JoAnne Skelly: The gift of transplants

I’ve been noticing all the new seedlings coming up around the yard — currants, Oregon grape, penstemons, sumacs, catmint, caryopteris, feverfew, hardy geranium and many more. I didn’t plant these; the birds did, the seeds spread in the wind or I accidentally spread seeds when deadheading. My friend Peg moved last year and has been thinning out plants in her yard. She gave me pink hyacinths last fall that put on a beautiful spring display. She dug up columbines and sent some my way and they bloomed, too. Yesterday, she shared agastaches and cleomes her friend started from seeds.

We’ve been in this house for more than 30 years and when we moved in, the yard was simply trees in a line and lots of lawn. No flowers, no shrubs. I was working with the Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners then and they began to share plants with me. T.J. gave me lilac starts, which are now 10 feet tall. Catherine couldn’t wait to get rid of rhubarb and horseradish. Vi had juniper trees seedlings to share. Lois gave me beautiful yellow-bearded irises. When no one wanted the tiny office Christmas tree, a dwarf Alberta spruce, I took it home and planted it. It’s now more than 6 feet tall and affectionately known as “Conehead.” I planted a stick of a willow tree that soars above the nearby ash trees.

I haven’t grown agastaches or cleomes before. According to Sunset Western Garden book agastaches, which can reach more than 2 feet in height, are “dependable, summer-blooming perennials with fragrant foliage ... (that) make colorful additions to herb gardens and flower borders.” Cleomes grow 4 to 6 feet tall with open clusters of pink or white flowers.

Through the years I’ve moved seedlings of currants and others I mentioned around the yard adding to the depth of the landscape. It’s a good time of year to dig up and move your “gifts” around or plant swaps from friends. They’re small initially, but with water and fertilizer plants grow to almost full size within a year or two. I’ve found plants that volunteer do much better than things I buy. They seem to have some established affinity with the site, raring to go, joining all their existing “friends.” Often, gift plants from others do well, too, possibly because I get them when they are tiny.

Transplant plants from your own yard or swap gifts with others. Let the planting begin!

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment