Seed and Bulb Exchanges, some Comments

Mary Sue Ittner
Fri, 14 Jul 2006 08:34:31 PDT
Dell has sent out messages to this list of 121 offerings of bulbs and seed 
since July 2002. I find that rather incredible. The BX was an inspiration 
of Jim Waddick and I think it has served us very well. It allows seeds and 
bulbs to be distributed when they are available, not waiting for a once or 
twice a year date. I routinely share excess material with friends and 
people I have corresponded with who share my interest in a particular 
plant, but I have to confess that I really appreciate that I can send 
things in bulk to Dell to distribute for me. It is very time consuming to 
clean seed and bulbs. Some seed is especially challenging. The need to do 
this happen when I have many other garden chores and am repotting and 
checking on dormant bulbs. Finding packaging material, dividing seed into 
packets for anyone who might request what I had, and getting to the post 
office to mail them always takes considerable time when I don't have it. 
Knowing I can send it to Dell who is an absolute saint for doing this part 
of the job is often the difference between the seed and bulbs I don't want 
going in the trash and getting to someone else. Since I get a postage 
credit for what it costs to send materials to him, I can then request 
something someone else has given and not have to pay for it.

There is a charge since it costs money to send things and for packaging 
materials. There is no extra charge to send out materials to international 
members. I am sure that sometimes if bulbs are heavy and to mail to 
international members it costs more to distribute  than the handling 
charges and there are other times there is a small profit to balance it 
out. Dell includes information in the BX offerings he gets from donors. If 
I have time I send more detailed information that I do if I am swamped. I 
am sure this is true of everyone who contributes. Since the donor is almost 
always mentioned, it's easy to contact them for more information about what 
they have given. People occasionally contact me, but usually I have no idea 
who has asked for what I donate and whether they had any success.

As with all seed exchanges it is helpful to validate that what you have is 
what the donor said it was supposed to be. Even those people who are 
knowledgeable are not infallible. Many of us in this group are keen 
gardeners with limited botanical knowledge so even if we want to know what 
are plants really are, we may not have the resources to figure them out. 
Each time I tackle an unknown I know it could take me a couple of hours to 
pour through my books, look up the words I don't know and then I still may 
end up with not being sure because my material doesn't quite fit the key. 
One of the reasons why I've started adding pictures of bulbs and corms of 
certain species is because I get so confused trying to figure out what some 
descriptions are actually saying. And those descriptions are written in 
English! Heaven help me if they were written in a foreign language for me 
too. There are things I grow that the corm can be the defining 
characteristic so understanding the words is necessary.

John Manning wrote a very provocative article for IBSA a number of years 
ago. In it he spoke of how quickly material is hybridized and his belief 
that very little of the material that most of us grow is pure. Even wild 
collected seed could be hybrid if there are several species growing in the 
same area that bloom at the same time. He suggested that most of us could 
just garden for pleasure and perhaps set aside a few things to grow that we 
wanted to protect that we are extremely careful to protect .

Many of us in this group are passionate about our plants and grow huge 
quantities of things. (Note I'm going for the positive spin instead of 
saying we are addicted to growing more and more.) I hate to admit besides 
having a garden with all kinds of bulbs in the ground I also have more than 
1200 pots and there are others who have more than I do. To hand pollinate 
all of those things and make sure I did it before all the insects and birds 
in my garden got to them first would be impossible. So instead of feeling 
guilty that I am not protecting the identity of my plants, I have decided 
just to enjoy them. So seed I give is mostly of garden origin and probably 
is not pure. Every year I end up with additional bulbs and corms that have 
ended up in pots that are mystery bulbs. Perhaps they came from errant seed 
or tiny offsets missed when repotting. Each year I have three or four 
community large pots I plant them in and then I enjoy seeing what they turn 
out to be when they bloom. This year I'm thinking of sending these things 
to the BX, but all I could say about them is winter growing mix. They could 
be something really special or not. If I did this, I'd assume that the 
people who asked for them would find it fun and not complain about not 
knowing in advance what they might get.

Having said all that I too love to have information about what I grow so 
appreciate it when people take the time when they have it to include 
information about what they are donating. But I also know that sometimes 
there just isn't a lot of time to write very much and I think Dell would 
rather people donate with limited information than not donate at all.

Mary Sue

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