Savannah Morning News column
September 20, 2015
Seriously, is there some kind of special self-help program for plant junkies? No? Then it’s time to indulge thyself, time for the plant swap. Good morning, fellow hoarders, addicts, collectors, enthusiasts, connoisseurs, lovers of the Great Mother, fanciers of the earth. Good morning, dreamers. My name is Jane and I can’t get my hands on enough plants – no matter the color of the flower, the pattern of the leaf, the season of the bloom, the origin of the species. I’m open-minded. I don’t care if it’s from China, Argentina, Persia (that would be Iran), South Africa or Effingham County (that would be in Georgia). If it’s something I haven’t seen before, if it promises to grow with minimal attention, if it will catch my eye if not the eye of a butterfly or a bee or a bird or a ladybug, if it has a big and fuzzy leaf, if it’s edible or a cousin of a cousin to something I already have, then I’m there and I want it.
I have more plants than I have dirt, more seeds than I have sense, more cuttings than one person should be allowed. But perennials, once a beginning gardener’s new best friend, have taken over my life. They’ve overstayed their welcome. They don’t hesitate to occupy every bit of space they can find. They’re so comfortable where they are that, without asking, they have started to invite their whole extended family, Amish-style, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and I’m too weak to throw them out.
But I’m running out of room, which is a problem since this is a perfect time to grow kale, collards, broccoli, garlic, onions, lettuce and kohlrabi. The seeds, thank you, plant gods, thank you, rainy season, have already started to sprout. The little seedlings have already put out their first two sets of identical leaves (oh, so itty bitty, barely showing except they’re not really leaves, they just look like leaves. Some people call them antennae because they lead the way so photosynthesis can do its job: to draw energy from the sun. Eventually a fifth leaf, which looks nothing like the first two, will emerge. This leaf – don’t ask me why – is known as a true leaf.)
Confused? Me too. But this is why we meet, to pass along information, to pass along plants.
Picture someone who keeps buying more shoes, more dresses, more books, more record albums. They don’t need to build another closet or another bookshelf. They need to extract. They need to edit.
I need to extract. I need to edit. I like to share.
Do you need to bring plants to the swap to take plants? Not necessarily. For the first visit, at least. We usually have more plants than people. But you might consider bringing something to eat. That’s a good thing. Or a story about how you got the plant you’re giving up. That’s a very good thing.
Some people will be bringing fifth- and sixth-generation plants they got at an earlier swap. Monkey grass, beach daisy, horsetail, loquat trees, crocosmia, Jewels of Opar (or do you say Pearls of India?), queen’s tears or amaryllis bulbs.
But there are no guarantees. Maybe none of the above will show up (although I’m always good for about a dozen loquat trees and don’t worry about Jewels of Opar. I’ll be bringing plenty of them because right now they are coming up between cracks in the sidewalks, in my jade tree pots, in between lettuce plants and in the compost pile). But like the red surprise lilies (or naked ladies) that are popping up willy-nilly everywhere these days, there will be surprises, as well as seeds, rhizomes, bulbs, five-gallon buckets and plastic pots. And a few samples of my new favorite plant: the lovely dotted horsemint. And oh, Lordy, there will be advise – on what to grow under pine trees, what to grow that the deer don’t like, what to grow if you like to sequence colors, what to grow in shade. None of it’s guaranteed, either, of course.
What is guaranteed is chatter and meeting new people and maybe someone who can explain true leaves.
The fall plant swap is Sat., Oct. 3 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., at Jane’s garden on W. Boundary St. The garden is snuggled between Chatham Steel (504. W. Boundary St.) and Creative Coast (415 E. Boundary St.). There is no charge. For more information call Jane at 912-484-3045. Plant swaps are held the first Saturday of October and May.