By Donna W. Downing
Each year, towards the end of January, groups all over America have seed exchanges. In our local area, the State Arboretum of Virginia at Blandy Farm is hosting an exchange for the 2nd year in a row. The event takes place from 10 until 3 on January 28th. Co – chairs Donna Downing and Pam DeBergh expect a good crowd as this is the time of year when gardeners pour over catalogues to decide what seeds to buy for the 2012 season. Come to an exchange, such as the one at Blandy and go home with new seeds at a fair price: it’s absolutely free!
We want the public to bring seeds in small envelopes; well marked with the common name and color of the plant or with the Latin name of the species and cultivar. However, there is no requirement to bring anything at all – just come and enjoy. If bringing seeds, commercial seeds are also welcome.
Gardeners learn from each other – the networking aspect of this event is invaluable. Last year, I took home some heirloom seeds that produced excellent tomatoes. I did not seed save from the tomatoes last August, so I’m hopeful someone will bring good tomato seeds again this year. In 2011, I also planted lupines and dwarf pomegranates from seeds found at the exchange. These two items were very successful. I also tried cardoon artichokes only to discover that these plants, although beautiful, are far too large for the small size of my veggie patch.
Author Tanya Denckla Cobb will be on hand at the exchange to sign her popular book called: Reclaiming our Food. Tanya lives in Charlottesville and can be heard talking about gardening from time to time on NPR.
Michael Neese, a local community garden guru will be with us, too. Michael led the very first seed exchanges in our area in 2008 and 2009. Now Michael is happy to allow us to take the lead. It will be very special to have him with us to network about gardening. Many Master Gardeners will be on hand and three “MG’s” are on the seed exchange committee. The three, Lynn Hoffmann, Lori McKay and Donna Downing will be on hand to offer gardening advice and support. Blandy staffer, Carrie Whitacre will be with us, too. Carrie will be preparing envelopes of seeds from Blandy Farm plants to share with the general public.
The day will be capped off with door prizes and light refreshments.
One thing you may not bring with you is an invasive plant or invasive plant seeds. Invasives are non – native plants such as kudzu, bittersweet and loosestrife. They grow explosively and kill off native species in different ways. Many times they simply bury the native plant. Thus, the native plant cannot get light and photosynthesis cannot take place. Unfortunately birds carry the seeds of invasives everywhere and ridding any area totally of invasive species is probably not possible. However, giving it our full attention is the responsible thing to do. Check the VNPS (Virginia Native Plant Society) web site to see a list of invasive species for the state of Virginia. The web address is: www.vnps.org
Last year we had a wonderful, congenial group of about 50 people. This year, we expect to double that number because of publicity, in general, about the value of attending a seed exchange.
We plan to do this each year at the State Arboretum of Virginia. The event is sponsored by “Our Shop under the Arch” at Blandy Farm. The shop will be open during the seed exchange. For more information call Donna Downing@ 540-667-3778 or call Pam DeBergh @ 540-667-9016 or go on line to the Blandy Farm web site which is: www.virginia.edu/blandy
Donna W. Downing is a resident of Winchester,Virginia and is co – chairperson of the seed exchange for 2012 and a freelance writer.