May is the time of month for swaps. Every Saturday, there
seems to be a
plant exchange somewhere. Some have become annual traditions,
such as the
St. Peters and Art Gallery swaps (which were held in April this
Perennials increase in size every year, some more quickly
than others, and
seedlings are popping up everywhere. As Des Kennedy pointed out
in a talk
recently, gardeners have a difficult time throwing viable plants
compost heap. We give bits and pieces to our friends, pot them
swaps, and plant them in unlikely spots. I've been known to throw
over the fence in hopes of carpeting the forest with foxgloves
With all these free and bargain plants coming your way,
I thought some
advice would be timely. These plants are all spreaders! Sometimes
just what you want, but be wary. This year I'm giving away a
montbretia (crocosmia). I love this plant, and wouldn't consider
complete with out its sprays of little orange trumpets in the
But, if you ignore it for a few years, you will find it coming
within a 3-foot radius. This is not a big deal. It just involves
trowel work to remove the wanderers.
But there are other, more sinister, surprises lurking on
the plant swap
table. Bishop's Weed is one to look out for. It has flowers similar
Queen Anne's Lace in the summer, and some have lovely variegated
spreads by underground runners, and in a couple of years, a small
spread into a meter sized patch of smothering leaves that choke
delicate plants in its path. Like Morning Glory, if you try to
dig it up,
any piece of root left behind will start a new patch.
Bugleweed (Ajuga) is a fairly benign carpet plant that's
ideal for many
situations. Just don't place it anywhere near a lawn, for if
it creeps in
while you're not looking, you'll have buglelawn. Green lawn adorned
spreading patches of dark purple just isn't that attractive.
Aside from plants which run (or rampage), you'll also find
plants that seed
freely on offer at swaps. Not too many of these are a problem.
foxgloves to be a bit too generous in my garden, and they pop
up on my
windowsills, in the cracks of siding and just about everywhere.
these seedlings don't survive my annual spring weeding (and pressure
washing) though, and I usually end up with just the right amount.
The main thing to take with you to plant swaps is a bit
of common sense. If
you're unfamiliar with something you bring home, borrow some
books or seek
advice. Find out what it is, how big it's likely to get, and
how quickly it
spreads before you make room for any newcomer.