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Free, but pick with care

Greg Richter had been selling horticultural items to companies as business gifts for 18 years when he came up with the idea in 2004 to do something with plants that were otherwise destined for nursery mulch bins. He offers them “free” online.

The plants, mostly dormant and bare root, are not exactly gratis. There’s a $6.95 fee for handling and shipping, which is done by disabled workers through contract shelter workshops. Richter says he has shipped 230,000 plants from his base in Lincoln, Neb.

Most of these plants won’t grow here or are water-hogging choices. The perennials are mostly OK but a home gardener would still have to look up every one to see how it does in our climate. The website uses the horticultural map of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

-- Robert Smaus

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