Fall plant swap ahead

Savannah Morning News

October 1, 2017            Question: What treasure will next Saturday’s plant swap bring?

Answer: You’ll just have to amble on over to see. Treasures abound.

 

There have been summers when we danced for rain, prayed for rain, begged for rain.

This was not one of them.

There have been times when we set out buckets to catch any few droplets of moisture we could, when we saved water after hard-boiling eggs to pour directly on struggling plants, when we searched high and low for a rain barrel so barren were we, without finding a one.

This was not one of those times either.

You want to know why our night-blooming cereus plants have produced overnight beauties four, five and even six times instead of the normal one or two? Why the vine from a volunteer butternut squash plant has wrapped itself around the lime tree, through the sweet and tasty shishito peppers and over the next-door neighbor’s 10-foot fence? Why this year, out of all the other years, your pineapple plant (and those of friends who have sent along photos), the one you started with great hopes but modest expectations from the top of a – yes – an actual pineapple decided to put out its own pineapple? Why your modest collection of indigo plants has migrated exponentially to the side of the house, the back of the house and the lane behind the house?

Rain. That’s the answer. That’s why. Oodles and oodles of rain. And not just the brief afternoon showers we all know.

While very few days this summer have topped 100 degrees (although it might have felt otherwise), many afternoons (and mornings and nights) brought more rain. As soon as you walked around the premises and emptied all the vessels you could find to avoid any chances of mosquitoes, the skies would darken, the moisture level rise and the rain would start. Again.

It should be very interesting to see what shows up at next Saturday’s fall plant swap, what surprises the rain unearthed and encouraged.

I wish my crop of indigo didn’t cringe every time I tried to transplant it. I have tons to give away. We could be dyeing all our tattered shirts, pants, napkins and tablecloths. I have already started harvesting lots of seeds though – those teeny, weeny half-moon-cups of DNA – that show promise for next year. I’m telling you, It’s a cottage industry in the making for this part of the country (especially if it continues to rain so much).

I will be bringing my usual supply of loquat babies (they don’t mind transplanting and for me at least they do not stop reproducing) whose lusty leaves guarantee lots of green in the winter, an ample supply of the delicate Jewels of Opar (or pink baby’s breath: a lovely cut flower) and some dotted horsemint (from the well-behaved, bee-loving monarda family).

I will have my usual hardy crocosmia that seem to bloom for everyone but me, the omnipresent four-of-clocks (yellow) that won’t stop spreading even when I throw a huge root ball in a trash pile, and a banana tree or three. If this year is anything like previous years there will be mounds of queens tears (billbergia) that have bunched up and not produced anything, a stack of monkey grass (liriope), plenty of prickly pear opuntia (warning: they attack; suggestion: plant them under a window to discourage home invasions), the usual Mexican petunia that just won’t quit, and a variety of ginger plants (often unidentified), maybe even some offspring of a batch of pinecone gingers I offered last year. This is the plant sometimes known as shampoo ginger (“But is there a conditioner ginger?” my favorite-five-year asked. “Not that I know of,” I answered. “But good question. Good extrapolating. You may be on to something.”

Plant swaps are casual affairs. We have no membership lists, no initiation fees, no board of directors, no dues, no meetings, no committees, no fund-raising events, no finance sub-committee, no mandatory attendance, no RSVP requirements, no rules – except to be polite and not too piggy. Bring what you can, what you’re tired of looking at, what you want to throw away (something you may not be able to bring yourself to do), or maybe something to eat. There’s lots of righteous hunger among gardeners. Swaps are held the first Saturday of April and October.

People who attend are generous sorts who want to share (make that get rid of) plants that won’t leave room for others. They’re chatty types who have stories behind the plants they’re bringing. They’re newcomers who sense that growing in Savannah might be a tad different than growing in Kentucky or Minnesota. Or they just may be ordinary folks who have discovered the beauty of watching a seed develop, a tree produce a fruit, a plant turn colors, people who are tasting homegrown parsley (or kale or Swiss chard) for the first time, who have never seen anything quite so beautiful as an okra bloom.

It’s another world – the world of plants.

Plant lovers: we’re a family – a big, inclusive, curious, feisty, inquisitive, questioning, talkative (or taciturn), analytical (or artistic), welcoming clan. Come check us out.