Don’t you absolutely love it when you visit a gardening friend and come home with plants? It’s what we do as gardeners and plant lovers — we share our beloved treasures.

Buying plants can be so expensive, and it helps all of us to have even better gardens when we can share with others. I recently put out the call to my friends that I was putting in a new shade garden and I would be willing to trade some sun plants for shade plants. I had iris, coneflowers, black-eyed susans and penstemon that needed dividing.

So, the plants have drifted in — hostas, hellebores, solomon’s seal, ferns. Instead of having to design my bed and start from scratch, I’m getting to be creative with my gifted plants. And I will start with a fairly full garden instead of with small plants that cost a fortune. I can save my pennies for those special plants I want to purchase.

This sharing is such a joy, especially because it means that every time I look at those plants, I get to remember the friend who gave them to me. It’s a double joy — beautiful plants and sweet friendship.

I save all of my plastic pots since I know they will be put to use to share plants. One thing I’m fairly careful about is cleaning out the containers with a 10 percent bleach solution just to make sure no disease gets transferred. There is nothing quite as devastating as introducing a pest or disease into the garden that you didn’t have before.

I also check any plants that have been shared carefully before putting them in the garden. I actually have an area where I leave them in sort of a quarantine for a week or so to see if there are any problems. If something appears, I dispose of the plant. I assume my friends do the same thing. It may seem cruel, but as gardeners, we are nothing if not practical. Nobody wants more work, especially of trying to control a problem that wasn’t there earlier.

Another great trick to saving money is to purchase perennials that are fairly substantial in size, and then dividing them among friends even before putting them in the garden. My gardening friends and I love to shop of course, and making an evening or afternoon of it with the aim to buy plants you all love and share immediately is immensely satisfying. This doesn’t work with shrubs, but perennials and annuals are prime candidates. Spending $20 on a good-sized perennial with a good root system and then dividing it three ways means you all get a good start on a plant for only $7 apiece. And lunch with friends as a bonus!

Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.

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