Host a Plant Swap

The best plants aren't always from your local garden center or seed catalog. Instead they are gathered through quick cuttings or by collecting seeds from the garden of a friend or family member. These "pass-along plants" provide both beauty and sentiment to your garden. They may hold treasured memories of loved ones or childhood activities. Many times they represent varieties not readily available in the commercial trade. Celebrate National Garden Month by organizing a plant swap event for your friends and family to encourage the sharing of favorite plant specimens.

Begin by setting a date and inviting the special gardeners in your life to attend. Make sure to give at least 3 to 4 weeks notice so they have plenty of time to plan and prepare. Ask them to bring:

Seeds. Seeds should be packaged in envelopes with a label that includes the name of the plant and any other special growing details like best time/location to plant and flower color (especially make sure to note if it tends to be invasive and needs a watchful eye). Click here (http://www.garden.org/articles/articles.php?q=show&id=844) for additional seed saving instructions.

Divisions. Perennials need to be divided on a regular basis to maintain healthy and vigorous growth. Dig and divide clumps as close to the plant swap as possible being careful to save and protect the roots. Place in plastic bags with a bit of moisture to keep them from drying out. Depending on the plant, you may want to prune back some of the foliage to conserve water. Keep divisions out of direct sunlight and extreme heat until the swap. Replant ASAP.

Each perennial has its own optimal time of the year for division. A general rule of thumb is to divide in the season opposite when it blooms (so plants blooming in the fall would be good candidates for a spring plant swap). Click here for more dividing how to's.

Cuttings. Many plants can easily be propagated through cuttings. With advanced notice, plant swap participants can take cuttings from their garden and begin the rooting process before the event (this is best for plants that are a little tricky to root or sensitive to water loss). Other cuttings can be taken the day of the swap. Take the cuttings the morning of the event and wrap stems in moist paper towels covered by plastic bags. Keep in a cool location out of direct sunlight. For more complete instructions on taking cuttings, click here.

The day of the event, provide a good location to display all the plants brought to swap and make sure not to begin until everyone has arrived. Ask attendees to share special stories about the plants they brought and provide snacks or a light meal to add to the festive mood. Your guests will leave with new plants and new memories to grow in their garden.

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