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.
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.
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
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.