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Plant Swap
by Veronica Sliva
by Veronica Sliva


Veronica has been gardening for as long as she can remember. When other kids were reading comics, she was reading the Stokes Seed Catalog. In the past 25 years Veronica has written hundreds of articles about gardens and gardening for magazines and newspapers. She also develops online content for Internet websites. Her regular newspaper column, In the Garden is enjoyed by readers in Durham Region, and The Garden Party is read throughout the greater Toronto area. She is also a regular contributor to

When not consumed by her garden she enjoys photography, birding, spending time at the cottage and ballroom dancing.

Veronica makes presentations on gardening topics to a variety of groups including horticultural societies, garden clubs and service clubs.

Veronica owns Sliva Communications, a business that provides a full a range of writing services including business and marketing material, technical documentation and anything that requires a wordsmith. She is a seasoned technical writer with a post graduate diploma in Technical Communications.

Veronica is a Regional Director for Canada of the Garden Writers' Association, Chair of the Oshawa Valley Botanical Garden Task Force, and a past president of the Brooklin Horticultural Society.

September 12, 2010

By the time fall rolls around it's clear to many gardeners that some plants in the garden need to be divided, either to rejuvenate a well established clump of perennials, or to make room for something new and interesting. But what do you do with all that extra plant material? Holding a plant swap is a great way to share plants that you have too many of, and to acquire plants that you want. As well, it's a chance to share some fellowship with like minded gardeners.

So, how does a plant swap work? It's simple...gardeners bring excess plants to one location and trade them for those they want. The idea is that you take home as many plants as you bring. For example, if you bring six plants, you go home with six plants and so on.

Steps to a Successful Plant Swap
Holding a plant swap requires a little planning but the rewards are well worth the effort. Here are some guidelines:

Choose a date and time
Fall is an ideal time to hold a plant swap. By this time of the year you know what plants you want to part with. But don't discount the spring either. Although many perennials may not have shown their full glory, gardeners are very keen and raring to garden at this time of the year. A plant swap is a great way to welcome the gardening season. Choose a place to hold the event
You can hold the event at someone's house outdoors in the backyard, or inside a garage (provides shelter in case of rain). You can even rent space in a public building if you are expecting a crowd.

The invitation List
You can invite to a few enthusiastic gardeners, or if you can are really industrious, you can open the event up to the public. This type of event is a perfect project for a garden club, a senior's organization or a service club.

Get the word Out
Distribute invitations or fliers. Your invitation or flyer should include some important information about the plant swap. A plant swap may be a new idea for many and a few details in advance will make for a fun and efficient event. Besides the date, time and location, to make for a fun and efficient event, you'll want to include some other details in your invitation: Here are some suggestions:

  • Tell gardeners to bring perennials, annual seedlings, shrubs, vines, houseplants...just about anything that is gardening-related works. Some groups even include well-loved gardening books and gardening tools.
  • Bring as many plants as you want. The more variety there is the better. Try to bring at least two of the same type of plant to prevent squabbling (friendly, of course) over a highly desired prize. After all, it's not pretty to see a bunch of gardeners fighting over the same plant.
  • Plants should be divided in advance—no dividing on site.
  • Plants must be in containers! Besides pots, washed plastic milk bags are strong and can be recycled to hold plants.
  • Plants should be labeled with their name (if possible), and the type of conditions they grow best in. For example, shade or sun.

It's in the Details...Conducting the Plant Swap
Here are some hints that will make the event run smoothly:

  • Enlist some helpers. You'll need someone to receive the plants as they arrive, someone else to perform the master of ceremonies duties. You might even want to designate a photographer to capture the fun on film.
  • When each gardener arrives, hand out a coupon for the number of plants they bring. This serves to remind gardeners how many plants they are entitled to.
  • Try and display plants in categories. Assign sections for perennials, shrubs, herbs, miscellaneous, or whatever works for you.
  • As plants are being organized, gardeners can wander around and see what is being offered. Allow at least 20 minutes for gardeners to consider their selections.
  • At the appointed time for the swap there are a few ways of conducting the proceedings:
    • Each participant can draw a number, then in numerical order everyone selects one plant at a time. This is repeated until all the plants are taken. Or, each gardener can choose their entire entitlement when their turn comes.
    • Alternatively, everyone can go about choosing all their plants at the same time.

This last method should be attempted with caution. This can result in a free-for-all and it's apt to cause inelegant behaviour such as the hoarding and hiding of plants!

Inevitably plants will be left over because people tend to bring more specimens than they want to take away. The last stage of the swap is to distribute those plants that remain to those who can be convinced to adopt them. Once the plant swapping is over, a nice touch is to offer refreshments. Gardeners can socialize and trade cultural information about the plants they donated.



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