighbors. Nowadays, people often buy their bedding plants and shrubs at local nurseries or from big box stores. They hire landscaping firms to make selections and implement designs. 

Too many 21st century homeowners are missing out. Trading plants is not only fun, but it's a great way to save money and discover new varieties, and even new species, at the same time.

This past Saturday I woke early. After dressing, I hurried out to the garden where I dug up and potted nine plants to take to a plant swap in North Charleston. My contribution consisted of 2 yellow cannas, 1 camellia seedling, 1 avocado, 1 oak leaf hydrangea, 1 bushy marigold, 1 cast iron plant, 1 old-fashioned orange daylily, and 1 plant that escapes my memory. 

Participants arrive at Park Circle between 10 and 11 a.m. and place swap items on a stretch of lawn. After unloading my car, I wandered across the lawn looking at what plants were on offer. I saw plenty of Mexican petunias, but since I already have some of those (from two or three different sources) and they almost never bloom for me, I didn't linger. 

Many participants already stood guard beside their first swap choices. I found a blood banana and fell in love with its gorgeous red and green leaves. Actually, I found two of them, a few yards apart. I stationed myself beside the one that stood upright. The other was lying down. A man, helping other people unload plants, came over to me and said, "Thank you for guarding this for me." He pointed to the blood banana. We both laughed. He wandered off to more carry plants for someone. What a friendly, funny man! When he finished assisting the newcomers, he came back to where I was and said, "Thanks," and moved in as if relieving me at the end of a shift. I stood there awkwardly for maybe fifteen seconds before making my way to the prostrate blood banana.

At 11 a.m. the organizer of the event called out, "Select one plant." After allowing participants time to move chosen plants off the lawn, he announced it was time to pick another plant. Later it was "Okay, now pick two plants." After a second "two plant" selection opportunity, it was "get as many plants as you can carry, because I don't want any left over."
I came home with the blood banana ( Musa acuminata ssp. zebrine),  a badly butchered azalea, a regular banana, 2 red cannas with green leaves, 1 canna with yellow and orange blossoms, 1 ginger stalk, 1 named daylily (Hemerocallis "Strawberry Candy”), 2 or 3 wandering Jew starters (not yet rooted), a tiny Japanese maple (a variety with leaves that look similar to those of a cannabis plant), a camellia seedling in poor condition, a tiny angel trumpet, an orchid cactus, a lily of the valley, a couple of small plants marked “blue flower short,” a tiny and possibly-dead miracle berry, and a flame tree seedpod. 

The reason I received more than I gave was because some folks bring lots and lots of one thing, perhaps focusing more on what they want to get rid of than what someone else might want. Others, I think, are more discriminating in what they choose to take home, looking for specific items, hoping to find something they already knew they wanted. The end result is loads of plants in search of new garden homes. 

When I left, all of my donations to the swap had found takers - all except one, that is. A yellow canna remained, still hoping, I imagine, to get picked. 

Japanese maple