Plant exchanges awash with greenthumbs

  • May. 24, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Spring is the time of renewal. Perennial plants, ones that herbaceous stems from the same roots year after year, benefit from being split or divided in the spring or fall.

Perennials that have died out in the center should be dug and all the dead roots removed with a sharp tool. A healthy plant can placed back in the original spot with excess plants being used elsewhere, given away sold or composted.

Perennials that creep along the ground can be dug, split and replanted or a portion can be removed to be planted elsewhere. To make a new plant each piece needs to have an upward stock and a root system. Plants with one taproot do not divide or transplant well.

When cleaning the flowerbed this spring, pot up extra plants to bring to a local plant exchange where they can be exchanged for a different variety of plant.

The purpose of a plant exchange differs with the group putting it on but the result is similar; people trade plants and discuss gardening.

The rules of plant exchanges vary but there are a few basic rules. Make sure that the plants are healthy and free of pests and weeds.

Do not bring plants that are on the Alberta Invasive Weed list. They are on the list for a reason; if left unchecked they take over native habitat. More than 75 per cent of the plants on the noxious weed list are escaped ornamentals. That being said, each area will have their own list of problem weeds. It is up to the person who is running the exchange to decide which ones are acceptable and which ones are not.

Avoid bringing plants that have spread quickly in the garden and have caused problems. Aggressive plants, or thugs, do have a place in the garden but not in a plant exchange when many of the participants are novice gardeners. The average homeowner does not have a need for these plants and they can be refused at the exchange or thrown away afterwards.

Some exchanges ask that plants be potted others stipulate clean containers. A potted plant with all its roots covered will survive the transplant shock better than one that is bare rooted especially in warm conditions.

If the plants are not potted, place them in a clean container: buckets, margarine or yogurt containers, plastic bags are acceptable. When using a plastic bag make sure it is strong and will not break under the weight of the rootball.

Large plants can be brought as one plant or divided into a number of pieces to allow more people to benefit.

If possible, label all plants. Give as much information as possible; name, variety, height and color of flowers. Missing information can often be supplied by other gardeners attending the exchange.

New gardeners, the people that need the plants the most, usually do not have plants to bring to the exchange. These people are still welcome. Instead of bringing a plant they can purchase plants at a minimal cost or put in a donation.

A word of caution, plants that are traded could contain dew worms and or slugs. Dew worms aerate the soil while leaving large lumps that make the lawn rough to mow and walk over.

Slugs are just annoying as they like to eat leaves and flowers when it cool and hide in the shade during the day.

Red Deer and District Garden Club will hold their plant exchange on May 28th. Plant Drop off from 10 a.m. until noon with the sale starting 12:30 p.m. at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. A coupon is given for every plant that is brought in that is potted and labeled. Cost is either three coupons or $1 to 3 per plant. The cost will be higher for premium plants.

Lacombe and District Garden Club is hosting their sale on May 30 (noon to 8:30 p.m.) and Wednesday, June 1 (noon to 7 p.m.) at 33 Cameron Close in Lacombe.

In Rocky Mountain House the plant exchange will take place on Friday at the Clearwater County’s Agricultural and Landcare office on 47th Avenue from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. The purpose of this exchange is to encourage others to garden which means that the plants are free.

Hope to see people at these exchanges. They are fun and you never know what plants will arrive.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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