How would you like to meet more of your neighbors, celebrate the bounty of your garden, forge new friendships on common ground, and strengthen your community ties? Dina Russell, gardener and founder of PlantShare®, believes plants can help you do all of that.
“Think about it—the development of the original human society was created by plants,” Dina says. “Plants enabled us to stop being nomadic and settle down.” Civilizations followed. Plants connected them. The historic Silk Road and its spice trade, she notes, allowed cultures to talk to each other. Dina observes that the importance of horticulture is even reflected across the English language—we speak about putting down roots, or a grass roots movement, or refer to someone as being grounded.
But recently, we’ve been losing our awareness of our plant roots. So, using modern tools to foster our ancient connections, Dina helps gardeners share plants, information, and friendships face to face.
Dina is both a plant biologist and a former University of Washington faculty member. I met her at the 2019 Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. Her booth featured a display of plant stands that could be bought and placed in neighborhoods like little free libraries—only with plants to give and get instead of books. I loved the idea of this down-to-earth sharing economy.
Along with the physical kiosks that can be located on a street corner or any public place where people gather, the PlantShare® website offers a way for local gardeners to share plants directly. If you’ve got plants to give away, or want new ones, you will soon be able to create a profile page for the plants. Only the plants are public—the gardeners who grow them stay private. “It’s plant dating,” Dina says. “When there’s a match, you can walk over to meet your neighbor.”
Everything is kept local, so the plants, Dina points out, are acclimated exactly to your garden. “Local soil, local know-how, local weather,” she says. “They are not grown in a greenhouse somewhere else and shipped across the country.”
As well as offering the ability to connect with like-minded gardeners in the neighborhood, the Plantshare® website contains an ever-growing collection of plant profiles, plus links to resources on wide-ranging topics such as noxious weeds or medicinal use information.
“Gardeners can help urban societies find their balance,” Dina says. “And I think plants can help us reclaim our social roots. Plants are about community. We breathe in what they breathe out. Plants hold up the world.”