Saturday 22 March 2014

Swapping plants – long distance

I have written about the plant swapping site I am a member of before, a site called Green Plant Swap, and the whole point with it is to meet and swap plants, basically to see each other’s gardens and perhaps find something you might like and see if whatever you can offer can be used to swap with whatever they have to offer. That’s fine if you live around the corner for each other or at least in the same city but what if you don’t do that?

I live in London and I have been swapping plants with Angie from Edinburgh, who lives 431 miles from me, not exactly a trip you do on a Sunday afternoon! Some of you will know Angie at Angie’s Garden Diaries as many of us visit each other’s blogs, and that’s how I got to know her too, but we are also both members at Green Plant Swap. And it all started when I expressed some interest in starting a new Heuchera collection for my garden – Angie sent me a message and asked if I wanted some Heuchera cuttings she had and of course I did! I offered two cuttings of my precious Rosa ‘Crimson Cascade’ back and we decided to wait until spring to send off the plants.  

A few emails later and we decided on more plants to send in the same shipments from each of us, although as Angie is doing a lot of work in her garden right now she wants to wait with more plants until that work is finished. And here are the plants that were heading for Scotland:
2 x bare root Rosa ‘Crimson Cascade’
2 x Arisaema amurense (babies)
2 x Arisarum proboscideum, several plants in each pot
1 x Lamium galeobdolon ‘Hermann's Pride’

I used a courier company called Hermes, they do door-to-door delivery and for me that’s great as I can’t get to the post office myself. Delivery is usually 3 days so all the plants had a good splash of water and then I started wrapping them in for the long journey. The Arisaemas were not emerged yet so they got a bit of bark on top to stabilise the compost and a tight wrap of cling film.

The smaller pots got a plastic bag with a few slits for ventilation.

And the mouse plants got an extra protection with cardboard as you can never be sure what they do with the boxes. I get everything I need delivered so I get A LOT OF deliveries. I can’t tell you how many times I have had boxes delivered to me where the letters ‘This way up’ has been upside when I send something I wrap things for any eventualities – well, most anyway. If anyone get’s the bright idea of standing on the box then these little plants might not stand much chance....

To save on weight and how much to pay for the delivery, I sent the roses bare-root. That’s fine at this time of year, although my rose cuttings have been in full leaf all winter because of the mild weather so they haven’t really had a dormant period this year.

Here they are, both of them wrapped up with wet kitchen paper inside a plastic bag and pruned a bit to fit into this handy plant case. Whenever I get plants delivered from the many mail-order companies I use, I save the wrapping so I can re-use it.

They are really good these plastic casings and come in many different sizes and shapes to fit different types of pots and plugs

The two Arisaemas got a similar wrapping too, in a smaller size.

Nicely tucked in, ready for take-off!

Just a few more things to do, the parcel needs to be weighed and get proper labels. I made this label on my computer and just taped it on, there is one on the other side and one on the top.

This box had already been delivered to me from a nursery and had a handy sticker which I kept on.

The courier company Hermes have parcel prices from under 2kg, 2-5 kg, 5-10kg, 10-15kg and charge £1 extra for a signature on delivery. A parcel 2-5kg including signature door-to-door within UK cost £6.10 – I think that is a very reasonable price and the same parcel with Royal Mail would cost £16.20, for delivery 2-3 days. If you send a smaller parcel weighing less than 2 kg you can send it as a ‘Small Parcel’ with Royal Mail which will be cheaper at £7.95, and hope for a next day delivery if the postman has room in his bag that day, but the max measurements for a ‘Small Parcel’ is not very big so check first – and you will have to bring the parcel to the Post Office yourself. For me, the courier companies do a great service, and there are so many of them, I haven’t used any other than Hermes so far for parcel I have sent, but I have received deliveries probably from all the companies that operate here in UK over the years and have mixed reviews – some are really good, some should pack up and find something else to do with their time!

OK, so back to the plants I was going to send off, I packed them up Sunday late afternoon, ready to be picked up Monday morning so they would have up to 3 days to be delivered and not risk being stored over the week-end in some depot somewhere. This weather forecast is just to remind visitors that if you store your parcel outside until next morning, like I did, check the forecast!

I don’t have a garage or outbuilding so the parcel stood on the steps to my backdoor, Sunday to Monday 2 weeks ago there were no rain in store for us and the parcel was dry next morning when the courier came to pick it up.

And how did the plants survive the trip to Edinburgh? I think you will have to visit Angie’s blog to find out that :-)

The day after my parcel went off to Angie, I received one from her. She had decided to split her delivery in two so this was the first delivery:

So exciting to get plants in the post!

Four Heucheras, bare-root, nicely wrapped in wet kitchen towels and plastic so they didn’t dry out, all in excellent condition.

And I have to show you the stowaway too, all the way from Edinburg! Sorry, but even though he had travelled from afar he promptly got dropped in my compost bin.

And here they are, after being potted up: Heuchera 'Caramel', H. 'Marmalade', H. 'Strawberry Candy', and H. 'Crimson Curls'.

And the Monday after came the second parcel – it’s like Christmas, just better as I don’t get plants for Christmas!

Look at all the plants Angie sent me!

Hemerocallis 'Crimson Pirate'
Hemerocallis unknown, yellow dwarf

Geranium sylvaticum 'Album'
Polemonium caeruleum 'Alba'
Campanula x haylodgensis 'White Bali'
Campanula persicifolia 'Planiflora Alba'
Astrantia major 'Snow Star'
Zantedeschia aethiopica

Primula 'Mrs Marjorie Banks'
Primula vulgaris 'Miss Indigo'
Primula 'Francisca'
Primula 'Don Keefe'
Primula unknown

And seeds: Primula japonica 'Apple Blossom'

Most of the plants were either bare-root or a clump of soil so here they are all potted up, ready to get pampered a bit before planting out in the garden. These plants will be a wonderful addition to my garden, all the primulas will go at the bottom of my garden, the 2 hemerocallis will be added to my collection and the rest of the plants are all white, going into my white shady bed. Thank you so much Angie for all the lovely plants!

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 good at saving seeds, but I take cuttings now and then. 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 tried taking cuttings of two of my oriental poppies last autumn for the first time, didn’t really know if it would work so took 11 of each since I had room for 11 pots on each tray. The Papaver orientale 'Princess Victoria Louise'  has not been so successful, only 4 out of 11 has emerged so far, but P. orientale 'Beauty of Livermere' has been 100% success! I still have both mother plants, and when digging them up I must have severed some of the roots, and I didn’t plant them back in the exact same spot, so in the bed I now have 7 poppy plants emerging. Plus all these cuttings, which each will be a full size plant eventually I hope, I haven’t done this before so I have no idea when they will flower or how quickly they will grow to a good size. There is no way I can find space for all these oriental poppies in my tiny garden, even though they are drop dead gorgeous! Anyone who would like to swap some of these with me for Something that stays tiny?

And speaking of successful cuttings, last November I realised that I hadn’t taken any cuttings of the gorgeous fuchsia I have in my front garden so I took some – didn’t think it would be much success that late so took quite a few. And at the same time I took some of all the other fuchsias I have. I had planned to take them indoors eventually, when we got frost, but we never got any frost so all these cuttings have spent winter outside in my garden and they never lost any leaves. They are now starting to come into flower despite being outside (we are still in March!), I have 30 cuttings I need to find a space for as not one of them died !! If you would like to swap with me some Fuchsia 'Velvet Crush' please contact me, it’s first come, first serve. They need a home soon, but are well hardened off for outside living!

For visitors from other countries all this information might be a bit too specific for UK, but I hope you can find similar ways to send off plants and think about who you could swap with. You don’t necessarily need to be a member of a swap club to be swapping, it could just as well be someone you met through your blog, like Angie and I met. I have often thought of plant swapping as something you do face to face, but now that I have tried doing it long distance I will certainly do it again. Now that spring has arrived it might be time to think about getting some new plants for free and perhaps find a new home for those divisions that you can’t find a space for in your own garden. Here is a link to my page at Green Plant Swap and the complete list of the plants in my garden. I am still in the process of taking photos of all the plants but hope to finish that by the end of the year. And if you want to swap with me you can send me an email: and let me know what you have on offer and what your wish list is for plants in return. I’d love to hear from you and I am sure we can find something to swap! Sorry, but I can only send plants within UK.

I hope my post has given you some new ideas or at least given 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 send in the beginning of the week so you are more likely to avoid the week-end you should be fine.

It would be great to hear if any of you already have experience with swapping plants and sending them off in the post or with a courier. Has anything got lost or been dead by arrival or do you have good experiences? Until next time, take care.


  1. Helene what a fantastic idea. And no, I don't have any experience with plant swapping. Your Heuchera's look so lovely. I hope you will find a nice place in your garden where the plants are feeling happy.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. Thanks Marijke, I have done quite a lot of moving plants about in my garden lately, and some bigger plants had reached the end of their life and got thrown out last autumn – so there are several open spaces Yeah! The spaces will soon be filled by new plants though and I have a plan for the heucheras :-)
      Hope you have a great Sunday.

  2. Inspiring. The packing method looks so perfect. Actually I really love fuchsia, but UK is too far, a very long distance from my country. I can't do swapping plant with you :(

    1. No, I don’t think plants would survive the long journey, apart from the fact that it is illegal to send plants to other countries outside EU without an export license. But maybe you can find someone to swap with near you?

  3. You've done so well with your cuttings Helene!
    I have been thinking about ordering plants online for a little while. I tend to get most of mine from visiting plant fairs, as I've long since got bored with the garden centres' standard offerings. But there aren't so many of those down here as where we used to live. Plant swapping is something I hadn't thought about up to now but it's a really good idea.

    1. Thanks, I think it is so fun making cuttings, but then I don’t know what to do with them when they grow up to be big plants :-)
      I have been ordering plants and bulbs online for more than 10 years and have used many different companies. Just to point you in one direction for ordering online, have a look at these (copy and paste the links)

      These are just a few of the many, many companies I have used over the years, there are many specialists ones too, if you are after something special, like specialist Heucheras, Fuchsias, Roses Camellias nursery or just about anything else. The first one on the list, Plant Me Now, has great customer service and use a brilliant courier, their plug plants are much bigger and healthier than most companies and their prices are very reasonable – can you ask for more?!
      If you haven’t bought plants online I would definitely recommend you give it a go.
      But plant swapping is great too, and now you know at least ONE person who is willing to swap plants with you :-)

  4. Very interesting and packing for transportation of the plants looks so professional. We do here a lot of plant swapping too, but just in our neighbourhood not by parcelpost. I can imaginge your excitement when there is another parcel in the mail.

    1. Thanks Janneke, I tried to pack the plants the same way as companies pack plants they send me – I have never received any damaged plants via a courier (but I have via Royal Mail) so as long as plants are well watered and properly wrapped up they can survive just fine.

  5. Hi Helene
    That must have been a feeling like Christmas and birthday together to receive those packets. Hihi, poor slug, he just wanted a Holiday in the south and ended up in the compost :o).
    Next week I should receive some plants too, but from a nursery... can't wait to get them even though I haven't got the time to plant at the moment... but they will survive I'm sure.
    Have a lovely Weekend

    1. It is exciting to get plants when I have paid for them but even more exciting when I don’t know what I am getting and got them for free!
      Hope you have a lovely week-end too!

  6. How lucky that you have found to swap plants with - I love receiving things through the post - glad everything arrived safely.

    1. Thanks Elaine, I hope my post will inspire many more to do the same – a great way to get more plants for your garden and to get a home for your surplus plants. You just need one person to take the first step and initiate the swap, now you know at least ONE person to swap with :-)

  7. Hi Helene, that is sooo... cool that Angie (I follow her blog, too) and you are swapping plants via mail! So far I have only given plants away to friends or received plants from their gardens. It never occurred to me to swap plants with another blogger. In my case, I guess, that could only be with someone who is living in California, since there are strict regulation here in the US for sending plants out of state or importing plants to avoid the spreading of diseases and pests. Hope all the lovely plants that you got from Angie settle in nicely into your garden. Have a lovely rest of the weekend!

    1. There are strict regulations here in Europe too, that’s why I can only swap with people living in UK. If you are a professional plant breeder/nursery with a license you can send live plants within EU, and further afield with an export certificate (bought for each shipment I think), but as a private person I can only send live plants within UK.

      I guess you would have plenty of fellow bloggers in California to choose from, besides, swapping with people from your own area is an advantage anyway as you will know that the plants you are sending off and the plants you receive will probably be suitable for the growing conditions you both have.
      I hope I have made you inspired, let us know if you make any swaps per mail!
      Have a lovely Sunday :-)

  8. Thanks for all the great tips for wrapping before mailing! I haven't done that much, so it was very helpful. I have swapped a lot of plants with friends and family, but it's usually a matter of digging up the plants and putting them in temporary pots or bags for the new owners to transfer them home directly in their cars. Looks like you and Angie both have some wonderful healthy new plants!

    1. Hi Beth, yes swapping like this opens for a whole new way of getting plants for our gardens – we all have surplus plants after some years of gardening and swapping them doesn’t cost any more than the postage fee. For me it is an excellent way of getting plants for my garden, and often some unusual plants too!

  9. Looks like a very successful swap.

    1. Yes it was, and I think we will be doing this again :-)

  10. Plant-swaps, passalong plants to some of us, make a wonderful tradition, a fine way of sharing one's garden. Friends and I have passed along plants to one another for years, and our gardens have benefited mightily.

    Ironically, just yesterday I received a shipment via post (amazingly reliable, unlike some of the ones you alluded to) from a friend in Alabama, here in the Southern United States. It was like a good holiday, as I unpacked and planted and recalled the history behind the plants she sent.

    1. Great to hear you have been plant swapping for years Lee, and that you have a reliable post/courier system – over here that varies a lot, and you usually (but not always) get what you pay for.

  11. Great blog Helene - of course I'm going to say that aren't I ;)
    Good to see everything potted up. They survived the journey well. I'd like to add that if the slug escapes from the compost bin - I am not paying you Slug Support ;)
    Due to the fact that I'm biased, I won't comment on Royal Mail, but for anyone considering using a courier company, Hermes is by far one of the better ones.
    I best get my post done now.

    1. Don’t worry Angie, the slug is having a ball in my compost bin for now, and when the bin bag is full it is off to the council to be turned into compost - the high power and very hot way, nothing survives that! No risk of any slug support bill :-)
      Looking forward to seeing your post and how the plants survived at your end. I have been placing pots around the garden to see where they all can go in eventually, the white flowerbed will look great when it gets a bit more mature!

  12. The plants look very healthy, I am sure they are going to be happy in your garden.

    1. Thanks, I am sure they will too, once they get a bit bigger they will look very nice.

  13. How exciting to get new plants, and I am sure Angie feels like Christmas arrived for her, too! You took great care packaging the plants you sent to her. Swapping plants is a great idea, and when you look at your new plants from Edinburg, you will think of your long distance swap-buddy!

    1. es, and we will do more plant swapping, this was fun!

  14. I also read Angie's post and said that I had a dream to do more of this several yrs ago. You have spurred me to at least hopefully get in touch with other bloggers within my state and do some swapping. Great post Helene!

    1. Thanks Donna, I hope you find some bloggers to swap with, it is a great way to get plants absolutely free, and you might get plants you had never thought of buying :-)


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