Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
The woman on the hunt for hosta looked familiar. It was Betsy, my former neighbor. I hadn't seen her since the Greengirls plant swap two years ago, and before that for at least a decade.
It was great to catch up with her, trade notes -- and point out people who had hosta to swap.
That's what's fun about a plant swap, as opposed to browsing for plants at a garden center or even the farmer's market. There's more personal interaction as swappers make the rounds, check out what's available, then circle back to make a trade.
"Where's Helen?" asked a gardener tempted by the seedling tomatoes she spotted in a swapper's labeled stash.
"Who has horseradish?" another swapper asked. "Anyone seen any?"
Swaps bring out interesting people. I met seasoned green thumbs, like the woman who was turning her urban corner lot into a pollinator garden. I met enthusuastic rookies, like the guy who didn't know what plants he was bringing home and didn't care -- he just wanted to start his first garden.
One woman arrived very late, as the swap was winding down and the Greengirls (the Star Tribune's garden bloggers) were gathering up the leftover plants that hadn't found a home. Many of the orphan plants were a bit bedraggled, but the woman was happy to have them -- she tends a garden at a school with disabled children and needs all the plants she can get, she said.
If you didn't make it down to this year's swap, come join us next year. You'll find great plants and great people -- maybe even a familiar face, like a long-lost neighbor.
I spent the weekend digging up plants to get ready for the Green Girls plant swap May 31, and it reaffirmed my affection for hosta. They spread a little, but in a very contained, polite way, and wait fairly patiently for you to realize that they really could benefit from dividing.
While fall is a great time to divide hosta, spring isn’t a bad time either; just make sure to keep transplanted hosta well watered to avoid heat stress and they’ll settle back in fine.
I generally dig up the entire clump, using a sturdy shovel to dig well around the plants until the root ball breaks loose, digging deep enough to avoid damaging the roots. This year I’ve been encountering some very well-rooted hosta and got in a good workout. Once you’ve got the entire plant out, try using your hands first to get the roots apart. If it’s fairly well knotted, use a spade or long trowel to help break them apart. Don’t worry if a few break off, there’s more where that came from.
Then it’s fun time, when you discover that what went into the ground as one bareroot hosta plant has now had a loaves-and-fishes-like transformation. One medium-size golden hosta plant yielded 10 generous clumps, and could have been further divided if I’d felt like repotting that many plants.
Dividing hosta every three to four years helps the plant stay healthy, and I find that if I divide the clumps, they’re less likely to become a slug playground.
So if you’re wondering what to bring to the plant swap this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in the park across the street from the Star Tribune building at 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, take a look at your hosta and see what could stand dividing. If you’re like me, you’ll wind up keeping a few for yourself.
Just make sure to pack them in some dirt if you're digging them up before the morning of the swap or they'll be droopy and harder to swap. Here’s a link to a post from last year on other tips for getting the most out of a plant swap (note that the timing was earlier last year). And here’s a link to a video for more info on dividing hosta from the folks at Spring Hill Nursery.
Gardeners, how often do you divide your hosta? Or do you just let them slowly expand in place? Some varieties take much longer to be dividing candidates than others.
First, let me be clear: This isn't a list of plants you shouldn't own, just a list of plants for which there's no need to trade actual cash unless you're feeling picky. These are the usual suspects that spread, slowly or otherwise, in people's yards and many gardeners would be happy to find a good home for their excess.
These are frequent fliers at our annual Green Girls free plant swap coming up May 31 from 10 to noon in the park area across the street from the Star Tribune building at 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis. If any of these plants are on your wish list, chances are good that you can score plenty of them, even if you think you have nothing to swap in return. These plants you can always find for free:
1. Generic hosta. Either the solid green or the green/white variety show up in droves, because the plants do better if they're periodically divided. Most of them are what I call no-name hostas, because they came with someone's house and weren't planted, so no one ever knew their name. But if you've got a shady area, they're super reliable all-season greenery. And usually someone will show up with some big leaf blue hosta to trade, because even gorgeous, pedigreed hosta need dividing sometime.
2. Lily of the valley. These plants are givers that won't stop giving, and their owners won't stop giving them away. Unless you're heart is set on the pink variety, you're guaranteed to have your fill of lily of the valley.
3. Chives. When I see these plants for sale, I think "Really?! Please, take mine." And if you're smarter than me, you'll put them in pots or else be prepared to dig out the excess. Even garlic chives are likely to make an appearance at most plant swaps.
4. Orange daylilies. Borders upon borders' worth show up at every swap. They may not be as exciting as the many varieties available now for purchase, but if you've just got a side of a garage you don't want to have to think about, a row of these babies will take care of it.
5. Grandma's ferns. There are a lot of gorgeous varieties of ferns worth parting with money for, but if you're just in the market for a back of the shady border staple, nearly everyone who has them, has them in droves and will gladly share. (And if they're by a neighboring fence, we'll share them willy nilly.)
If you're one of the gardeners with these plants to unload, know that someone else always has a spot where they need one of these staples, and if you're one of the people in need, know that you'll find plenty to plant. So mark your calendars and start digging. And in case you didn't guess, you're bound to see some of the plants in these pictures here, along with some more unusual suspects from my garden.
Usually problems in my garden don't assert themselves until late spring or summer. This year I didn't even have to wait until spring.
It all started with this winter's ice dams, when drips started appearing in places we'd never seen before. That sent my husband up onto the porch roof to rake the snow off the offending parts of the roof. After clearing off a ton of snow, he was about to descend the ladder when when there was a hideous crunching sound, and from my vantage point watching out the upstairs window, I saw the porch separate from the house and my husband's head disappear out of view.
After racing downstairs, I discovered that the good news was that only the porch and not my husband had met an untimely demise; he was completely unscathed. While I've got my priorities straight and am counting my blessings, after I quit hyperventilating a few days later I realized the consequences for the garden. The structure formerly known as a porch was bounded on two sides by garden space, both my prime sunny vegetable garden plot and by a row of perennials and shrubs. Any deconstruction/reconstruction of the porch is going to prevent planting, and require removal of any plants I want to try to save.
There's the blueberry we planted last season, and the barberry bush we bought with a gift certificate a friend gave us when my father died; losing that seems like bad karma.
Then there's the first perennial I ever bought when we moved in 19 years ago: a white Henri clematis whose platter-size blooms welcomed me home in the moonlight during the years I worked at nights. Given how hard it can be to establish and maintain a clematis, I'm worried how it will survive transplanting from a location it's clearly enjoyed.
The plant I worry about the most is an outsized weigela bush at the far end of the porch. It's always been too large for its location, despite rigorous efforts at pruning over the years. But its profusion of pink trumpet-shape blooms are long lasting and a magnet for the delightful little buzzing migrants that enlivened many a lunch on the porch. (Wait -- is that, yes, it is, the hummingbird is back!)
This shrub is a good 5 feet in diameter; I can't imagine how wide it has spread its roots. Given that it's smack up against the porch (yet another case of what were they thinking on the part of previous owners), we can't reasonably expect the porch to be rebuilt around it even thought it has more structural integrity than the poorly constructed porch.
I figure we have to give it the old college try to dig it out of harm's way, but given what's likely to be a massive root structure, it's not like we can hope to successfully put it into a large pot while the reconstruction occurs, and even if it would survive transplanting, I don't have a likely location to transplant it to....unless maybe where one of those spindly honeysuckles is trying to eke out an existence....Just have to figure out a way to turn this into an opportunity for a nice new porch with a more well-planned border in front.
Anyone had any luck transplanting uberly large shrubs? Any advice for trying to save this plant for future generations of hummingbirds? And if anyone knows of a good porch builder, that's up next. Just don't get me started on ice dams.
Photo credit: Bailey Nurseries; This Minuet Weigela from Bailey Nurseries might be a good candidate for a replacement shrub if the old one doesn't survive.
And we're not afraid to use them if necessary Saturday morning for the plant swap. The current forecast calls for it to be merely cloudy from 10 a.m. to noon, but we're prepared if need be.
And if the rain ever lets up, I'll be digging up a few of these deep pink bleeding hearts to take along since some of them have sprouted in areas I would prefer they not.
We've got a good selection of plants to get things started and have yet to see anyone ever go home empty-handed. We'll be in the mini park across the street from the main Star Tribune building at 425 Portland Ave. in downtown Minneapolis. Parking for participants is free in the parking lot during the event.
Since this year many plants are less mature, labeling isn't a bad idea. It can be as simple as a piece of masking tape with the name written on. If you have a plant with an unusual bloom that's not yet in evidence, you can grab a catalog to show people what it will look like later.
Don't have any plants to trade and are just looking to get started? No worries; there are always veteran gardeners who are mainly looking to get rid of their excess, so you can always score a few freebies.
Here's a link to six tips to get the most out of a plant swap, rain or shine:www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/blogs/Greengirls.html
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