Friday, May 27, 2011

Swappin' and Sweatin' in Seminole Heights

Last weekend my neighbor Virginia and I hosted our first Plant Swap. What a fun morning!

Virginia invited a few of her fellow Hillsborough County Master Gardeners and I invited a few friends and colleagues I have come to know through both Seminole Heights neighborhood activities and my work for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Each person was asked to bring 10 plants to the swap -- pots, divisions, cuttings, seeds, whatever they chose. All told we had a nice, manageable group of 11 swappers. 

Surveying the treasures
At least, we thought it was manageable. But get a group of women together on any sort of  "shopping spree" and you can only imagine what could happen! (At this point, I must say that there were two men at the swap too, and they held their own).

To keep utter chaos at bay, we decided to assign each person a number and then go one by one in choosing plants. We started with the number 1 for the first round, and then the number 11 for the second round, so everybody had a fair shot at grabbing the plants they most coveted.

Virginia describing her plant swap contributions
Before we got to the swapping, though, each of us took a couple of minutes to describe the plants we brought and their preferred growing conditions. This was a good thing, because we had so many plants, and this gave us a chance to plan our "shopping" strategy to prioritize what we wanted most.

To speed things up -- and keep us from passing out in the heat - we encouraged people to take two plants at a time. Even with this, it took a while to get all the plants parcelled out, but nearly everything found a new home.

The diversity of the plants on display was impressive -- from uncommon natives like Elliot's lovegrass and Elephant's Foot, a lovely wildflower -- to purple firespike, red salvia, African iris and blackberry lilies. Amazingly, there were few duplicates -- everybody brought a different assortment, thought we certainly didn't coordinate plant selections ahead of time.

Lots of lovely plants
I really tried hard not to let my impulsive nature take over, with only partial success. I focused primarily on small shade plants, since I have so much shade, and container plants, since my landscape is pretty much fully planted at this point. But I did somehow end up with an entire bin of native canna lilies -- which I think will work out fine if I plant them near my Ocala anise bushes, since both require more water than anything else in my garden. Because I live close to the Hillsborough River, I am blessed with the rich, fertile soil that cannas prefer.

My new cannas waiting to be planted
Plant Swaps are a wonderful way to add diversity to your landscape at no cost, and what gardener doesn't love a bargain? They also are a fun way to connect with other gardening fanatics and share ideas and knowledge. Virginia and I agreed we would definitely host another Swap, in the Fall when it is cooler. Some of the Swappers also suggested having themed Swaps -- all seeds, for example, or edibles, or Florida natives. The possibilities are endless. After all, there's always room for one more plant, isn't there?

Several beautiful little peacock gingers found a home under my oak tree


  1. Sounds like a lot of fun. It's always fun with fellow gardeners isn't it?

    (Just an aside, I grew up in Seminole Heights.)

  2. Thanks,NanaK. Seminole Heights is very much an old-fashioned neighborhood where we get to know and appreciate our neighbors. I have lived here 16 years now--not sure I will ever leave.

  3. Glad you had such fun. Those cannas are beautiful! Happy planting!

  4. Always a great time to exchange ideas/plants with fellow gardeners. The peacock ginger was a good snag... will do well for you in your shady understory. (Saw Virginia recently at her library where I assisted in a Palm talk in TT). She is a plant aficoando. Meems

  5. *Aficionado*... wow I really mutilated that one first time around. :-)

  6. Yep, Virginia is a serious plant collector! I benefit from her "plant pack-rites." every time I go to her house I come back with plants! The peacock ginger is doing great in its new home.