How is your plant swapping going? Have you got lots of new plant swapping friends after joining the GPS site, or have you just dipped your toe into swapping or perhaps not really got around to contacting anyone asking to swap? Perhaps you are waiting for someone to contact you instead? Now that you have created the page, listed your swaps and sells, perhaps you are wondering where all the swappers are? My best tip is, if you want to swap plants, take the first step and contact people! You will probably find very nice gardeners that are very happy you got in touch and who are more than willing to swap with you.
But what if there isn’t really anyone living close to you that you can swap with, and how far should you expect people to be willing to travel to swap plants? I live in London and I have been a member since April 2013. As I am writing this, on the last days of June 2014, there are 11 members of GPS that lives less than 7 miles from me, 2 of which are nurseries or organisations. You would think that living in Europe’s largest city, there would be many more GPS members near me by now, but looking at where all the members live, they come mainly from other parts of the country. But plant swapping is not necessarily just about swapping with your next door neighbour – or with someone living in the same city or village. I have been swapping plants with Angie who lives in Scotland, 431 miles from me, not exactly a trip you do on a Sunday afternoon! And I have sent off plants to other parts of the country too, and I also have two plant swapping friends that live fairly locally.
I use a courier company called Hermes, they do door-to-door delivery and for me that’s great since as a disabled and housebound it is difficult to get to the post office myself. Delivery is usually 3 days so all the plants have a good splash of water before I wrap them up for the journey. Some courier companies won’t take live plants so check before ordering a collection, you can also use Royal Mail if you have access to a post office - and if you pay for 24 hour delivery the plants will have an even better chance at arriving in a good condition.
Make sure to wrap up the plants well, I always save boxes, padding and wrapping from when I get plants delivered from nurseries, but if you don’t have access to that you can use a sturdy cardboard box, plastic bags and crumpled up newspapers. Also, label the box to show which way is up, that’s very important! To save on the weight you can send some plants bare-root, depending on what plants they are and what time of year it is, other plants can be dug up and most of the soil taken away and then put in a plastic bag.
But of course, sending plants long distance is not the only way, let’s not forget about swapping with your locals too. Meeting likeminded people who probably share the same love for gardening (just as crazy about gardening as you..!) can lead to new friendships, and by actually meeting the person you are going to swap with you will get to see the plants before the swap takes place and one of you get to see the other person’s garden if you meet at home. The advantage of that is that you can have a look around and possibly find other gems that can be put on a list for the next swap. But sometimes it’s just not possible to meet in person to swap, for all sorts of reasons, in those cases it’s a good solution to use a courier.
Swapping plants is a great way of acquiring plants you can’t afford to buy whilst finding a new home for surplus plants from your own garden. My garden is in its 13th year and many of the plants I have are divisions of divisions. I have not been so good at saving seeds, but I often take cuttings. Often way too many. I try to give away plants, but I don’t know that many people to give to, my neighbours are not the slightest interested in gardening. I hope my post has given you some new ideas or at least gives you confidence to go ahead and send your precious babies off in the post. It is always a risk to send live plants and I would definitely avoid Christmas and Easter week for this kind of shipments, but as long as you wrap up securely and always send in the beginning of the week so you are more likely to avoid the week-end, you should be fine. And although it feels like sending off the children to live on their own every time a parcel with plants is picked up at my address, I still do it, and I love to hear how the plants are doing in their new home :-)
It would be great to hear if any of you already have experience with swapping plants and especially if you have been sending them off in the post or by courier. Has anything got lost or been dead by arrival or do you have good experiences?