WANTED: How do you really feel about swaps?

trianglejohnApril 23, 2007

I meant to pose this question while actually at the swap. I am writing an article about our swaps and swaps in general and I was wanting input on how you think swaps affect your shopping habits, your propagation skills, etc. Do you think of it more as a social event or is it all about the plants?

For me - swaps are a great way to try new plants. If it does well and I want more of it I won't hesitate to buy some for the yard. It is nice to see what other area gardeners are succeeding with and to see people fight over something I brought to the party. So even though the plants are free I don't think it slows down my shopping for plants but it does seem to refine what I spend money on.

How about you???

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aisgecko(7b Raleigh)

First I would say that I like the way our swaps are run. Very casual and friendly. I like the lack of rules and that new people can come and get great plants even before they can contribute much. At the same time private trades beforehand allow people who have more unusual plants to get things they don't already have.
I like the social aspect of it, but it's definately about the plants. After going to these for a few years now I come back with a little less because I simply don't need as much and I have all the frequently traded stuff, so I'm more selective. I have expanded my various collections so much by getting stuff at the swaps. It especially allows you to get varieties you haven't tried before, since some nurseries only carry one or 2 varieties of each type of plant. It's also great because the plants you get at swaps have actually been grown in real garden conditions, not the ideal ones that nurseries can provide. The only caveat to that is that sometimes the plants are very small or young and need to be babied a little. Now I can save my limited plant budget on harder to find varieties, but I still spend a good bit on plants. Maybe just a little less than I otherwise would.
I pretty much agree with everything you said John. Especially the part about it being fun watching people fight over what you brought. Last fall almost everything I brought got picked up in the first 2 rounds, and I was as happy about that as I was about the new stuff I had acquired.
The other thing I really love about swaps is the opportunity to get really busy doing the fun stuff. Making several new plants out of one is just the coolest part of gardening. Weeding and maintenence is not nearly as interesting as planting, digging, dividing, and propogating. The swaps have definately improved my propogating skills and knowledge of how my plants behave when divided, moved, etc. Knowing that your plants are getting spread around the area to grow is really neat. It is my wicked intention to get an acanthus in every yard and to aid and abet my tasmanian violet's plot to take over the world. (Although I'm not sure those violets are really hardy in this zone so it's probably my microclimate and it will only take over MY world.)
Although it's mostly about the plants, it's not just acquiring the new stuff, but working with them and sharing with others. The social aspect and the food might be secondary, but I think they make the whole thing a rounded event that even the poor spouses and kids that are dragged along can enjoy. -Ais.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 10:34AM
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I agree with Ais that I like the way the swaps are run. They should be casual and with not too many rules.

I have frequently wondered what nursery owners think of these swaps, but after hearing how many previous swaps ended with a shopping trip, I don't think swaps hurt nursery business and probably even help it. I still need to go to a nursery if I need something specific, like a good-sized native azalea or 4 pee wee oakleaf hydrangeas. I was already propagating a lot of stuff after looking at nursery receipts and seeing that I only had 1/5th survival of what I'd bought.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 1:51PM
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As a 1st timer (I've graduated from being a newbie), I don't have anything to compare the swap to. I loved it!!! I brought home a lot, and stopped by a nursery on the way home :) My poor hubby was none the wiser. It made me feel good to see people happy to get the hosta that I would've otherwise thrown out into the woods (to make room for ferns). My MIL was thrilled that her great grandmother's yellow iris were scooped up and has promised me a "shopping trip" to the farm before the fall swap!

The only thing I think might improve things - Name tags. Since we didn't have any, I just ran around & introduced myself.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 4:26PM
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My newbie status is long gone but I do remember then how everyone seemed to know everyone else and I felt like an intruder, for about 2 minutes, then they put me at ease and I was not a newbie ever again. I'd like to have the newbies introduce themselves and say something about their gardens to spur conversations later, but that may take too much time since we are getting so big?

I think the special trades are good on one hand - but tend to cause some stress getting stuff ready on the day of the swap, and finding the people to give it to and get back means we run around a lot. I don't know of any other way to do it though. On the other hand, every GW member has a shot at what is posted as a special trade, including newbies.

Food is important. Pot luck is also a way of sharing.

I've learned how to propagate earlier so that what I bring aren't babies but can be plopped in and thrive at their new homes. That kind of planning has helped me to look at my garden in a new way - when plants can be divided, cuttings to be taken in mid-winter, and seeds gathered at the right time for sowing later, etc., in anticipation of making someone else happy with my babies. I've also learned how important it is to keep a journal and to tag everything so that when I trade and swap, or go to a nursery, I can be certain I don't already have that plant! It has happened.

There are some rules that are needed. There are always plenty of plants to go around but I am just relating some sentiments heard at the last two swaps:
1. A few have mentioned that they think just adult members should pick plants in the rounds. Budding gardeners' choices can be picked as one of the dad's/mom's rounds, not in addition to his/hers, or perhaps they can have the last round before the free-for-all at the end?
2. We used to have a rule that if you didn't bring anything you stood back until the second round, but we're glad we don't have that anymore. We want to share all the plants we brought.
3. It is an important rule that all the plants go home with someone and not be left for "someone else" to clean up. If what you brought didn't go to a new home, you should take it back home with you.
4. Everything must be labeled with the common name if you don't know the scientific name, both if you do. It helps to put your screen name on the tag so if there are any questions or you want to thank someone later, we know who to go to on-line.
5. Gotta wear name tags - front and back. Screen name and (optional) real first name.

I look forward to every swap like it was my birthday and all the other gardener's birthdays too!

Nancy the nancedar

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 6:53PM
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I just want to say something about kids picking plants. My daughter has picked a few plants at swaps before (not this year though). BUT she has also brought plants from her own garden too. And she has never taken anything that was terribly special (like people were fighting over it). My 13 year old nephew has also come to a few swaps. He is VERY much into plants. I've always let him take a few things from my garden to swap because he hasn't until recently had a real yard. He also didn't come this year, but was very disappointed that he couldn't and had been planning to bring his own swaps.
No child has ever picked up things FOR me, and my daughter doesn't usually pick things until it is about time for free-for-all. I just wanted to make that clear, so no one thought I was getting multiple picks by having kids at the swaps picking for me. I really don't see how my daughter picking a few little things for her own garden is any worse than spouses picking things, but if it really bothers people, I'll not let her anymore.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 8:28PM
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I love them! What could be better than trying out new plants and sharing what you have with others? When I first got into gardening I wanted to share plants with everyone I knew. Eventually I learned that not everyone shares my enthusiasm but people at plant swaps do! It does curb my spending but not because I don't want more plants. If I had the time and money I'd spend away. The variety of plants available from nurseries will always make us want new plants. Trying out plants from the swaps just teaches us what we can grow and may inspire us to start collecting more. I think swaps enable us and keep the enthusiasm going.

I've compared it to Christmas to all my friends and family. They know that nothing short of an emergency will keep me from attending. I love all of y'all.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 9:56PM
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Dana, I personally think it's great to see any child with an interest in plants and gardening. I've never been disappointed in what I took away from a swap and can't imagine thinking that way.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 10:03PM
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aisgecko(7b Raleigh)

Well, as long as the kids are getting it for themselves and not just staged to grab an extra plant for mom/ dad on the first round then they are no different than any other newbie. I can understand that perspective, but really it's part of the casual trading aspect of these swaps. I think it's great! I remember the first swap I went to a young girl started trying to take one of the pretty plants in my stash! She didn't quite get which ones were off-limits. Her mom was on top of it, but I kept my eye on her AND my flowers :-)
Special trades can be a little hassle, but it's a way of allowing the general swap to stay more rule free. I like that and think it's worth it. You don't have to do any special trades unless you want to. I try to reserve a few items for the general swap that I consider special because not everybody does the pre-trading.
How about the rule that everyone be on time?! eh-hem. (Just kidding Nancy)
My opinion is that while more rules would make it more fair, they would just make it less fun. Maybe I'm just an anarchist. My personal opinion is that the pre-trades provide the opportunity for "plant for plant" swapping and allows the general swap to have more leniency.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 11:24PM
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I think the special trades are an important part of the swaps. Special trades were much easier at the last swap, where there was enough room for Tammy put out labelled flags and people could drop off and pick up their trades without having to chase other people down. Even with the extra difficulty this time, I can't imagine a swap without special trades.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 8:14AM
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amyflora(7 NC)

I had a great time at the swap, and have had a chance to "recover" from the excitement of it all. The plants I brought home are doing very well, and finding new homes in my gardens. Thanks to all of you for being such talented swappers.

I would like to give some feedback:
I, too, was a bit frustrated with what looked like kids getting plants for their parents. That may have been a misperception on my part, but I do think that the hard work of the gardeners should be rewarded with the first chance at the swap. I think the idea of letting the kids have at it during the later rounds seems fair. OR, what if the kids had their own swap at the same time we do, amongst themselves. I would hate to discourage any budding gardeners, but also felt frustration at the way things went in this area Saturday. On the other hand, if the kids were active in getting plants ready for the swap, then they should be involved. This is a tricky subject.
And yes, let's please do name tags. For the plants and people!

Thanks again everybody. Am already looking forward to the next swap!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 9:48AM
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rootdiggernc(Z-7A NC)

Well, I wanted to stay away from this but since I'm trying to get a swap going in our area I guess I should think about it. First, Nancy thanks for being the only one bold enough to bring it out into the open. I've heard a few people over the last couple spring swaps take issue with this too. The fall swaps seem to be calmer for some reason.

Aside from John I think Dana and I are the only ones from the original swap (hmm...I think Jeane was there too). We've watched this grow and morph from a very few to the monster entity we are now. I've loved the sharing and learning from the beginning. I've made new friends and enlarged my family and my gardens. Gardeners are a very special bunch of people. I've also heard complaints from others about anything from it's gotten to big or to disorganized. One person didn't understand how the general swap worked and was offended that their plants went into that pile of green with all the riffraff. Others didn't like that their more valuable stuff was considered even steven with the 50 cent potted marigold or that some brought their things in Styrofoam cups or wrapped in newspaper while theirs were all in nice nursery pots. Due to all that we've seen some come and go. I miss seeing some of the old regulars.

I've worried about one of the kids getting hurt. Having raised a couple of my own, I understand that a lot of parents have no choice but to bring their kids and sometimes you just want to bring them along for the experience or you've come from farther away and/or will be taking part in another activity afterwards. I think that's one reason that John, and I know myself try to hold this event where the kids have a play area nearby. We're a bit of a rowdy bunch and as we've grown we have more and more people in the same restricted space. I've bumped into people and been bumped into. Never to the point of being hurt but it could happen. Still some parents are teaching their kids to love gardening and this is a great way for them to get their feet wet. I like the idea of keeping kids out during the first few rounds, I think that's when it's the most hectic. Then either let the ones into gardening take part fully or have a few special rounds for them. Might be fun to watch them mimic their parents! Could get interesting, lol...

Another cute idea might be to bring a couple folding tables just for the kids to swap. We could all chip into that with some things that kids might like to try. They could wait for the bell just like the adults. If each of us brought one or two kid plants, plus what the kids themselves have grown under mom or dads watchful eye they would have a blast. We would be nurturing the next generation of gardeners too.

As to spouses. Mine takes part because he gardens too. He usually doesn't do as much as I do but he generally sees a few things he wants like large leaved plants or veggies or just something interesting that catches his eye. I think this last time he grabbed one flower and a strawberry plant. He and I talked about it and if this is a problem for people we'd be willing to take turns doing rounds.

While I understand some don't want to be hampered by rules maybe we need a few boundaries or guidelines or just a new direction. We're adults and should be capable of working through this. Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 10:33AM
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rootdiggernc(Z-7A NC)

I'm sorry John, realized I didn't even cover the main topic so here goes...

First off I've always loved passing along plants and receiving plants form acquaintances, friends and family. Been doing that for many years. This is like a bigger version of that. If anything the swaps have encouraged me to buy more at the nurseries. Once I get my new swap babies planted and see how they do I always wind up at a nursery (s) looking for more of something. Special trades and the general swap allow me to get things that either I can't afford (only so much in the budget), don't know anything about, or some times haven't seen, or just want more of. It really allows me to stretch my plant budget. Since so many of our swappers are into finding the latest and the greatest or have different passions I've been able to experience things that I would not have otherwise. It has pushed me into learning more about propagating, growing from seed, even winter sowing in order to have some goodies to swap and special trade.

I've been into herbs, culinary and teas/salves, for many years, along with veggies and some general stuff. Swapping has expanded my horizens into tropicals and natives which I have enjoyed learning about and aquiring.

Aside from the plants I've met a wonderful bunch of people. Some have become good friends. Some are even a very big part of my family now. So all in all a great life experience!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 11:26AM
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Deb, please don't think I was complaining about spouses coming and getting plants. I wasn't. I just didn't really see how it was any different whether it was a child or a spouse or a newbie, especially when the child has actually brought plants to swap and is choosing plants for their own garden. Usually Sara comes home with about 5 or 6 small plants that are more often than not, something I never would have picked up. She's way to shy to try and jump ahead of an adult to grab a choice plant. This time she was on the playground during the entire swap. I actually picked up something for HER.

I personally come to the swaps mostly for the fellowship and fun and the special swaps. I don't really care all that much what I get in the general swap. Therefore, I'm not one to want a bunch of rules about who can and can't pick plants. I like things relaxed and don't resent anyone picking plants at any time. But I want everyone to be happy, so if the consensus is that children not participate, well so be it.

I would be more than happy to contribute to a "children's table" if that would work better for everyone. Heck, it might even be better for the kids. If they didn't have to compete with us adults, they might have more time to decide what to get. Maybe we could even put a little more information about size, sun/shade requirements, etc. on the labels.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 11:34AM
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rootdiggernc(Z-7A NC)

Dana, no hon not bothered at all by what you said. As a matter of fact it was you that got me thinking in the direction of something special for the kids. We had talked about this a couple swaps ago when we talked about your daughter gardening. I wish I had got my kids into gardening at an early age like you have.

I actually appreciate the push to think about all this and now that I've thought about it I'm really excited about doing a kids table once my local swap is big enough to start one. What a neet way to encourage budding gardeners!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 11:50AM
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Tammy Kennedy

for me, it really is like christmas! i agree with what so many have posted. i do think name tags are absolutely essential, and front & back are a great idea. i think the preswaps go smoother when we have an area to spread a bit more and use the flags, though it was nice being in the shade this time. one downside to preswapping is a lot less time to check out what everyone's brought to the main swap. maybe we just need to leave a bit more time for that, though the flags helped streamline that last time.

i wish i could say that the swaps have helped me spend less money. i have more plants than before the swaps, but i probably spend almost as much. the difference is now i think about what i might be able to trade for first and spend more money on fewer, harder to find plants. it's certainly filled my gardens with lots of memories and thoughts of the people i got those plants from and i just wish i knew about this when i was just starting! i adore the idea of passalong plants and all of us sharing. one of my favorite parts of the swaps is meeting the newbies and sending them off with lots and lots of plants to fill up their gardens inexpensively. i guess it's a pay it back kind of mentality, for the help i got when i was getting going (didn't have the swaps, but did get a lot of things from great gardeners). i really wish that there was a bit more visiting time at the end. i'll admit i was bummed that it didn't go til dusk like it was scheduled this time- i thought maybe i'd finally get a chance to visit with some of the gw's who i hadn't yet. i love the social aspect of it, and try to get to know 1 or 2 people better each time. and of course the food, too. :)

i agree with nan that a pet peeve is when people don't label what they brought. i was guilty this last time because i had 2 things i had stickers for and just forgot. the things that aren't labelled often get left for last. i know it takes more effort, but bring less and label everything and everyone will thank you. having a screen name is very helpful for future ?'s, but not many folks bother. i wish more did, so i can remember them as i enjoy the plant! that's one of many reasons i now prefer the preswaps.

thanks nan, for being brave enough to bring up an uncomfortable subject that has been bugging me and others for a while. i agree that while i don't want to discourage budding gardeners, i have been one of the ones who felt like some of the kids were grabbing plants for the parents, in addition to the parents grabbing their own. i always bring my kids and hubby, but neither have ever taken part in the swaps simply because they aren't gardeners and didn't bring plants. i have no issues with couples both participating if they're both gardeners, or kids if they are really interested in plants, but just to be another set of hands really bothers me, and that's how it's come across to me at times. it doesn't seem like it's playing fair. no rules is fine, til someone bends the unwritten or unsaid rules of niceness and fair play. i think maybe we need a few spare 'guidelines' to help clarify the expectations. rules aren't always restrictions- sometimes they can free us up, too. even though we say it's 'no rules', we already have some- the 1 plant this round, 2 next round, etc is a kind of rule.

i think deb's suggestion of a separate kid table for the first few rounds is a great one, because i know this swap was too crowded for me to want to elbow into, so i stood off to the side for the first few rounds and i still bumped into and was bumped by frantic kids. i think someone's bound to get hurt that way. nan's suggestion of a round for them before the the free for all at the end, or even the 4x swaps, but i think the first few rounds should be for gardeners only. whether or not you're young or new and could bring- that doesn't matter- the point is to get everyone a fair chance and for noone to get hurt. sorry if this hurts anyone's feelings; that's the last thing i want.

i have switched to preswapping for stuff that i really want and feel happy if i bring just a couple goodies home from the general swap because of the crowded, prechrismas free-for-all craziness. i get pure jewels through prewapping, granted with a different kind of stress, but i like it better. it just doesn't seem worth it to me to fight over a good plant or hover for 1/2 hour ahead of time to be sure i get 'that one'. i stay around the edges and grab a few til it clears out some. if everyone else likes that process, i won't object, but i probably won't participate much, either. i still love the idea of finding something i had no idea about, and hate that it's gotten so hurly burly that i lose some of those chances. granted, as someone earlier said, as my gardens have filled, i'm getting pickier and pickier, too. and i'm thrilled if i leave with less than i came with. so for me, i guess it's a wash. i get some of my giddies ahead of time thinking about the great preswaps instead of afterwards thinking about the unexpected things now.

even with the minor negatives, i wouldn't miss seeing all of you and swapping plants for nearly anything. being surrounded by like minded people if only for a short frantic time, is so much fun. i look forward to these for at least 3 months in advance if not more, and am already thinking about what to bring to the fall swap. like ais and nan said, it's made me better about propagation and planning ahead. i even forgot a few plants i'd potted up months ago for this swap. oh well- i'll bring em to the next! :) viva le swap!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 12:12PM
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hightider(z8 NC)

john i am almost eighty years old and have been two five county fairs and five hog calling contests and i belive what you and the other folks who started this swap allows those who garden a real opportunity to see how other gardeners raise plants from seed and divide plants and share with their fellow gardeners it is awsome it kindles your lust for plants you dont have and maybe the nursery might have or better yet you might pre trade at the next swap i like most of the gardener can affiord to buy most anyting however getting plants that are native to n.c. now that is a really big bonus i recived some oldies that i never seen at lowes or home depot or other garden centers and i hope to exchange some natives from the coastal area with flolks from the triade area, as to my buying habits ill buy more as a result of this type trade then i woulkd otherwise my KUDOS to the folks in raliegh

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 7:07PM
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Perhaps I've been too busy participating in the general swap to notice what's going on. If I was too brash in my comment above I apologize. Fairness should always be an issue. My initial reaction was to what I misinterpreted as greediness- something I think should have no place amongst such generous gardeners as the ones I've met here.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 8:28PM
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karen__w(z7 Durham, NC)

I hated to miss the swap this spring, but family commitments took precedence. In response to John's initial question, swaps don't really curb my nursery spending, I just buy other stuff I couldn't get by swapping. Probably more expensive stuff than I would have bought otherwise, but the overall budget stays about the same. As for propagating, I don't think swaps have honed my skills, but they sure give me a way to off load my little experiments. I typically bring more to the swaps I attend than I take home these days. I'm like Tam, in that so many people were generous with me at the beginning of my gardening life that most of the time I still feel like I have a debt to pay down.

I like the social aspect of the swap and picking other gardener's brains. I like the plants and pass-along treasures, many of which you couldn't buy if you wanted to because they're not out there on the commercial market. I've come away with great stuff by pre-swap and also in the general trade. I get the impression that maybe it was a little more hectic at this swap? I would be happy to bring extras for a kids table in the future or whatever seems to work for the group. Although I haven't brought my daughter to this swap before, she's been to others I'm involved with. Unfortunately she's most likely to take something from what's leftover at the end, usually something invasive that I didn't pick up on purpose. She would probably love to bring her own set of trades next fall, but I would have to prescreen to be sure she doesn't pot up something irreplaceable from my garden when I'm not looking.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 8:59PM
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Well, I feel just absolutely awful. I had no idea that people felt this way about children participating in the swaps. It really hurts to think what people have been saying about me behind my back because I allowed my daughter and my nephew to participate. I can't believe people think I was having them be "extra hands" for me to get more plants. I already have most of the plants available in the general swap anyway. And honestly my nephew is so into plants that he asked for pots and a plant stand for Christmas last year. He asks me months in advance when the plant swap is. And I usually bring more myself than Sara and I combined come home with, so I really didn't think anything was wrong with her picking up a few little plants. Her whole interest in gardening stems from picking up a couple of unlabeled mystery plants left at the end of the swap the year we got booted out of Lake Benson park because of a body found in the lake. They turned out to be obedient plant and some sort of campanula. She brought the offspring of those to subsequent swaps. Had I known how people felt, I would have let her pick in my place, but now I just don't even feel welcome anymore knowing what people have probably been saying about me. I'm sorry to have caused so much trouble.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 9:02PM
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Tammy Kennedy

shari, i don't think your comment was brash at all. i think disliking greediness is at the heart of the issue that's been brought up- so it seems we're all in agreement about that.

karen, i hated that you missed this swap, too! i for one am glad you enjoy experimenting with propagation- i have some of your 'experiments' growing happily in my yard! :) i giggled at the thought of your daughter picking something rare to dig, 'cause my kids would do the same. inevitably if they pick me posies it's always something rare i'd much rather enjoy in the garden. they're learning slowly, it's better to pick the things i have lots of, than the one of a kinds that are sooo tempting. i'd be happy to contribute easy, kid friendly, but adult approved plants.

i, too, love picking other's brains and getting new ideas. to me it's the same excitement i get going to an art gallery and seeing stuff that gets me excited about doing art again, except i'm a lot more likely to play in my garden. it's my creative outlet now- a giant canvas!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 9:20PM
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I love our swaps. Could they be improved- I don't know and I don't know how. If there is a problem with "extra hands" then we could limit it to gardeners first no matter their age. If you provided something for the table you get to choose something. I don't want to get to the point of checking in plants. I'm like some of the original swappers I don't take home as much as I brought but I bring home stuff I want to try.

How have the swaps affected my spending habits. I spend more but I am able to make educated choices. I have a better idea regarding my soil and my sun. I have been able to grow with my garden. I am venturing out with new plants because I have grown many of the standards and either had success or failure and I have been able to for the most part figure out what I did wrong. Sometimes I planted the right plant in the wrong place or didn't give it the nutrition it needed. I also have noticed I can tell if the nursery help knows what they are talking about. I know so little regarding the world of gardening. I seek out people who can guide me. I want help finding the right plant for my garden not just a sales pitch about the newest cultivar. So I spend more but my dollar goes much further. I also buy with the hope of being able to learn to propagate and pass on. If nursery owners are wondering if swaps hurt their business I don't believe so. If I get one person into gardening then at some point they are going to purchase plants which equals more revenue for nurseries. Everyone knows you can't buy just one plant!

More room would have been nice but then I don't think we have ever had so many people attend. Each swap is different depending on the time of day, weather, month and location. It is hard to gage how many people will attend. I didn't think there would be so many judging from the special swap threads. It seemed most of the trades were between older members and a few new webbers. I am glad each and everyone showed up. I thought it was a great showing of plants and gardeners (and food).I am sorry if anyone left feeling like they were slighted. I was late and didn't really get a chance to meet many new people. And the fact that I am actually quite shy.

And oh yeah about plants left over. They don't bother me a bit. Usually the last gardeners divide them up and take them home. I, personally, love bringing them home and sharing them with my neighbors. Right, now I have the sweetest little six year old neighbor who loves to come visit me and see what new plants I have for her new butterfly garden.

John, I think you are doing a wonderful job! I brag about you,my gardening guru, all the time. Shannon/Dirtrx

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 9:33PM
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Dana, I don't think this is directed at you at all. I think the issue is with children who may have been instructed to grab particular plants by the parents so that they would be sure to get what they wanted. I can clearly remember you telling your daughter not to pick up blooming garlic chives at the last Fall Swap. It was obvious that she was acting on her own and wanting the pretty flowers.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 9:46PM
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Tammy Kennedy

no, it's absolutely not directed at dana or anyone's kids who are gardeners. it makes me excited to think we may be bringing the next round up with awesome ideas. or, maybe they'll surprise us all and come up with something even better than we have. kids see so clearly sometimes.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 10:56PM
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I've been to three swaps and loved them all. I was out of town for this last one, but I almost had my wife bring my 12 year old daughter because she looks foward to them so much. My daughter is the one that gets me out and helps me divide the plants in time for the swaps. We have always brought a very generous amount of good quality plants to trade. The swaps are a great way to get youngsters interested in gardening.
What I really like about the plants from the swaps are that they always grow very well for me. If they are doing so good that someone has enough divide, thats a great sign that it should do fine in my garden. I don't always have the same luck with plants from the nursery grown in greenhouses under perfect conditions.
I would say If anything the swaps ignite my intrest again to go buy more plants, but it dosen't take much to do that.
You do a great job John!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 11:58PM
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Well, obviously I love swaps. I don't spend less, but I get to try other people's favorites, varieties that I could not find, and plants that are best-suited for our little piece of the world. I love the special trades and I like the wonderful chaos of getting plants distributed. It's hard for me to remember every face, since we meet twice a year, and I think I will always be disappointed that I did not have more time to get to know every person. Nancy, I also remember being intimidated for the first 2 minutes of my 1st swap - I am fearful of anyone feeling that way for more than the first 2 minutes because we are too big to welcome everyone individually. I think Nancy has brought up a good point, not only about children but also spouses, which bothered me 3 swaps ago, but I dismisssed it since I didn't think anyone but me noticed/cared. At first I thought the children's table was a good idea, but some children are truly gardeners with contribution to the swap. Most of the children are charming and appreciated, and I would truly miss their not participating. Dana, please do not consider not having your daughter participate. I think we should simply(reluctantly) add the guideline that "only gardeners contributing plants should participate in first [2 or 3] rounds" and just state that "the spirit of swap is sharing the plenty of our gardens, not coveting the bounty of other gardeners'." There is truly enough for everyone, looking at the pots I need to plant in.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 8:30AM
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My husband has not participated in the swaps except to be very helpful in toting plants back and forth and standing next to my stash that I've picked, but if he did why not? if 2 people brought plants why couldn't 2 people participate? And there are kids who really are gardeners too and should be able to take part in the swap.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 9:24AM
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A couple of comments, both to the original question of the thread as well as to the subject of kids participating.

This was my first swap and my reason for attending was definitely the plants since we had a new septic system installed in the winter of 2006 which managed to tear up the back, side AND front yards (picture a war zone). Our lot is a little over an acre in size and I lost at least half the plants I had spent the previous five years buying & planting. The idea of being able to divide some of the plants that escaped the bulldozer and get some new, different plants so I could start over was very appealing.

BUT once I went - I was hooked. I already have plans to root some of my azaleas, divide my daylilies, and save the seeds I usually just let "self sow". I've started a journal on what I ended up with (especially those that I'd never heard of before) & have done tons of research already so I can make sure I'm treating my new babies properly.

I definitely ended up with some plants that I wouldn't normally have gotten - but that was a lot of the fun of it. I've never heard of Moth Mullein or a Hardy Tapioca - I can't wait to see what they look like in real life!

But no, I don't think it will slow down my spending at nurseries at all...after all the Seaboard Cafe is at Logan's, which is 3 minutes from work, which has all those wonderful plants, which just cry out to have a home. And how could I refuse? And Fairview....heavy sigh. And now I've heard about BB...I really need to take a trip to Sanford...

Since I haven't been on the forums but a week or two, I didn't really know anyone - but everyone I met was extremely friendly - I didn't feel like a stranger long. The next swap (yes I'm already planning on coming)will be about both the plants AND the friends, I'm sure.

Now, on to the other subject of kids. I brought my daughter (who is 21, but not a gardener) because we had an event to go to right after the swap. She did pick up some plants for me, but since I had seen several other couples and kids participating I assumed it was the normal thing to do. Other than the first round, however I had her pick up small plants that there were several of on the table (no unique or rare plants), because I thought that was only fair. I brought enough plants to fill the back of my van, so I didn't feel that I was abusing the system.

My mother hooked me into gardening when I was small with my own personal garden (I seem to recall hollyhocks, morning glories & sunflowers). I wish I had done the same for my daughter at the same age, so that I could be like hollyclyff & say that I had encouraged another generation of gardeners instead of saying that my 21 year old is not a gardener.

I love the idea of a children's table - I would personally let them go first (before the big kids) because I'm sure we would all enjoy seeing their excitement & joy. Perhaps we could treat it kind of like Thanksgiving - when you are under a certain age (10?) you participate in the kids table, once you get a little older you can swap at the adult table?

As to whether or not to let husbands or wives or kids participate, the rule just needs to be made clear. I think gardeners should be allowed to participate whether they are single or a couple, no matter what the age.

A couple of suggestions I would like to make would include

1) Name tags with both on-line & real names. Also, maybe "First-Timer"? Also perhaps a quick note about your expertise? ("ask me anything", "pretty good" & "help me"?

2) Different sections for shade-loving, sun-loving, native, kid friendly, and shrubs & trees (no matter how small) (I certainly didn't expect that the little 4" high Hardy Tapioca would grow up to be an 8'-10' shrub! )

3) Encourage people to bring folding tables if they have them to help segregate the plants a bit better

4) Label the different areas (in item #2) with signs so that as people bring plants up, they can put them in the right spot

5) If we are going to eat lunch so late, warn people ahead of time. I made the incorrect assumption that since everyone was bringing food & it started at 12:00 we would eat before the swap. If I had known I would have grabbed a quick snack before I came.

P.S. I can personally attest to hollyclyff bringing lots of plants and food to the swap - I have two of her daylilies in my yard as we speak! Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 12:25AM
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Most of you don't know me or remember me because I have been absent from GW for a while because of personal reasons. Hello to all who remember me...

To address the main issue of this post I would like to say, although I have only been to 2 swaps one in my area and the one there that John hosted in the fall of 2005. So I guess I am still considered a newbie.

I for one LOVE SWAPS...OMG they are GREAT!!! >>>>> FREE PLANTS....wow what could be better? I came mainly for the plants, but the people and the food was great too. I drove all the way from the NC/SC line to get there, was it worth it? Absolutely, I picked-up some plants that I would have never been able to get here in this area. So yes, the main reason was for plants.
But how can you put a value on being able to spend hours with people who share your enthusiasm for gardening as much as you do. As the other poster stated, as gardeners most of us want to share plants with the WORLD, but not everyone gets it. Being able to meet with a whole group of people who "get you" is incomparable. Swaps are the only way I know this could come about.
I am thankful for GW, and all of the people I have shared plants with through this place and the swaps. My budget doesnt allow me to splurge on plants that I want. Without the generosity of the people I traded with at the swaps I would not have the beautiful plants I got. I had been looking for a Chocolate Vine forever; thanks to the sweet lady at the swap I was able to get one. And it looks great; I hope it blooms this year.
I would love to be able to come to another swap, when I am able to yes I will be right there with you all. I had a blast! Although I would have liked to talked to a lot more of you I wish they could last longer.

....Just my own observations and opinion....
As for the issue of children: Personally, I think they should be left at home ONLY because I need grown-up time :)Âlol, but I understand that a lot of parents donÂt leave their children with other people, I didnÂt (Where I went my children went, if they couldnÂt go I didnÂt go) or they may be using this as a learning tool, or a vacation.
That said, I donÂt have a problem with well behaved ones.What I do have a problem with is those children who are allowed to run around uncontrolled, screaming, and interfering with adult conversations (just for attention, not ones who truly need something from their parent) If children are not made to behave they shouldnÂt be allowed to come to a grown-up function. Everyone knows exactly what I am talking about. I am not trying to be rude or hurt anyoneÂs feeling, just stating a fact...Unruly children are more apt to be hurt, which would be a liability to the sawps in general.
On that note, however, the children I remember from the swap I attended where well-behaved. And not getting in the way of the adults. I know Tammy brought her children, who where well-mannered, kudos Tammy for having those kind of kids, even when I followed you home, they did not interrupt our conversation, which is very impressive now-a-days, people just donÂt make their children mind anymore.
(AGAIN, NOT TRYING TO UPSET ANYONE OR HURT ANYONES FEELINGS, NOT TRYING TO START AN ARGRUMENT so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE Do NOT be offended, I am a parent too, mine are just grown now)....Just my own observations and opinion.....
I am sorry Dana was made to feel like folks had a problem with her daughter, I think she was with her at the swap I attended I would be willing to contribute to a childÂs table for those who are interested in their own plants. Again as the other poster stated for children say under age 10 or 12. BUT those over the age limit everyone agrees should be the "ChildrenÂs section" there is a simple solution for this problem, since everyone seems to be in agreement with the statement that everyone should we name tags and list their GW name on their plants, let those children sign-up with their own GW id. Then they can participate just like ever other GWer member, that way they would be considered a swapper too!

As for spouses and "extra-hands" I think in the later rounds I personally think they should be allowed to grab too, especially if they garden too. Heck, I am sure they helped purchase a lot of the plants that contributed to the memberÂs garden who is the actual trader/swapper.
As mentioned above, I saw the extra-hands going on at the swap I attended and thought it was unmentioned acceptable behavior too.
I, too, asked my helper to get a couple of plants I wanted because I was going to be on the other side of the swap. However, in my case, these where plants that had lasted through several rounds and was unclaimed AND I brought my mother along, who although doesnÂt have a screen name here I had set a few special trades up for her myself, didnÂt participate in the swap outside of her special trades but did bring along extra plants from her garden to put on the tables. So I didnÂt think anyone would mind if my helper grab a plant or two extra because of the extra plants my mom brought, and the two plants he grabbed my mom had been eyeing too, but she would not pick-up for herself, because she kept saying she didnÂt need anymore plants, BUT guess where those ended up at when we got home? You guessed itÂand they look great in her yard!

I personally donÂt care what everyone brings their plants in, heck, it is a plant swap. I know a lot of people do not have nursery pots to put their plants in. I had a few of them to use, but most of mine came to the swap in red and blue solo cups. If this bothered anyone, well, I am sorry. It is the only thing I could afford to use, since I brought a lot to the swap. I thought the 20 oz cups would be better then the 8/12 oz Styrofoam cups. I also donÂt mind picking plants out of a bucket of water, I am a true gardener and as long as I can keep them wet for the trip home I am happy.

I do agree with the other posters and suggestions posted here (some are good suggestions) for the most part.
Anyway, just my two cents, not intended to upset or hurt anyoneÂs feelings, statements are my own opinion. I enjoyed meeting everyone I met at the swap, and hope they continue to participate. I canÂt wait until I am able to attend another swap, I miss having all that fun.
Happy Gardening EVERYONE, may this year be super!
;) NCGardengirl

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 5:07PM
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Hi John -- A little feedback for your article it looks like I may be in a minority here, but I do spend less money on plants due to trading. In the past two years in particular, I've maintained a tight plant budget. However, by necessity, I do spend a lot on other garden-related things that are not highly tradable, including soil, mulch, amendments, hoses and nozzle replacements (constantly), tools, Bt, bat guanoyou name it. And I mail-order or pick up seeds and the occasional bulbs and rhizomes. I have connections with folks who coordinate native plant rescuesif you survey my garden in spring, you'll see lots of trout lilies (I saw a single one at a garden center for $7!), bloodroots, gingers, hepaticas and other ephemerals that came from sanctioned plant rescues. It cost me nothing except travel time and a day of exhilarating labor in the woods. I swap often with hort folks and naturalists. Then there are cuttings. In general, when I take a cutting of something, I've made a commitment not to buy that plant (and there is the ancillary benefit of learning about plant propagationwhat works and what doesn't). Through propagation workshops, I've had access to cuttings from Raulstonagain, things that are unusual or not widely available elsewhere. In terms of plant materials, I usually make carefully planned purchasestry to keep a few big-ticket things on my wish list that can't easily be had from a trade (i.e., one day, when I have the right spot, I'll buy Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' since Baptisia is hard for people to divide and slow to mature from seed. I'd like to start with a good-size plant). As for where I shop, I usually buy from individuals or at farmer's markets.

Another overwhelmingly import reason I trade plants is the passalong aspect. As I walk around my garden, I admire the phlox, cannas, dahlias and irises that came from Miss Brownie, with whom I grew up in a small town. She died a few months ago at 90 years of age. The canna she gave me belonged to her mother. So I look at it knowing that it is literally the same plant and is more than a century old. Then there are the dahlias I got from Mrs. Hicks, who lives on the side of a mountain in a small community in NC. There are the four o'clocks I got from an abandoned homestead near where I grew up. There are "Shannon's foxgloves," "Ralph's elephant ears," "Nancy's sedum" and "Tammy's campanulas." How priceless is that!

Now: on to the delightful swap you organize and why I come. I have attended three. At the first one I arranged quite a few special trades and brought a modest amount for the general swap. I left with many more plants than I came with. At that swap, someone came hitching a trailer loaded with plants, and the surplus after the general swap was incredible. The second time, I arranged a lot of special trades and brought a lot more stuff for the general swap. I left with less than I came with. This time, my third swap, I arranged only two special trades, brought a modest amount for the general swap, and came home with less. Of all three times, I was much less stressed at this recent onenot having to do so much running around people-finding for the special trades and being very Zen about perusing the general pile (no complaints about the way it was runmy stress previously was self-imposed). I was able to sit back and relax, look around at folks, visit with a few, and really, really savor the food (previously, I was much too excited and distracted). As for whether I come for the plants or the people, it's a little bit of both, I'd say, but leaning more toward the plants. Not because you aren't a WONDERFUL lot, but because I tend to relate better one-on-one than in a group. I prefer to visit with people in the setting of their gardens or mine, where I can really take in everything--both looking and talking.

One last thing. When evaluating your swap, when you get right down to it, I believe it is important to recognize it as a twofold entity: the actual gathering itself and all the bulletin board discussions and conversations that precede it. I feel like I have gotten to "know" more of you that way than at the swap itself, where time is more limited and the atmosphere more chaotic (and where I can't easily put names with faces).

Hope these (probably way-too-copious) comments are helpful, John. Good luck with your article. And thanks again for organizing the swap.

Carla B.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 9:09PM
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Seems I opened a can of worms here - I was just reporting the comments I heard. However, several posters have presented excellent ideas on how to quell the discontent expressed. A children's table is a grand solution, along with having the garden don't care's (who don't bring their own personal plants) wait until the third bell ding. I wish my dear departed MIL could have been with me - she would have a blast just watching everyone - as it is I bring my DD who is an adult, but a gardener nevertheless, and my indispensable right hand landscaping "man". She brought her own plants but doesn't have a screen name. Husbands fall into that same category; they don't have screen names and only know the common names of plants they like. But, they dig holes, tote pots, water, cover when frost threatens, and listen to our endless ideas and plans for our plants. They should be allowed to choose something that they want for themselves! They are just as much a part of gardening as we are and should be in on the opening ding. As I said, I think having special one-on-one trades has alleviated a lot of the frustration of going around the tables only to have some child grab a choice plant and have no idea what they have but by the urging of their mother/father - they were just told to snag "that one". Those children who are budding gardeners should be welcomed on the first ding if they are over 10 and bring something to share. My 12 year-old grandson knows more about cactus than I will, ever. His Latin pronunciation is rough though:-). Point is that five year-olds don't have a clue what a Euphorbia cyparissias is. They'd be happier with a common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) on a children's table set up just for them, moms/dads not allowed.

It is true that we bring more plants than we take home; figure it out. There are many who don't bring plants - that is part of the charm of the swaps - welcome to all. But set reasonable guidelines. This is not a "free plant give away" this is a "swap". If you have nothing in your yard, bring cuttings or starts of what you get next time, bring food, bring pots, books, magazines, or seeds. No one keeps track of what you bring and what you take home. If you want it to be that way then you need to do special trades for one-on-one, for value-to-value.

AND to my list, add number
6. Be on time for the first bell.
Mea culpa.

and add number
7. Plan to spend the day chatting. Don't rush off; we want to talk plants with you. You are our inspiration; we could commiserate; we can encourage; we want to know more about you and what gardening means to you in your personal section of the world since gardening is really, quite a solitary hobby. Sharing it with conversation at the swaps is invaluable to us.

Nancy the nancedar

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 9:59PM
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Thanks everyone for responding. I will use this info in my piece. You'd be surprised at how many people want to know all the details of our little swaps.

For the record: I didn't invent swaps. I read about it here on Gardenweb somewhere (probably the Exchange and Get togethers forums). I moved here in late 2000 and thought, "what a great way to meet other gardeners!" and "if it fails, what do I care, I don't know anybody!". So the Raleigh swaps were born. Dirtrx, Hollyclyf, Rootdigger and Aisgecko were at the first one I believe and the group has grown since then. I don't want it to get any bigger. I don't talk it up outside of GardenWeb for that reason.

Another thing I don't want is to be the 'Swap Police'. Rules will remain at a minimum because at my core I would really rather be in the thick of things rather than running the show. Not that I'm complaining. I have a lot of fun doing it the way we do it now. But I don't want to change much because it would just add a layer of complexity to the whole mess. Other swaps (outside of NC) are run by garden clubs and have teams of volunteers to enforce all the rules, and from the way it sounds - they have a lot less fun than we do. Part of the charm is the chaos.

Kids will be allowed to swap. Non gardeners can join in also. My attitude is = if ya don't have plants to trade, bring food. The special trades and pre arranged trading takes care of any touchy trading difficulties. I encourage everyone bringing something to trade to talk it up before the general swap to see if anyone has something you want. Trading before and after the swap is a good idea and it will allow you to get the most for your offering. This is a swap. You are there to meet people and trade plants. One of my favorite things about it is the names and faces attached to the plants I now grow in my garden.

I used to ask the audience if we wanted to restrict the first two signals (bell ding in all swaps before this recent one) to only those who brought plants. No one ever thought it was important because there were way more plants than people. I will probably ask if that is the wishes of the group from now on. It all kinda depends on the level of plants we have before us (this last swap had some nice quality!).

We scramble the plants on purpose rather than segregate them into categories. We used to and the crowds around certain areas were just too thick. So by scrambling them we get better crowd control.

Many conflicts will be resolved in future swaps because we will be at the bigger shelter which has more room. The park staff commented on how 'lively' our group was. They want us back, but only at the large shelter and we have to do better about blocking traffic flow in the parking lots. They counted more than 50 people!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 1:46PM
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Yay! I'm glad the swap will be at a bigger shelter next time. The swap was enjoyable but a bit like a giant game of Twister. :)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 4:09PM
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I'm pleased the swap won't change. My favorite part is the sheer joy I get from participating. Part of that fun is certainly the chaos. The special trades are genius though a little work to keep straight, they are worth it to the collectors who are so generous to keep supplying us novices with an incredible selection of plants. I am happily nearing the point that I will be able to give back. This is my third summer here and am finally beginning to see good come from all my hard work with the soil. I am noticing all kinds of new babies in my garden every day and many plants to be divided in the fall. I can't wait. Adele

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 9:08PM
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John, I LOVE the swaps!! Thank you so much for all you do to arrange them, and make them fun events. Ya gotta get a new bell, though!

I have been coming for a couple of years. I first brought my sister, Cindy, with me. She came to live here in NC after her youngest boy was killed in a car accident four years ago. So, just to try and get her moving and involved in something, I began to drag her to the swaps. She did some limited gardening in Ohio, and enjoyed picking out plants with me. She looked forward to the swaps, and enjoyed them almost as much as I. I think getting out amoung the gardeners was good for her, too. Cindy moved back to Ohio last August, and was sad to miss the last fall's and this spring's swap.

Last spring, I turned my younger sister, Nola, onto the swaps. She had just started gardening a bit, and was also in the process of splitting up with her husband of 13 years. At the first swap, she had no plants to share, so she made sure to bring food! Crazy girl came home with everything she could get her hands on, including one or two of the most invasive plants known to man! It was so much fun to watch her. She brought home every leftover plant there was, for a total of 76 plants!! She got it all in the ground and has had a ball playing in the dirt, and the "plant therapy" has been very beneficial to her, as well. She has also attended last fall's swap and this one, too. We are both becoming more selective, mostly because of lack of space!

I relate these stories so that people can understand how important these functions can be to others, beyond the mere acquisition of plants. The generosity of spirit is wonderful. No one asks how many plants you brought, or what kind. No one cares. The simple act of sharing so selflessly with others is so beautiful and so appreciated.

I like the plants jumbled up. It makes the swap more exciting to have to look around for plants you like. Organizing for sun, shade, etc. is too much work. We had a natives area, once, though, and that was fun.I also like the different containers. I don't give a rip if a plant comes in a 'pot', a yogurt cup (like mine!) a styrofoam cup or anything else, for that matter. Who cares? It got there, didn't it?

I bring my son, who is 12 now. He doesn't garden, nor does he participate in the swap. He might eat, but usually stays at the playground. That being said, I love for the other kids to come. If they garden, they can participate, in my opinion.

All in all, I am very happy with the swaps. I enjoy seeing people and talking gardening and making new gardening friends.

Thank you all.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 8:21PM
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Jean Hidden

Dana, I think it is wonderful that you brought your daughter. I love to see kids interested in plants. I would welcome all the kids personally.
I also think it is ok to direct them in picking plants - especially in what not to pick (lol). An example might be tropical plants (esp in the fall) that someone else might love to have (when you don't have a greenhouse) or plants for full sun when all you have is shade or vice versa. It makes sense to me that they may not know what is easy to grow or vital growing conditions needed for all the plants there. (I certainly don't - lol)
Do you think we have enough kids interested in plants for a kid's table? Mine would probably be interested but it depends on the swap dates as they often have soccer/other conflicts.
Special trades certainly offer the opportunity for adult-only swapping or swapping for rare or special plants, so I think it is great to welcome the kids if they want to come.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 9:25AM
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