I like buying plants, but not nearly as much as I like giving them away. I think the difference is that when I'm buying something new, I'm never quite certain of its success. But when I'm digging things out of my yard, I am passing them on aglow in the knowledge that they will be great.
The recipients of my chopped up, muddy and bedraggled gifts, on the other hand, often look slightly dubious about the value of what they are receiving.
I was thinking about the joys of giving as I was digging things up for the big fundraiser for the Lake Avenue Elementary School Garden Club this weekend, a perennial sale.
Since I'm taking out a relatively new perennial bed and replacing it with vegetables, I have a lot to share. I was particularly happy that I managed to dig out a bunch of 'Pink Giant' lilies without breaking the stems off of the bulbs. I also dug up gold-leafed tansy, Japanese painted fern, Solomon's Seal, sedum 'Autumn Joy,' a white astilbe, two 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain' roses–victims of a standardization experiment for which I really didn't have adequate sun, 'Endless Summer' hydrangeas, euphorbia polychroma, a lovely old-fashioned pale blue bearded iris, a white peony, pieces of my giant canna 'Tropicana' corm, etc. etc.–lots of stock.
I'm not, however, a total saint. A neighbor recently asked me for a piece of my brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost,' and I will lop a piece off for him because he's an excellent neighbor who gives me interesting plants in return. I thought, however, about digging Jack up and breaking him in four to benefit the school garden sale…and moved along before committing such violence on a beautiful and expensive plant.
So it's pretty clear that I don't pass along plants because I'm a paragon of generosity…any more than the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses who come to my door are paragons of generosity. What I am is a true believer, just like them.
I'm convinced that the plants I am giving away will change the recipients' lives. I am trying to infect my neighbors with my own outsized enthusiasm in order to make new gardeners, and it's entirely selfish. More gardeners inevitably means living in a more beautiful world.