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Sharing Plants

October 30, 2009

Gardeners love to share – their knowledge and advice, their blogs Happy, their garden photos, and especially their plants.

Every area of my garden includes plants that began as divisions from the gardens of friends and relatives. The planting on the steep slope by the back door is anchored by divisions of hosta and rhododendron that my mother gave me from her garden more than twenty years ago when I was a new homeowner. Rhododendron and hosta anchoring the back slope planting (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)


Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne' from Joyce (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) From my friend Joyce, who has been my primary gardening mentor, I have three different varieties of Siberian iris (including two that were initially divisions from her aunt’s garden), hosta ‘Hyacinthina,’ rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne,’ peonies, and (most recently) a new as-yet-unidentified hardy geranium.


I have my friend Anne to thank for the fragrant yellow daylilies that are planted along the front of my property, and my friend Jan gave me the divisions of tawny daylily that are now naturalizing along the side of the driveway.


Tawny daylilies from Jan (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

I also love to share my plants with others. When my friend Joyce bought a new house and had to leave many beloved plants behind at the old garden, I had the pleasure of re-gifting divisions of the Siberian irises that she had given me several years earlier. Siberian iris from Joyce (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) When I created a new garden for my mother to fill the scarred space left after a huge blue spruce tree blew down, I included divisions of many plants from my own garden. Recently, I was a guest at my brother’s house; and when I looked out the guest room window in the morning, I realized that I was looking down on two clumps of geranium ‘Biokovo’ that had begun as divisions from my garden.

One August, in an attempt to deal more creatively with my overabundance of Biokovo thinnings, I brought two large plastic shopping bags full of bare-root plants with me to Gettysburg when I returned for the beginning of school. I put out an announcement on the college’s electronic digest offering free plants and then held open house in my office while dozens of people came by to collect them. This was a great deal of fun; I got to meet co-workers that I hadn’t previously known and made some new gardening friends along the way.

I found my “plant giveaway” such an enjoyable and gratifying experience that I wonder if there would be a way to replicate it on a larger scale. Could we devise a way for gardeners to share their extra plant divisions (or seeds) with would-be gardeners, especially those who might be financially strapped? I know of garden groups that swap plants with one another and of groups that hold plant sales as fundraisers, but has anyone come up with a scheme to give away plants to strangers? I’m imagining an event where plants would come with photos and information on how to use them (I loved Violet Fern’s image of the gift seed packs with photos) and where experienced gardeners would be on hand to provide consultation on how to get started, what to pay attention to, and how to combine plants effectively. This might be a great project for a Master Gardeners group. Does anyone know of any attempts (successful or not) to do something like this?

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2009 2:29 pm

    Hello Jean,

    That is so wonderful to have a garden made up of plants that special people in you life gave you.

    I think it is a great idea to find a way to get gardeners together to trade their extra plants. I hope you find a way. I’m sure it will be popular.

  2. October 30, 2009 2:48 pm

    I can’t answer any of your questions, but I love the idea of giving plants away. Passing on the life is wonderful.

  3. October 30, 2009 2:57 pm

    This is a great post, and a wonderful idea, sharing plants with others.

    I know how to share with gardeners such as those here at Blotanical, but new gardeners is a different thing. Local is one thing, a little PR, and you have people coming from all directions. But new gardeners, strangers, who live all over the country….

    Very intriguing. I will have to think on that one.

    This is one of those things that I love doing.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 30, 2009 3:13 pm

      Oh gosh, Janie, you were giving me credit for a much grander vision than I had. I think this would have to be done on the local level (although it would be fun to imagine a coordinated set of events in different places simultaneously). The advantage of local sharing is that you’ve got plants that are already adapted to the local climate and soil conditions (which is why I think plants from other nearby gardeners often grow so well).

  4. thevioletfern permalink
    October 30, 2009 5:04 pm

    This is a wonderful post … many of the plants in my garden are from my mother and even grandmother (long since passed). I’ve also exchanged plants with some women in the neighborhood upon meeting my backyard neighbor – we even had lunch after the exchange – great fun. We talked about just leaving plants out in our front yards free for the taking! Sure would meet more neighbors that way – ha. And it is so nice to walk through the garden and remember the person who gave to you. (And by the way I am so very flattered you mentioned me – so glad you enjoyed that post.) I especially love that you were able to give some plants back to your friend after she moved.

  5. October 30, 2009 6:08 pm

    You have many of the same plants as I do.
    I myself will be giving about plants next spring but not for the same reason.
    Just too many plants!! And also some poor picks for my garden.

  6. October 30, 2009 6:45 pm

    Jean, I am sure if you put a classified ad in the local newspaper, you would get all kinds of gardeners looking for your extra plants.
    It is so nice to look at all the living “memories” in your garden.

  7. October 30, 2009 10:59 pm

    I have many a shared plant in my garden – some are real rare gems too; and I thank all those wonderful, generous gardeners for them. And I give away too 😉

  8. October 31, 2009 12:01 am

    Well, then, that is easy. You don’t even have to put an ad in the paper, or maybe an ad in the ‘free’ section. A little sign by the street will bring many gardeners to your doorstep.

    We stopped one day to ask the lady of the house if she would mind if we took the several bags of dwarf mondo grass that she had set out for the trash pickup. These bags were what you would use in a trash compactor, at least 3′ tall. They were full!

    We never did figure an accurate $$ figure for that grass, but at the retail nurseries, they were $2.49 for a 4″ pot! We had a fortune! We used it in countless places.

    I love to share plants and seeds. Something about giving a friend a plant from my garden just makes me feel good. And I love getting plants to remember them by.

  9. October 31, 2009 3:15 am

    A bit of a twist: I heard of a group of gardeners who accepted plant divisions donations. They would sell them at bargain prices and donate the proceeds to the local animal shelter. Love your photos!

  10. October 31, 2009 9:18 am

    As I began clearing out my perennial gardens this fall, I too was reminded where each plant came from. Some were from the previous homeowner, but the most prized are the divisions I planted from family and friends. I hope to be able devote more attention to my perennial gardens next year. With all the rain we had this year, they suffered greatly.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 31, 2009 12:43 pm

      If you decide that your garden needs some Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’, let me know! I didn’t get them thinned out this fall, so I’ll need to do it in the spring and will have many divisions looking for new homes. 🙂

  11. October 31, 2009 11:08 pm

    My garden is very much the same way, with many of my plants from friends. I think it is a great idea to give away plants you don’t need. I have picked up a couple of plants in boxes on the curb that say free please take. I think that is so great of someone to do. When my yard is finally where I want it I know I will do the same. pay it forward.

  12. November 1, 2009 12:27 am

    Hi, Jean- I enjoyed your post. I guess plants can have quite a history. I have a few plants that were given to me from friends and family and I wish I had more. The ones I have received probably mean more to me than just getting them from a nursery. 🙂 -Amy

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      November 1, 2009 9:08 pm

      In addition to the special meaning attached to plants given to me by family and friends, I like them for more practical reasons. In my experience, plants dug from others’ gardens are bigger, healthier and more likely to thrive than those that come in pots from retailers who in turn bought them in pots from wholesalers.

  13. November 1, 2009 9:55 am

    Oh you sweetie! Thank you so much for the offer. I may take you up on that. I have my work cut out for me though with the current state of my neglected perennial gardens. It’s almost overwhelming. I hope I can be a better gardener next year. I know that reading your blog and others over the winter will help inspire me.

  14. November 1, 2009 1:35 pm

    I love the lushness of your perennial garden and your beautiful photos.

    A garden giveaway is a great way to meet local gardeners. I received about 50 red dahlia tubers from elderly man giving them away out of his garden along a rurual roadside. I spoke with he and his older son about his many years living in the area; it was quite a treat.

  15. November 1, 2009 8:20 pm

    wonderful concept for a post. the plants i cherish the most in my gardens are ones that came from friends and loved ones. i love a plant that comes with a story. thanks for sharing!

  16. November 2, 2009 6:28 pm

    I have seen some blotanist informing in their post that they have extra seeds or plants and if others want it they can email them. I can relate to this post of yours in that many of the plants in my garden has a story about somebody I know or love. I have also received cuttings, plants, seeds from friends, loved ones and strangers. Usually these are of very good quality since it came from a personal garden. Cheers to you, Jean.

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