Popular plant exchange sees changes, challenges

Visitors to the annual plant exchange at Jack Purcell Park. The exchange has grown in popularity and scope over the 10 years since its beginning, but costs have grown as well. Organizer Vivalda Griffin plans to expand the event in future to include vendors and entertainment.

Visitors to the annual plant exchange at Jack Purcell Park. The exchange has grown in popularity and scope over the 10 years since its beginning, but costs have grown as well. Organizer Vivalda Griffin plans to expand the event in future to include vendors and entertainment.

by Gail McGuire

Gardeners and general plant lovers participated in an annual plant exchange at Jack Purcell Park at 10:00 am on the morning of Saturday, June 3.

This free community event was organized by Vivalda Griffin, who began 10 years ago to root up coleus, mint, and other easy-to-propagate plants to give out.

Initially, she hosted the exchange event at her home in Orleans. Later, she held the event in Vanier on River Road.

Five years ago, she set up the event at Jack Purcell Park, and it has become so popular that Griffin and her volunteers had to consider ways of ensuring that there was a sense of order to the event.

Volunteers and participants alike agreed that the event was more organized and that a calm atmosphere prevailed. A ticket system, initiated as of last year, ensured that those who brought plants also got plants. A good group of about 15 volunteers, some of whom were quite knowledgeable about plants, were stationed at the various tables. At a reception table, plants were received and labeled. The plants were then dispersed to the various tables, sorted by house plants, edibles, perennials and so on.

The plant exchange draws people from all across Ottawa through social media such as Facebook.

For someone with a perennial garden, where plants increase themselves through the years and must inevitably be divided, a direct swap of plants with a neighbour can add to the pleasure of gardening; however, opening the exchange to a wider scope can make it possible to receive a plant you covet.

Donating extra plants to a new garden is also part of the pleasure experienced by gardeners.
Three friends at the event were happy to show the variety of plants they were returning home with, including wandering Jew, amaryllis, lily of the valley, sage, and mimosa.

Among the plants they had brought to exchange was a plant which they said was a rare yellow dragon fruit. They expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to do a plant exchange, citing the normal cost of buying plants.

Griffin explained that this year she was challenged because she had to raise money for the event. The city is now charging for the use of the space at the park (over $100) and for the use of the tables ($4 per table).

One of the winners of the raffle, with her prize.

One of the winners of the raffle, with her prize.

Volunteers donated plant and gardening items for a raffle and a donation can was set up in order to attempt to recuperate costs.

Griffin states, “I don’t profit. I’ve always paid to give things away!”

Griffin has set up a new Facebook page with the idea of trying something different in future.

“Next year, we are going to be Plantfest,” she explains. “We have Ribfest, we have Bluesfest…”

She hopes to include live music, face painting, and vendors within the concept of a free plant exchange.

She sees it as a potential collaboration of people like herself who have plant or gardening groups, or who sell plants or organic products, and it could include anything eco-friendly.

Additionally, she states that the Jack Purcell location has been a good spot to hold the event because of bus routes, access to washrooms, and its central location, but she may look at a different venue for next year.