Sheffield PlantSwap: Putting People And Plants Together

Garden Plants - Suggested donation £3

My sweetheart has a thing about plant swaps. There are few things more likely to get him all misty eyed, other than a sweet puppy (his term for any dog of any age not in full-on attack mode) or a cowboy film where the guy gets the gal.

The first time I went to a plant swap, I was randomly allocated the plant I had taken. That swap had been a lengthy affair and while there were plenty of great plants on offer, the likelihood of anyone getting the one they secretly hoped for seemed slim.

The Sheffield PlantSwap last Sunday was quite a different beast. Best friends Fay Kenworthy and Sarah Rousseau established it to help local people grow more plants without breaking the bank. They explained they didn’t know that much about plants when they started off and would have been intimidated by a garden club, but could see there was a need to get plants and people together.

Converse All Stars hanging from bicycle handlebars

Hagglers Corner would be worth a visit at any time of the year

Swaps take place bi-monthly around the city. This one was held at Hagglers Corner, a colourful venue that is home to ‘a creative community of doers and makers’, and was very well attended.

We arrived early at just after 3 o’clock in the middle of a steady stream of people carrying pots, bags and boxes of plants. At this January event they were mainly houseplants, bulbs, corms and seeds, with garden plants such as pulmonarias, lychnis, geraniums and roses. While larger plants were on offer, in the main they were healthy young plants – something to grow on – neatly labelled divisions in bags, pots or yoghurt tubs and cuttings ready to root. And though I don’t normally get as misty eyed as my sweetheart at a plant swap, it was heart warming to see.

The plants were set out on tables around the courtyard and everyone walked around to check out what was available.

At four o’clock on the dot, after a brief announcement, people were free to help themselves to some of the plants they fancied growing. You might be imagining a bunfight occurring at this stage, but no. As the website says:

PlantSwap only happens because of other people’s generosity so please be super, super incredibly kind, considerate and awesome.

Within ten minutes, I won’t say it was all over, because it was far from that, but many people/plant love matches had been made. Some dashed off to squeeze another task into their busy weekend, while others lingered as dusk fell, surrendering to a few more plant temptations and showing each other their new acquisitions. A small minimum donation was requested on the way out to help cover PlantSwap UK’s running costs and it was as simple and effective as that.

We were told that at the next swap there are usually plenty of young veggie plants and seedlings on offer as savvy gardeners hold out a helping hand for the less-well-prepared and for new gardeners who are not confident yet to grow from seed.

It all makes so much sense. How many of us can eat through the produce of a whole packet of vegetable seeds, even if we have the room to raise them? Much as I like to eat fresh garden peas, the same packet has seen me through the last two years and there are plenty more for this summer.

Mum with plants and baby at Sheffield PlantSwap

Beth Johnson with precious bundle and plant haul

If you have a chance to take part, you’ll love it. It’s family friendly and accessible, run and attended by people who are welcoming, good natured and down to earth.

The model seems sound, providing a venue for gardeners to informally meet up and share smiles and plants, and for people who want to learn more to pick up some starter plants with the advice and ongoing support they need. You don’t have to bring anything to swap, especially on your first visit, but if you do happen to have some spare plants, you can be sure they’ll find an appreciative home.

Links for more information

Check out PlantSwap UK’s website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You can find more about their recipe for a successful plant swap here.

Oh, and before you go, you might enjoy my sweetheart’s recently updated post about plant swaps which includes a recorded interview with Fay and Sarah and more pictures from the Sheffield swap.

40 thoughts on “Sheffield PlantSwap: Putting People And Plants Together

    • susurrus says:

      The Sheffield group connected via Facebook, so that might be a good place to look. I’m not usually a fan of Facebook, but have to concede it did very well in kick starting this.

  1. bushboy says:

    Fabulous idea. I can imagine the rush, like a Le Mans start at the car races!!! There must be a better way than smash and grab. Maybe coloured markers with you name on something you would like and if more than one person puts their marker in a pot then it could be an arm wrestle or marbles or even dueling pistols if all couldn’t be resolved 😀 😀

    • susurrus says:

      Having been an observer, I really think it is the best way to go, assuming you can expect people to be courteous. I couldn’t vouch that nary a toe was trod on, and it was a speedy affair in the first few minutes, but everyone I saw was smiling and seemed contented with their lot.

    • Fay Kenworthy says:

      I’m one of the organisers of Sheffield Plant Swap. My co-organiser and I have talked about this A LOT!
      Suffice to say there are challenges with every system…. some that we have thought about include…
      – What you suggest – mediation and agreement but with 150 people and 500+ plants would be very time consuming and hard to manage!
      – Transactional where you do a direct swap of plant x for plant y but that is not inclusive of newbies just starting out and is quite limiting if you want one plant but the other person doesn’t like the plants you have
      – Value Exchanges where you assign a value to a plant that arrives in credits and that person can then use these to ‘buy’ new plants but that is incredibly subjective and also labour intensive.

      So in the end simplicity won out!
      But we are very open to hearing new ideas and finding out about other ways of working it.

      • bushboy says:

        I agree it is difficult to manage that many people and plants. The credit idea is good again intensive and terribly subjective. I love the concept and if I have a brilliant idea I’ll let you know 🌻🌻🌻

  2. Oddment says:

    I love the sign about madness, and I think that says it all. What a great way to bring plant-mad people together! I especially approve of that little gardener-in-training! Of course I wanted to see/hear what your sweetheart had posted, but a very weird thing happened when I clicked on the link: I got my own blog! I will never understand these machines.

    • susurrus says:

      Oops! Sorry about that and thanks for the tip off. I’ve corrected it now. The gardener-in-training slept through it all, so far as I could see, but has the great good fortune to have a plant-loving mother.

  3. margaret21 says:

    God old Sheffield. I used to live there, and always found it a community-minded city. This is a great idea which I’ve previously only participated in on a small scale.

  4. Timothy Price says:

    the plantswap idea is cool. The bike photo is wonderful, and the array of weathering guitar necks behind Beth is an interesting feature.

  5. Oddment says:

    Here goes my third attempt to send a reply to your reply. To express to you my awe at your many skills (you fixed it!) and to say how much I enjoyed your sweetheart’s post. I tried to leave a Like but of course it didn’t go through.

  6. Vicki says:

    Brilliant idea. I can see they’d be very well attended as I know myself, sometimes, hasty purchases or ‘must-haves’ add up to a sizeable sum at the cashier’s counter in a plant nursery.

    I wonder if we have them here in Australia?

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