Don't Buy Plants. Swap! (I did, and saved $50.)
One of the most economical gardening moves I ever made was to join my local horticulture club.
For just $12 a year, I get access to great gardening advice, some lovely garden tours, and a list-serv of other gardeners who are not only willing but eager to swap plants with me so we can all save some money.
I put that list-serv to good use this past weekend. After a harsh, dry winter, my yard needed a face lift. The sunny spot in front was completely overgrown with weeds. The mostly shady back yard had been overtaken by senecio daisies and creeping astilbe, let alone all manner of weeds. I wanted to restore the front with native plants that would thrive in hot afternoon sun, and add variety to the shade plants out back.
A quick trip to the nursery made me realize that my ideas would cost me some serious cash - at least $50 just for the plants in front, even without adding an accent bush or two.
I bought a few tall zinnias to add some immediate color, but headed home to see if I could "shop" for free on the club list serv. I put out a call for plants like rudbeckia, also known as black eyed Susans, and native grasses. I described my growing conditions so folks could look at what they were cultivating under similar conditions and give me some transplants. I offered to share my plants with whomever dropped by.
Bingo! Within half an hour of offering to exchange some of my astilbe, daisies, and a few other wildly growing specimens (like hellebores and native phlox), the responses came pouring in. My fellow gardeners would be delighted to swap with me!
I spent an hour digging up the plants I could trade, potting them in old planting containers I save for just this purpose. Then I puttered around in the garden and waited for the "booty" to arrive. Throughout the morning, people stopped by with a motherlode of perennials. I hauled in celandine poppies, three varieties of rudbeckia, a native columbine, goldenrod, mondo grass, echinacea (purple cone flower), and more.
At this point, I've saved even more than $50 by exchanging plants rather than buying them.
But as much as I love the bargain, I think I got more pleasure from the gardeners who dropped by with their own plants in tow. It was great fun to walk around, shovel and spade in hand, digging up plants I'd cultivated so my friends could enjoy them in their yard. By the same token, it was particularly satisfying to plant what my gardener pals had carefully dug up for me.
I'll be savoring that camaraderie all summer long.