what people look for at the swaps and why

brandon7 TN_zone(7)May 17, 2009

I'm wondering what general category(ies) people look for at the swaps and why. Below are a few of the categories I can think of, listed in alphabetical order, just to get everyone thinking. If you use other parameters in determining what to look for, please let me know that too.


bog plants

evergreen plants

evergreen trees

fruit trees and plants




pond plants

rare plants

shade plant








I'm usually looking for hardy, disease and pest resistant, easy-to-care-for, non-invasive trees, shrubs, and perennials. Rare items are a big plus. I also keep an eye out for sedums and other hardy succulents.

Here is the reason I am particularly interested in hearing more from everyone. Each year I usually offer one or two things that I think will be a big hit, and, more often than not, those are the things that there is not much demand for. This year, as an example, I have Xanthoceras sorbifolium (Yellowhorn tree/shrub). It's not real common. It's completely hardy anywhere in Tennessee. Likes full sun. And, is typically described as striking or beautiful. So far, I've only received one request for it.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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Had your plant plus Ione one also stashed with pictures(only two I brought). As we were packing to leave, gave them away. Maybe Ione will be at the fall swap. Just read she is amazindirt. Maybe then we will meet. Not sure I saw her, but I did have my name on my shirt/plus user name.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 9:32PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

No problem. Thanks for trying!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 9:38PM
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Cool tree! I've never heard of it.

I love unique things, love love love them, but I don't take them home on impulse (well, usually). :) I see it somewhere, go home and google it to infinity, then go back and get it if I'm still interested. But, I guess you're saying you have a list out there, so people would have the opportunity to research first. I dunno. ?

But on the other hand, the longer I garden, the more I have gotten into buying the good ole' faithful cultivars. When I first started gardening, like many people I bet, I brought home anything that caught my eye. Man, I sure made a lot of mistakes like that! So, now maybe I'm a little more cautious if I'm unsure about something.

I look for drought-tolerant perennials for sun, in a particular color palette (purple, peach to brown, white and pale yellow). I like perennials that will pretty much maintain themselves once they are established. I also lean towards things that have a long bloom season, and that have foilage that will look nice after the show is over.

Because of the dogs, I am also very keen on anything different I can put in the backyard that is safe for animals. It's just a little quest I'm on, to create a completely pet-friendly backyard. I was thrilled out of my mind to get cannas at the swap! Limiting it to completely non-toxic selections is narrowing my choices a lot, so I'm very excited to get something different for back there. I can count non-toxic evergreen shrubs on one hand and still have fingers left over.

I have only been to one swap now, but I think it seems like it can be surprising what people are looking for. You never know! It just depends on the person and what they're into. But hostas seem pretty popular. Irises too.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 10:03PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Thanks Connie!

Yes, my list is posted on the ETPS website's Swap Forum.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 10:45PM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

Oh jeez, I COMPLETELY forgot about Brandon's plant. Now I feel bad! Next time, y'all gotta whack me over the head the night before the swap so I'll remember!

Columbiastock -- I always wear tie dye shirts to swaps so I'll be easy to spot!

As for what I look for at swaps -- first I look for variegated plants that I don't have, then unusual things that strike my fancy. If it's a "normal" plant that I can buy at Lowe's, I'm usually not interested in swapping for it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 11:45PM
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velsgarden(TN 7)

Darnit Brandon,I wish you were at our swap,I would have loved to have one of those yellowhorns.It is gorgeous.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 7:38AM
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Looking for at the swaps--I too love the variegated plants and plants that are unusual looking. Why--for me unusual looking, usually a challenge.

amazindirt--No problem, will bring the plants in the fall, besides they will be larger. And I LOVE TIE-DYE!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 8:23AM
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cannahavana(z7a Knoxville)

I look for things that I don't already have, which is tough!


    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 2:27PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I don't know. I have 25 acres, and, if I had it all planted as heavily as I think I eventually will, I still think I could find something at the ETPS that I didn't have. It seems like at every swap someone has something that I didn't even know existed. Sure, there are lots of common stuff, but some of our people have a keen eye out for the unusual. Some of the stuff I see cannot be found at any local nursery and is difficult to locate even from mail order sources. If it weren't for those rare finds, it just wouldn't be quite as fun. Like Ione said, if it's a "normal" plant that I can buy at Home Depot, I usually don't get all that excited.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 2:46PM
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Over the past 10 years and 20 swaps I don't see any rhyme or reason to it!!! Lavonne and I had a nice mix of shade plants, full sun plants, herbs, fruit trees and tropicals. Tim anf Cindy had nothing but Musa's and they made out like bandits but we couldn't give half of our stuff away. Go figure.

It changes as much as the attendance does and I think it's cyclic too. Popularity wanes then comes back around just like clothing styles. That's why I'm hanging onto all my polyester Bell-sleeve, Dashiki and Neru shirts with either no lapels or WIDE lapels; embroidered hip-huggin elephant leg bell bottoms; 3" wide belts with big holes and the Beatles buckle; PEACE sign and Flower Power leather neclaces; tube socks up above my knees; mood rings; suede vests; 6" stacked heels or Earth/Moon shoes and headbands. If the Fab Four wore it, I had to have it

I do think that as we get older we look for more stuff that is NO MAINTENANCE rather than low maintenance! Other than that I can't figure out a trend. It's always hit-n-miss.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 12:14AM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

Jeff, I can't WAIT to see you in a dashiki. LOL!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 12:32AM
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irisaddict(6b/7 TN)


I could think of a plant I want in each of your categories. I am currently on an edible kick. I am hoping for plants to keep my pitcher plants company. I don't like to buy annuals so it is fun to get them free at the swap. Shade plants are always cool. Heck, I like most plants.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 6:00AM
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Great post Brandon! I do think it's hard to predict what folks will want. I know my wants have changed and a lot of it is thanks to you all at the swap. I've researched your 'have' plants and found some incredible plants - I'm exicted to be getting that 'yellowhorn' that you're bringing. My garden is definitely changing, as I am getting older and want a landscape of long lived trouble free plants. I started with daylilies, then roses and now like fragrant trees and shrubs, plants that don't have to be divided, or edibles. I've learned a lot from the swaps - garden wise it's the best thing that's happened to me. Unfortunately, I am sometimes limited by space or growing conditions - by this I mean I'd love more shade plants but don't have a lot of shade. I keep watching the Volunteer Gardener and hoping they'll do another show about the swaps in TN and include a tour of a garden planted with bounty from swapping. How about it Jeff, do I hear you volunteering?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 8:28AM
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I fall into any and all those areas, depending on what part of the yard/garden I am working that time of the year. I may pass a certain plant up one year and then not be able to live without it the next....

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 8:42AM
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At local swaps I normally look for plants:
1] not normally found at local mega stores
2] already on my want list but do not have yet
3] perennials, shrubs, houseplants,
4] older varites that have proven itself over time
5] different/unusal variety of plants from the ones I already have of that species
6] seeds, fresh cuttings of perennials,

I am always on the look out for plants that provide winter intrest.

Each year I have in the back of my mind what new projects I will tackle. When I go to any plant swap or special sale I look for plants to incorporate in that future bed/area.

This year its certain colors.... blue, purple, pink, and loads of white .......


    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 11:54PM
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Marty is the one to make the Volunteer Gardener thing pop not me!

I do think that it would be cool and a great idea to do a follow-up to the prior segment and include the ETPS and the Memphis Swap to show how the popularity has created spin-off swaps to accommodate the masses.

At the MTPS we average 100-125 for the Spring and 60-75 for the Fall. ETPS had 50-60 yesterday and I don't know how many the Memphis Swap did but as a Plant Swap group, obviously we are all growing! (No pun intended) We must be doing something right. The interest level is constantly rising, newbies are coming on board with more regularity, the word is spreading and with this economy in such a mess it's one of the most economically viable ways to landscape your yard.

We all have something to be very proud of here regardless of which swap is in your area.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 12:05AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I took a really packed pickup truck load of plants with me, and was able to find homes for all of them. I'm glad to see that even after the preswaps online, there was additional interest at the swap. I had been worried that I was going to have to bring a bunch home.

Wow, 100-125 people at a swap! That's getting BIG!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 8:29AM
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tngreenthumb(z6 TN)

100-125 is peanuts. Try 4 freakin hundred!!!!

As for what I look for....easy stuff. Hardy perennials mostly, although I do have a select few tropicals I take in every year, so I won't rule something like that out.

Mostly, I look for the friendliness and interesting conversations. New and interesting information. Plus I like to people watch and that fits right in with my other hobby.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 12:34PM
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madmouser(7 TN)

I garden in big pots and barrels at my condo so my space is limited but I'm always looking for things to add to the mix. Or for the water gardens.
I've gotten some wonderful things that I never would have thought of buying. And my car seems to "collect" plants all by itself! I'm not successful with everything -- I don't have much sun -- but some things I wouldn't expect to do well flourish.
I'm sitting here looking out at the gardens in front and back and so many of the plants are from swaps and I remember talking and laughing with the people who gave them to me and learning about them.
It makes for a very friendly garden.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 3:34PM
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