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  • Free plant swap keeps gardens growing. By Colin

Wanna Trade?

While some dread weekend yard work, gardeners look forward to every chance they can get to create a colorful and unique life-filled space around their yard. Those who do it as a profession or a hobby are always making adaptations to their gardens and plants that no longer fit the look or need to be scaled back and often find themselves in a garbage can. However, a couple of like-minded ladies have found a solution to keep these plants alive and appreciated.

Master Gardener Cheryl Hart was purchasing plants from Ann Lemieux, and the pair found plenty to talk about in their love of plants and gardening. During the conversation Ann ended up inviting Cheryl to the Green Elephant Plant Swap in Redmond; an invitation she accepted. “The excitement of getting all the free plants was just amazing, and on the car ride home we both thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to drive an hour and 20 minutes to do this?’” said Cheryl.

It wouldn’t be long until their conversation turned from idea into a quarterly Gig Harbor event. Once a season you’ll now find gardeners from all over town parked in the parking lot of the Uptown Gig Harbor Shopping Center. The swaps are held in January, April, June and October to coincide with the growing seasons. The swap works very simply: Gardeners pull up living plants that they either no longer want or don’t want taking over their backyard.

“You pull up your car, put your plants out behind your vehicle and then go searching for what others have to offer,” said Cheryl. No money is exchanged, and you’ll find not just plants, starts and seeds but gardening tools, books and plenty of knowledge. “Each swap I get that feeling of excitement like a kid on Christmas morning. I really can’t think of anything that compares,” she laughed.

While much of the swap is seasoned gardeners, those new to planting or wanting to learn more are welcome to participate as well. Those without plants to swap can bring inexpensive seeds, or at the very least cookies and donuts to keep up with the theme of everyone bringing something to the event.

While the swap itself attracts dozens of participants each time, Anne and Cheryl’s ultimate goal was to develop a community of people who are plant lovers. They’ve done this largely through the Gig Harbor Plant Swap Facebook page, which at the time of print had 530 members. The page is an open forum where members can share upcoming classes, presentations and events, give advice, and help solve both common and unique problems.

“All the time we get people posting pictures and asking what exactly is growing in their yard and if they should rip it out or let it grow. People are quick to offer friendly advice, and there is a ton of knowledge and experience here, and everyone just jumps in to help each other out,” said Cheryl.

October will mark the group’s second anniversary, and organizers are hoping to create more interactive events for members. Cheryl envisions taking field trips to gardens around the area, and a local Bonsai expert has already offered to show off his work and answer questions about one of the most detailed gardening methods in the world.

Each swap has seen increased visitation. Despite pouring rain all morning, 45 vehicles pulled up for the April swap, and everyone had a great time. Cheryl is hoping to see that number increase to 60 for the June sale.

If you are interested in attending the Gig Harbor Plant Swap, you’ll find it at the Uptown Gig Harbor Shopping Center Parking Lot on Saturday, June 8, beginning at 10am and running until about noon. Swappers are encouraged to join the Facebook page. About two weeks before each swap, gardeners start sharing what plants they will likely be bringing to the swap. You can also post if you are seeking a specific plant, flower or tool and often someone is willing to bring forth just about anything that is being requested. Visitors are encouraged to grab about as many items as they initially brought with them to swap until the last 10 minutes of the event when it’s a free for all, as everything must go!

Not only are Cheryl and Ann helping keep thousands of living plants out of the landfill, they’ve connected a community that shares a passion—whether it’s a hobby or their profession. Putting a garden together can be expensive, and being able to acquire quality plants and talk to the experts who grow them—for no cost other than plants you were going to discard anyway—is a win for all.

Whether you are a master gardener ready to share your advice or a weekend warrior looking for inspiration and a few good pointers, the Gig Harbor Plant Swap is a great resource that will help your green thumb grow a little greener.

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