Free plants, free plants


There is something deeply satisfying about this time of year, especially if you are a cheapskate gardener like me. For now is the time when friends decide to clear beds of things like extra hardy geraniums and grasses and give the excess away, when divided plants reveal if they have survived the savage process of separation, when cuttings take like a dream. So while I’m not actually offering free plants (the huge number of black cow parsley seedlings I have are not yet hardened off enough),

black cow parsley babies

I am celebrating their existence.

Some things come about as a result of insufficient deadheading, or of deliberate lack of it, and I defy anyone to keep up with removing the seed heads of nigella, aka love in a mist, or eschscholzia, aka Californian poppy. As a result they are everywhere, and as far as I am concerned, they’re staying put:

free seedlings!

I did wonder if the recent dip down into semi-Arctic conditions, especially at night, would destroy them, but no, thanks, they’re fine. Last year my random seed bed was a little disappointing – though only really to me, and only to me because it became dominated by wild carrot, which are brutes. Pretty brutes (bit like some men I could name but won’t, hee hee), but thugs nonetheless, and difficult to eradicate completely (er, ditto…). This year I’m hedging my bets. I’ve sown some seeds directly, as last year, but also sown some in trays and they’re currently germinating nicely in the greenhouse.

(Hm. Some of them are, but I won’t be buying from Plants of Distinction again. Grumble. Nor will I be getting shallots or garlic from Marshalls – doubtless I’ll have a separate rant about then when I get onto veg at some point in the future. That will also take in PoD and their **%£1@Z@ tomatoes, double grumble.)

But my favourite freebies are probably the gifts and swaps. I’ve still got a verbascum which I got from Sara Hillwards (who is also celebrating a gorgeous freebie at the moment, incidentally). Then Karen at Artist’s Garden gave me this lovely hardy geranium

hardy geranium

and a great big chunk of her phlomis,


in exchange for a giant garden bucket/trug full of osteospermums (they like it here, but a bit too much, so I had the odd one, er, odd hundred or so, which were surplus to requirements).

Some garlic chives and a tray of baby black cow parsley went to Janet aka Plantaliscious, as she said she’d swap them for some Stipa tenuissima. Some stipa. Just the ‘odd one’, you understand:


Of course I should have known, given the great Offloading of the Osteospermum. ‘Some’ equalled eight big ones.

I know exactly where they are going (once we’ve dug up some dandelions and snowberry) – round the side and back of the greenhouse. Self-sown foxgloves (another freebie) will stand up amongst them, and with a bit of luck I should have a river of stipa and foxgloves instead of a river of dandelions, valerian seedlings and flipping snow flipping berry, stupid flipping ineradicable thing. Flipping. Ahem.

P. also did some perennial splitting this year, and not before time (I did try, but I wasn’t strong enough; that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). That’s also very satisfying, but I am clearly going to have a garden full of agapanthus:


I am toying with an idea: breaking up the iris bed, which will need to be dug out and refreshed this year anyway, and replacing it with agapanthus. White agapanthus. Which one of my neighbours has said she will swap for some black cow parsley… and so it goes on!

(PS: I’ve still got some osteospermum, by the way…)


12 Comments Add yours

  1. croftgarden says:

    Fortunately gardeners are generous souls and usually respond to a gentle hint when it comes to swapping or gifting plants. I’m still waiting to see if any of the seed dropped by my plants survived the gales – but I think most of the seedlings may be the dreaded chickweed!
    I gave up with Marshalls years ago and I’ve had mixed results with PoD. I’m slowly running out of seed companies to try!

    1. kate says:

      Glad it’s not just me with Marshalls and PoD – I’m also running out. But all sorts of people are complaining of patchy germination this year – wonder if it’s something to do with last summer?

      Oh lordy, chickweed – yes, I’m sure some of mine are too. I just weeded out a load of things I thought were weeds only to realise they were self-seeded snapdragons, so you can be too enthusiastic… hmmmmmmm

      1. croftgarden says:

        I’m having trouble with seeds that normally grow like cress, so I think it must be the seed. DT Brown are relaible source for garlic, onions and shallots. In the past I’ve used their seed with good results but decided to have a change to seek out a range of different varieties.
        Its snowing today so perhaps the chill will kill the weeds – or more likely my young seedlings!

        1. kate says:

          You’re the second person with lots of veggie experience to recommend DT Brown (the other also battles with exposed conditions) so I’ll try them for next year. I rang Marshalls yesterday to complain about the shallots and they already knew – completele crop failure. Refund. Offered to send me out replacement but too late really; just grateful I ordered two varieties this year and that the other is doing fine.

          (Still waiting for my baby artichoke plants from them, but that’s as it should be. And probably just as well given the weather – though my seedlings seem to have survived hail and sleet. So far.)

  2. Anna says:

    Swapping plants or just giving them away is a great way of adding to the garden Kate. It’s also a good fall back if you ever loose a much loved plant. Now why doesn’t my black cow parsley seed with such gay abandon?

    1. kate says:

      I’ve just realised that the black cow parsley in the beds has scattered seed about wildly too – I think that must have really enjoyed last summer. The naturally-sown seedlings are only just beginning to show themselves, mind (whether any will survive the icy blast, I’m not sure), and I’d missed them before. Worth checking?

  3. hillwards says:

    Free plants are fabulous – glad the verbascum are still thriving! I’ve just dug out a huge and beautiful Stipa arundinacea that my MIL happily took away with her – not bad in exchange for a couple of hours babysitting to allow me to do some gardening, including digging it out!
    I also popped some more freebies into the ground – a hellebore seedling from my mum, that came complete with extra snowdrops! Happy times 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Freebies come in all sorts of forms and are always life-enhancing, I think. One of the best I ever received had nothing to do with gardening. A capable male techy/handyman friend turned up spontaneously on the day I finally moved all my furniture into this house after 6 months’ work, and give me a day’s labour free: he sorted electrics, rebuilt tables, retuned the TV, set up the office computers, unblocked a drain, etc. Fab. But my garden is full of them too!

      The verbascums are amazing. How are yours?

  4. This gave me a giggle! I’ve been admiring my little black cow parsley seedlings (thank you again…) and discovered a few of my own when weeding the other day, but they are still teeney weeney. The garlic chives are doing fabulously, though I should probably stop nicking bits until it has filled out a little more *cough*, and the geranium phaeum I had from Cathy are romping away and will probably be splittable come next Spring! Hurrah for freebies.

    1. kate says:

      You might need to select the darker ones and discard any that seem to be tending towards bog-standard cow parsley… I haven’t, but that wasn’t a conscious decision, I just forgot. Garlic chives are FABULOUS in a ripe tomato sandwich, so you might want to save some for summer!

      (I was given some G. phaeum a couple of years ago, ‘the widow’. If you want any I could probably rustle up, oh, about 200.)

      1. So far I seem to have been fortunate, all lovely and dark! And when I was weeding yesterday I kept coming across little seedlings from last year’s plants in the front garden, so I might be approaching sustainable levels myself by next year! As for G. phaeum, yes please, as and when, it is growing beautifully in my back garden and I’d like to add some to the front, but there again, I will probably be able to split mine come Autumn.

        1. kate says:


          I’ll go and warn the G. phaeum that it may well be moving house, I’m sure it will want to pack its bags and think about what it wants to take with it (seedlings, that sort of thing, not couch grass)…

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