Even the tiniest harbingers of spring quicken the hearts of gardeners.
As daffodils, irises, and daylilies rise from their beds of mulch, so wakes the gardener's desire to dig in and rejuvenate outdoor spaces.
Green thumbs in Hanover have a myriad of options when deciding where to pick up new blooms for their landscapes, but the Perennial Flower Swap at St. David's Lutheran Church may be one of the best values in town.
Plant swaps offer locally-grown plants that are already acclimated to the area's temperature and soil. They also allow gardeners to trade unique varieties of plants that aren't commonly seen through commercial ventures.
Now in its fifth year, the event is more than just an exchange of extra plants — it's a meeting of local gardeners, both new and experienced.
They share stories of triumph over invasive mint plants and struggles with hungry rabbits; seek suggestions for what plants will survive in the soggy, low-lying areas of their gardens; and sometimes, they are just trying to figure out what's growing.
With so many experienced gardeners on hand, often a description of the plant's habitat and flower is all that is needed to find the answer, said event organizer Debbie Kronsteiner.
The swap began in the spirit of the church's vision statement: Serving Christ and Community.
"The church wanted to reach out in unconventional and fun ways," Kronsteiner said.
Kronsteiner said the committee thought about all the gardeners in the community, and how "no one really wants to spend $7 to $10 a pot on perennials, especially when we all end up with extra plants every year. What better way to reach out than to say, 'Hi neighbor, we'd like to share what we have with you.'"
The event isn't limited to plants. Items such as garden tags, books, stepping stones, tools, planters, potting soil, seeds, and even annual plants make for a well-rounded swap.
Past attendees have been so generous with their contributions that there are usually leftover plants. As an eighth-grade earth science teacher at Spring Grove Middle School, Kronsteiner makes sure they don't go to waste.
"A lot of the perennials that have been leftover have gone on to help transform the inner courtyard gardens of the school and have been planted by the students along the Trolley Trail at Spring Grove," she said.
Get ready for the swap
Healthy, well-established plants should be carefully divided and placed into bags or pots. Divisions should be made as close to the event as possible to ensure that the roots do not dry out. While labels and individual pots are appreciated, they are not necessary.
Plants will be arranged in a row in front of the church. As everyone looks through the assortment, they choose plants and ask each other questions.
Throughout the event, participants come and go as their schedules allow, but the group tends to be incredibly enthusiastic about latecomers.
Everyone is invited to pick out approximately the same number of plants that they have brought. In fact, the goal is that you feel like you came away with more than you brought, event organizer Debbie Kronsteiner said. Bring a tray or box to transport your selections.
"It makes us feel good to know that everyone goes home happy," Krosteiner said. "I just think people have a good time when they are treated well and we just like for people to come back and see us again. It's all in the spirit of being a good neighbor."
If you go
What: Perennial Flower Swap
When: 8 a.m. to noon, April 26
Where: St. David's Lutheran Church, 1032 Musselman Road, Hanover
More: Visit www.stdavidslutheran.com