Friday, May 22, 2009

Jorene's Budget Garden and Top 10 Budget Gardening Tips

As many gardeners know, it is very easy to get caught up in the excitement of purchasing plants and perennials; this euphoria often fades when the credit card bill arrives in the mail. However, there are many ways to keep the thrill going all season long at little or no cost. Below, I will describe the plants that I used in the Budget Garden beds that I created along with my best tips for having spectacular plant and perennials beds on a small budget.

I recently planted 2 large beds at the front gates of The Ponderosa Lodge. They are filled with shrubs and plants, most of which are deer resistant, fast growers, long blooming, and can tolerate heat and neglect. The total cost to create and fill both beds was approximately $50, including mulch and edging materials. While the beds do not look like much now, they should (with a little bit of luck) fill out quite nicely by next summer.

The Budget Garden includes 6 Itea Virginica Little Henry (Sweetspire) shrubs. I purchased Sweetspire via a nursery listed on Ebay--a great resource for finding good deals on plants. They arrived in good condition and will hopefully fill in the back of the bed by the end of next fall. Sweetspire has a compact, low-mounding growth habit, reaching 2-3 feet tall, and is covered with sweetly scented, pristine-white flowers that shoot off like sparklers in the late spring/early summer garden. I chose Sweetspire, in part, because I wanted a shrub that would not grow taller than the lettering on our business sign. However, it is also a great choice for underneath a window. It is deer resistant but at the same time attracts butterflies. It is also a real show stopper in fall, when its leaves change color from green to flaming-red. Sweetspire holds its leaves longer than burning bush and many other shrubs in the fall landscape. It grows in zones 5-9 under all sun/shade conditions, and it will stand up to drought. As such, it has truly earned its reputation as the "anywhere shrub."

The Budget Garden also includes many unidentified light, medium, and dark green hostas. The hosta (or funkia, plantain lily) grows in zones 3-8. Its bloom contains lavender or white flowers on tall stems during a few weeks in mid-summer. It is native to East Asia and contains lush foliage in varying heights, textures, sizes, and colors, including white, yellow, green, blue, and mixes of all of the above. Some of the hostas in the Budget Garden were on the property of The Ponderosa Lodge when we purchased it, and we merely transferred them to this spot. We also received a few more as gifts from our close friends Mac and Dee McCutcheon. Their hosta bed was overgrown with plants, so they gave us the extras. Hostas usually get bigger and bigger each year, and they can be divided and replanted elsewhere when they have overgrown the space in which they are contained.

I also placed some unidentified liriope in front of the hostas in the Budget Garden. This liriope was already in the front flower bed of my Fairlington Village townhouse in Arlington, Virginia, when I purchased it in 2002. It is the only slow grower of all of the plants that I placed in the Budget Garden. However, it was starting to take over a bit by spring 2009, so I moved some of the liriope to the Budget Garden. Similar to Sweetspire, it thrives in a wide range of conditions from dry shade to full sun and in zones 5-10. It is a short plant reaching approximately 12" high, and it has blue or purple flowers throughout most of the summer. Finally, liriope is deer resistant which is great for life in the mountains of southern West Virginia.

The Budget Garden also contains Convallaria Majalis (Lily of the Valley). I purchased 10 starters from Lowe's for less than $1 a piece. They were placed in the ground a few weeks ago but have yet to peak out above the mulch. I also purchased 5 full grown starters for $5 from another home gardener I located on craigslist who lives in Alexandria, VA. Lily of the Valley forms a fast-spreading carpet of graceful, 8" leaves. In mid-spring, it bursts into a hypnotically sweet-smelling shower of tiny bell flowers 6-12" tall. Lily of the Valley grows in zones 3-9 and in part to full shade. Like the lamb's ear described below, it multiples fairly rapidly from underground stems, so it should be planted in an area where it has room to grow.

Finally, the Budget Garden contains Stachy's Lanata (lamb's ear) that was on the property of The Ponderosa Lodge when we purchased it, and we merely transferred it to this spot. Lamb's ear is unique in the garden landscape as it is grown for its silvery, wonderfully soft, velvety foliage. It is deer resistant and grows in zones 4-8. Lamb's ear is a short plant reaching approximately 10" high, and it requires nearly full sun which is why we placed it in the very front of the bed. It has lavender flowers in the summer. Lamb's ear spreads rapidly and can become somewhat invasive over time. In fact, I used to hate it until I realized that I could just chop it up and move it all over the property or give it away to friends and visitors to the lodge who like it. However, because of its invasive nature, it is best to plant it in an area where it has room to grow.

We received the wood chipping mulch contained in the Budget Garden for free from a log building company located just a few miles from the lodge. Ken purchased the edging at Lowe's for less than $20.

My Top 10 Budget Gardening Tips include the following:

1) Look around your home and yard to see what you already have. Are some of your plants overgrown? Can they be transplanted to a different area rather than dug up and thrown in the garbage heap?

2) Let your friends, family, church members, etc. know that you will clean/thin out their flower beds for free if you can keep what you dig up. Many elderly, temporarily sick/bedridden individuals, and even busy young families enjoy their plants and flowers but do not have the time or physical ability to take care of them. Some people just do not like the work involved in thinning out a bed; they just want to see the final product of the beautiful plants and flowers. Many perennials such as daffodils and irises will not bloom when they are overgrown, so by cleaning and thinning out flower beds, you help them and yourself.

3) Place an ad in craigslist or in a local public place stating that you will clean/thin out flower beds for free if you can keep what you dig up.

4) Purchase items off craigslist. It's almost always less than half of what you would expect to pay at Lowe's, Home Depot, or a local gardening center. Additionally, home gardeners often have unique items that you cannot find at the big box stores or a local gardening center. It is also a great way to meet people in your area who have the same interest that you do.

5) Purchase items from reputable sellers on Ebay.

6) Wait for plants and perennials to go on clearance at Lowe's, Home Depot, or the like. They usually do. You can easily save 50-75% by waiting a few weeks, and most of the time, the plants will survive with a little water and TLC. If they do not, these stores usually have some sort of guarantee, so you can not lose either way.

7) Buy from your favorite gardening catalogs and websites after they have placed their plants and perennials on clearance. They generally always have coupons and rebates such as take $10 off an order of $40 or more.

8) Keep a shovel or small spade in your automobile, and dig up plants and flowers on the side of old country roads. A friend of mine recently told me that she also digs up bulbs on the sides of highways if she knows that they are about to be plowed under by the DOT.

9) Join Garden Web. Members on Garden Web will often trade plants and perennials or even send them to you in exchange for the cost of postage, especially if they know that you are a newbie who is excited about getting started in gardening.

10) Trade with friends, co-workers, or acquaintances who like to garden. . .


11) Let your family know that plants and flowers and gift certificates to your favorite gardening store make great Christmas presents.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Just finished reading about your budget gardening.
    Got some good tips on starting my new garden and like all the ideas on saving money. We all need that during these times.
    Hope you continue to enjoy your gardening, Jorene.