The front lawn of the South Pasadena Public Library was bustling on Saturday morning, and South Pasadena Beautiful was at the center of it all.
As men and women with sketchbooks and busy pencils stationed themselves in the shade and a line for the library’s book sale stretched out the door, the nonprofit organization was hosting its annual Plant Swap.
“We just like to promote more sustainability, with our repair cafe and giving awards to sustainable gardens,” said South Pasadena Beautiful President Marianne Veach. “And then we figure this is a good way, too, for people to kind of share. People can meet up and share tips and talk about gardens.”
The Plant Swap typically accompanies the South Pasadena Beautiful Garden Tour, which historically has attracted hundreds of people from South Pasadena and beyond. The tour has been canceled the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but plant enthusiasts still flocked to the swap.
The idea is to bring a plant and take a plant, trading flora and sharing knowledge with other gardeners.
On Saturday, the library park was strewn with a variety of plants. Boxes of succulent cuttings dotted the ground, while marigolds and jalapeño plants dominated tabletops. A 6-foot saguaro trunk nestled against a tree and, next to it, dragon fruit leaves peeked above cardboard walls.
“I think a lot of people, they have a lot of their, like, succulents that they want to cut back but they don’t want to toss, and so they want to give it away,” said South Pasadena Beautiful board member Gina Atkinson, in between cutting apart plastic containers that held tomato plants.
Bellefontaine Nursery, Artemisia Nursery and Hahamongna Native Plant Nursery donated plants to take home, and visitors from as far away as Bakersfield, such as Lamar Brandysky, came to participate.
“I grow all sorts of plants,” said Brandysky. “I like to bring boxes of plants for other people to have and then people always bring plants. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this, I’d like to have this.’ And so it’s fun to just share with people and have them tell you where it grows or how it grows and to enjoy that.”
As people have spent more time at home due to California’s various restrictions and guidelines during the pandemic, South Pasadena Beautiful has seen an uptick in interest when it comes to lawn and gardening care.
During an Earth Day webinar hosted by the nonprofit, Veach heard residents discuss sustainable do-it-yourself projects they had taken on, like building raised garden beds or installing a gray water system.
“There was a lot more people growing food in their backyard, starting new projects that way,” she said. “That was cool. I really liked that because it really highlighted people doing it themselves.”
South Pasadena Beautiful is a resource for those taking on DIY projects or seeking answers to any questions fledgling and veteran gardeners may have. In addition to hosting virtual events, the organization works on beautification projects, like the recently completed South Pasadena Post Office project.
Volunteers are always welcome, whether in or out of the garden, and can be involved as much or as little as they’d like, according to Veach.
For those looking to start with their own backyards, Brandysky has simple advice:
“People see it as a way to spend their time, and a useful hobby,” he said. “I would say not to be afraid, and to buy something. And if it dies, don’t worry. Maybe it was in the wrong spot or the wrong type of soil, and not to overwater things. You can overwater things more than you can underwater.”