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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saving Money on Plants

I have multiple addictions, but one of them is plants. To be more specific, my drug plant of choice is the hosta. Here are some pictures of my hostas in all their glory last year:

Hostas aren't cheap. To be honest, plants aren't cheap, but I am. As spring hits my addiction starts kicking in and I begin to cave in. I could spend a lot on plants. Our yard is 1/2 an acre and we entertain a lot in the summer because we are blessed to have an in ground pool. We are outside all summer and plants become my decorations. Over the years I have developed some techniques to save money on plants and to feed my addiction.

Annuals- These babies add color to your yard. I could easily spend $200 (or more) on annuals a year only to see them die at the end of the season. My advice? Resist the urge. Take a look at your yard and decide where you want to make a statement. This is where you should place annuals.
In my area nursery's will often hold flat sales. This is the cheapest way to buy annuals. I can usually pick up a flat of locally grown inpatients (48 plants) for $10 at Al's Garden Center ( http://www.als-gardencenter.com/index.php?cID=261). My Fred Meyers typically has a flat sale at the beginning of May as well. The only issue with this is they are 48 of the exact same plant in one color. This works out well for me because I use a flat and a half to do my pool bed (pictured above). I buy two flats in different colors and plant them in intervals. However, if you are only doing containers one color can be a bit blah. The solution? See if a friend or neighbor will buy a different color and make some trades! Better yet, get a group of friends to go in on flats and divide them up at a garden party!

Containers- I love perusing suppliers garden centers for new and interesting annuals to add to my containers. They are so colorful and fun. However, some annuals cost $5 a pop. For this reason I choose a few pots to plant the high end annuals in. I have two Babylon bowls on the pillars in front of my house. They are visible from the street and the help showcase our front door. I have these planted with annuals year round. In the fall I have mums or pansies, in the winter I add greenery to them, in the spring it is pansies again and in the summer they are bursting with fantastic annuals.
One of the best things to do with containers is to look for perennials (plants that return year after year) you can plant in  containers. I started doing this a few years ago love that after one year in my container I can dig out the perennial and plant it in my yard. I can also leave it in the container for another year. It is a lot easier to justify spending $5 on a plant I will have for years to come. In some cases it is a plant I can eventually divide it and get more plants!

Some of my favorite plants to put into containers are:

Heucheras. They come in all sorts of lovely colors. They do well in containers and can remain in them for a year or two. After that they can be added to flowerbeds.These babies grow well in sun or shade.

Various grasses. They add height and textural interest to containers.

And of course hostas...

Plant Sales- One of my favorite ways to save money on plants is to go to gardening club sales. They are bountiful at this time of year. I have been going to some sales for 13 years and am now a regular. I have been able to buy some unique plants for a fraction of the price I would pay elsewhere. For example, I bought an excellent hellebore for $5 at one sale. I spotted the same hellebore at Al's for $35. Nice score. The other great thing about these sales is  people are knowledgeable about plants. Check out your local paper, flyers in stores, Craigslist, and garden club websites for more of these sales. Arrive early, with cash and some sort of box or container to put your plants in. If you see a plant you may be interested in grab it because things go fast at these sales.

Craigslist- I have picked up some great plants from the free section of Craigslist. Some people don't like plants and want bare yards. Heck, I can't blame them...gardens are work. I have saved thousands by digging plants out of other people's yards. A few years ago my dad and I dug up a beautiful maple and drug it home. The same tree would have cost me $700 at a nursery. Not only that, I saved a tree from being chopped down. I have also dug up peonies, hostas, Solomon Seal, and more. All of these plants were enormous compared to what I would have been able to get at a nursery.

Friends & Family- I have no pride when it comes to begging people for plants. I am known for saying, "If you ever want to thin that plant out I would be happy to come help you do it." As a result people are always asking me if I want something they are going to "clear out". I have also been known to go up to people's doors and ask them if they would allow me to get a start from their yard. Sometimes this works and sometimes...well that is a story for another day.

"Borrowing"- Ever been to a park, the woods, a vacant lot and noticed plants that are out of control? For example a shopping center near my home had a plant growing over the sidewalk. I began to weed a little for them and low and behold a start of the plant landed in my hands. We were strolling down the road and a little fern was growing on the side of it and I dug it up in order to protect it from the cities work crew who would eventually mow it over. You get the idea. Now before you call the police on me for stealing plants please understand I never would dig something up from private property, protected forests, etc. but some plants just need to be saved from years of neglect.

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