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The creeping truth 

Ever heard of a “truth window?” It’s a small, glassed opening configured inside the interior wall of a straw-bale house -- an offbeat, low-tech, environmentally friendly way to build -- providing absolute proof that the beautiful, stucco-covered house with rounded windows and doors really was constructed with straw.

I’m not sure who came up with the tradition -- it wasn’t a politician, a health insurance salesman or anyone named Karl Rove, that’s for sure -- but I really love the concept.

Which is why I’m biting the bullet, fessing up and handing you the absolute truth about the upcoming, fall plant swap.

First a little background. For the past eight years we’ve billed the twice-yearly swaps in benign, benevolent, peace-and-love terms -- a time of sharing, a time to gather with leftover perennials, extra packages or pods of seeds, an opportunity to ask those extraneous questions about gardening in Savannah.

With a budget of zero, no executive committees, no board of directors, no dues, no billboards, no rules, we’ve developed quite a following of capable and big-hearted gardeners, as apt to show up the morning of the swap with a batch of homemade zucchini muffins fresh out of the oven as a truckload of ginger lilies, lantana or plumbago fresh out of the ground.

We also welcome people who have nothing to swap. We only want to share our leftovers.

And that’s the truth. After the Oct. 15 swap, set aside some time; get ready to dig in the dirt.

But this is where things get dicey.

Yes, the specimens you’ll drive away with a month from now are hardy, robust, rugged, seasoned and -- because they came from someone’s garden who lives in your planting zone -- perfectly suited to our weather.

But this is the part we never tell you. Because the plants are so happy and well-adjusted, they’re also acquisitive and greedy. The reason they transplant so easily is because they’re glutinous, hoggish and easily satisfied.

Which is what prompted one veteran garden swapper to suggest we adopt a new slogan: Plant swap -- invasive by nature.

It’s true. If you have a backyard with a German shepherd, roots from a magnolia tree and nothing but shade, we have something for you. If you have a thumb without the slightest hue of green, we can get you started. If you have spent thousands of dollars at the nurseries and come up with nothing, we can make suggestions.

Except now everything I give away comes with caveats.

Beach daisy? A wonderful ground cover with yellow flowers that grows anywhere. That’s right. Currently it is covering my gerber daisies, climbing up a lowquat tree and obliterating a lovely wall of carefully and thoughtfully placed round stones. (Stones? What stones?)

Mexican sunflowers (tithonia)? A tall, reliable plant that comes back every year, with a handsome, orange flower butterflies adore -- and weak branches that will fall and block every conceivable path.

Equisedum (horsetail)? A fascinating, prehistoric plant that never met a boundary it could respect, a rule it could obey. Deceitfully neat -- until it shows up down the street; until you try to remove it, which is, bottom line, impossible.

Cypress vine (ipomea quamoclit)? A delicate, morning glory vine with sweet little heart-shaped red flowers that is currently climbing over my fennel, through my moonflowers, up my sugar cane.

Swamp sunflower (helianthus angustifolius)? Hardy, a beautiful yellow bloom in late September when nothing much else is happening and a plant with no discipline, no sense of space, no limits.

Passion flower (passiflora incarnata)? Don’t get me started. Let’s just say its nickname, maypop, has more to do with the way it seems to pop out of the ground than the sound it makes when stomped upon.

Obedience plant (phystostegia)? A good cut-flower plant with sweet pink blooms that writer Felder Rushing says should be renamed disobedient plant. Another one of those you-can’t-kill it varieties.

Even the handsome lady’s thumb (persicaria). When a gardener in town gave me a little slip, I babied it like some exotic. Now I Google the thing and see it described as a “workhouse of a perennial.” Preaching to the choir. The thing is sprawling, tough, aggressive. And beautiful.

So don’t say you weren’t forewarned. Don’t say we didn’t offer you a “truth window.” And don’t let any of this nonsense keep you from coming to the swap.

Remember: gardeners know all the good dirt.

 

The fall plant swap is Saturday, Oct. 15 from 9-11 a.m. at the urban folk garden at 415 West Boundary St., between West Jones and West Gwinnett, next to Chatham Steel and SCAD’s Boundary Hall. No charge. Call 234-8926 for more

information.


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Jane Fishman

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