CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Home gardeners in southern Saratoga County with an eye for a good deal made their way to the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library last Saturday for the Friends of the Library’s annual Plant Swap and Sale.
Those who are experienced with this event know it’s best to arrive early. This volunteer-based event is as much for community beautification as it is a fundraiser for the library group, yet it depends completely on the dedication of the area’s gardeners to thin their flower beds and donate their plants.
The swap and sale is seven years old and for all those years, whether it was sunshine or rain, it was held under the library’s portico on the first Saturday in June.
This year, however, the event was held on the second Saturday of the month, and the weather couldn’t have more perfect with a smiling sun and mild temperatures.
Most of the gardeners who intend to swap their plants drop them off at the library the night before the event.
Due to the presence of an invasive worm this year, organizers requested all the swappers to leave the pots and the soil at home and bring the plants in with the bare roots wrapped in a wet paper towel in a clear plastic bag.
By 10:15 a.m. the last of the swappers and a few of the early bird buyers had made their selections. The prices were right, the irises, daylilies, hostas, rose of Sharon, bleeding hearts, ninebark, primrose and lady’s mantle were all going for a few dollars each. The plants were small, and in some cases seemed but a single rooted twig, but with love and care and water and fertilizer, they should do fine.
Ilona Szabo and her daughter Csilla were standing in line with a box filled with lilies, irises, and houseplants waiting to pay the cashier and head home.
“We were looking forward to this,” Csilla Szabo said. “Our neighbor told us about it, and we came over.”
“We moved, and we want to replace some of the plants we left at the other house,” added Ilona Szabo.
A few feet away Ryan Burns and Jaime Bashaw held up some of their choices so a stranger could see them. The two were preparing to buy a few lilies, an iris, a cactus, and a dogwood tree.
“We’re starting to plant at our house,” Burns said. “We saw it online at the Nextdoor app. Someone had it up there and put a link to it and we clicked on it.”
Friends of Library's Plant Swap/Sale Committee co-chairwoman Joan Fox pointed to tables of plants marked full sun, part sun, and shade and said the event was going well.
“We’ve got all the outdoor plants out here, and we’ve got the house plants inside, snake plants and spider plants,” she said. “We’re trying something new with the no soil policy and it seems to be working well. The library has a mission of education, so we’re trying to do our part and educate by asking that the plants come in as bare roots with the wet wrapping. It’s better anyway; you’re getting a plant with all the fungus, insects and insect eggs washed off.”
It was going on 11 a.m., a time when no one expected more plants to arrive when Mary Wixted from Mechanicville walked up holding a huge bunch of large ferns.
“I paid $10 for this fern 10 years ago. This is the first year they’ve grown so big that I felt I had to get rid of them,” he said.
Seema Bisht was delighted with the late arrival and quickly added part of Wixted’s ferns to her purchase of ninebark, forsythia, King Solomon’s seal, a feverfew plant (aka bachelor buttons) and a corn plant.
“The switch to bare roots seems to have been very well received by the public,” Friends’ co-chairwoman Susan Cromer said as she watched the tables being put away. “We didn’t get a single complaint about it. For us, it was great, lighter to carry and a lot less mud.”