EPPS: Established perennial plants swap

By Lillian Quaranta

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

How many times have you fallen in love with a plant and pictured a place for it in your garden, only to have it shrivel up and die within a month? Over the years, my impulse flower buying (no logic, but lots of ooooohs and aaaaahs) cost me way too much in money, time and energy. My newest strategy is much more exciting, less costly and very successful: buy only established plants. Or better yet, ask neighbors, friends and family to swap one of their best for one of your best.

The joy of watching hardy plants bloom and thrive in my garden began with a visit to a local nursery famous for lilies and hostas. The owner handed me a list of all her plants with instructions to mark the ones I wanted to purchase. I wandered through her field of lilies, bright with 5-inch multi-colored flower heads, amazingly chest high. I marked eight of them, and it only took me 45 minutes to choose. She took my list and along with her shovel and eight plastic bags, dug a healthy amount of each plant right from the bed, secured it in a plastic bag and walked off to the next on my list.

It rained on the way home, so I didn’t get my chance to plant them that day. I kept them outside in the plastic bags and planned to get to them the next day. “The next day” was eight days later. Life got in the way of planting them, and I expected they were goners. But I dug hasty holes anyway, dropped the clods into the holes, stomped on each of them and hoped for the best. And they grew, with additional lovely flower heads. Who would have thought?

Established plants can take a great deal of abuse from excited, beginner gardeners and still thrive. Mine are living proof of that. So, I thought what if there were flower lovers out there who have little knowledge, but great enthusiasm. What if there were a yearly event that united the seasoned gardener to share an established perennial plant with someone who would treasure it. A place where beginner gardeners could bring their successful perennials and learn some time-tried methods for success. Sounded like a great idea. No guessing, no cost, no frustration – and a learning experience for all. We could name the event – EPPS – Established Perennial Plant Swap. There would have to be a structure for our meetings – right? To keep all our gardens healthy, a few simple guidelines for each gardener and each plant, such as:

Homegrown by (your name).

Pest-free/disease-free 2+-year-old plant.

Dug from its bedding soil/placed in a plastic bag/and cleaned of grass and weeds.

Common/botanical plant name printed.

Description – height, sun/shade, planting instructions and plant history/idiosyncrasies.

On the day of the yearly event we would all gather at the announced place and time to share our established beauties’ stories with each other. It could be grand! We have one in August each year at the fairgrounds too. Join us for that as we begin our journey of sharing and enjoying.

Learn more about dividing and sharing perennials at http://go.osu.edu/dividing.

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