Saturday, April 18, 2009

Frugal Flower-Gardening Part 1

Nearly everyone is pinched for funds right now. I hate to see anyone skimping on flower gardens, or deciding not to create one because they can't afford it. Beautiful, glossy magazines would have us think that a small fortune has to go into landscaping and bushes, the newest, most fashionable perennials and expensive annuals. There are many ways that a beautiful garden can be achieved with a small budget.

Buying seeds vs. plants
Think about it. A six-pack of petunias can cost close to $3 is some places. A packet of seeds containing from 100  to 1,000 seeds is about $2. 

It's true, not all of us have the time or desire to grow plants from seed, but it's an option I encourage you to think about! And when you have too many seedlings, your gardening friends will adore you all the more for donating your surplus to them. 

Now, how to obtain seeds -  it's really not complicated, but there are more options than many people realize.

Buying them at the local super-center is an obvious option. I happen to be pregudice against this idea, partly because I love to support small/ family businesses, partly because I have gotten terrible seeds from super-centers; as in, the WRONG seeds were in the packets. Yeah.
Mail order is one of my favorite options. There are a lot of great seed companies out there, ranging from Pinetree Gardens, who give you small amounts of seed (for home gardening) with very low price, to J.L. Hudson whose packages range in size, but the pricing is a no-nonsense $2 a packet, to Select Seeds, who have reasonable prices on their many heirloom and rare seeds, adding a touch of old-fashioned charm to your home.  

Then there is seed swapping...

Online garden clubs provide one way to swap seeds. (Or you can swap with friends, as I have done!) It's simple. You list seeds that you have presumably collected from your garden, and when you find someone who wants to swap with you, you each pay to send seeds to each other. I normally end up with numerous packages for under $3.

If you prefer plants to seeds, it's very very tempting to blow the budget at the nearest super-garden center. Again, I would encourage looking at mail-ordering plants. (If you can afford it, by all means support a local nursery. If it's a choice between Wal-Mart and mail-order, go for mail-ordering!)  Bluestone Perennials is my absolute favorite company. The fact that they grow their own plants instead of shipping them in from who knows where is a huge bonus.

Beware that there are companies that sell highly discounted "dormant" plants that they claim will grow after a few weeks, snagging your attention with generous coupons that make the deal almost unbelievable. Some of the plants will grow alright, but I have wasted a lot of money buying "cheap" plants that turned out to be dead plants. Paying a little more per plant for healthy, live, growing plants is worth it!
Most perennials divide easily, and shrubby plants like lavender and roses or certain annuals like coleuses  root from cuttings. I could go into greater detail about this, but I'll leave the detail for a future article.

Host a plant-swap!
Have an abundance of one or two flowers? Want more variety? Invite your gardening friends to a perennial-swap! Get an idea of how many are coming and ask each friend to bring a plant or division of what they want to swap for each guest.  I co-hosted one last spring and plan another this year. Combine it with a spring brunch or luncheon to make it an event to remember.

Next week: DIY hardscape.


Rebecca April 18, 2009 at 10:37 AM  

Wow, VB, this is great. I'm taking notes. :)

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