In my previous post, I promised my readers that I would be sharing something special very soon. Alas, this post isn’t it. No, I’m still working on photos for that “something special.” But in the meantime, I’m sharing a few ways that I save money while still feeding my main gardening addiction: Beautiful plants.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we never know if we are going to have a warm, sunny summer or if we will be disappointed again. But for avid gardeners, hope springs eternal. This time of year, plant nurseries are packed with resilient optimists like me who are stocking up on their favorite annuals. I can almost hear Mother Nature laughing at us in the background. Ha ha, those fools!
I used to spend a small fortune on my plant addiction. But now, with a little planning and a lot of luck, I can save money and still have my beautiful annuals. Most of it involves using my greenhouse, but an enclosed porch or even a sunny window would probably work well too.
A few ways I’ve been saving money are:
Taking Succulent Cuttings in Fall
A few years ago, when I visited Cousin Lolli in Fort Bragg, California, she gave me cuttings from some of the beautiful succulent plants she had in her garden. She warned me that they probably would not be winter hardy in the Pacific Northwest.
These succulents grow a lot in one summer, so rather than move the whole large plant into the greenhouse in winter, I just took cuttings from each one.
Then I simply put the cuttings in soil and kept them in the greenhouse over the winter, watering them occasionally. They sprouted roots and thrived with no special care.
Recently, I moved them into clay pots and placed them back outside where they will make attractive, easy-care container plants for months to come.
Last season, my favorite container plant was this big begonia next to my front door. It grew on one large main stem – into the shape of a small tree.
Even in fall, it looked interesting.
Overwintering begonias has never really worked for me before but, after this begonia died down, I just put it, pot and all, under the potting bench in the greenhouse. Once in a while, I would remember that the pot was there and give it a little splash of water.
And . . . nothing happened for a long time.
But now the begonia is slowly making a comeback – along with the baby tears that were planted around it.
Soon it will go back to its place on the front porch. It will be interesting to see how it grows this year.
I used to buy four-inch pots of baby tears every spring to use in containers and garden borders. I love this sweet little ground cover. Early last fall, though, I dug up the baby tears from my garden, put them back into four-inch pots, and kept them in the greenhouse. There, they thrived all winter. I divided them several times, and my pots of baby tears increased.
Recently, I planted most of them into the seat of this garden chair.
Here they will expand and eventually make a nice cushion for the seat – hopefully.
More baby tears are still in the greenhouse. I’ll use them in containers later.
Baby tears do sometimes overwinter outdoors in my climate, but they die down a bit, so it’s nice to have these more mature plants to start the season.
Geranium Starts and Lobelia Packs
Geraniums in four-inch pots can cost upwards of $3. That doesn’t sound like much unless you want quite a few – which I always do. So I buy the little two-inch starter plants – which this year were 50 cents each. Then, in the greenhouse, I move them into four-inch pots so their roots can develop. Same story with lobelias. I buy them in pony packs and then re-pot them.
Placing geraniums and lobelias (or almost any summer-blooming annual) outside before the weather is warm enough only stunts them. But protected in my greenhouse, it doesn’t take long for these starter plants to reach the size of their larger, more expensive counterparts.
Fuschia plants are easy to overwinter – even in a garage window. Last season this plant graced my shade garden.
In late fall, I just removed the clay pot from the “pedestal” it was sitting on and put it in the greenhouse.
Bonus Thrift Tip: Turn a tall pot upside down and use it as a pedestal to elevate a planter.
The pedestal you see above is actually a tall, broken pot turned upside down.
The break is turned to the back of the flower bed where no one sees it.
And a garden stake pushed through the middle and into the soil keeps the pot from tipping. The stake also secures the clay fuschia pot once it’s set on top.
My Garden Now
These overwintered plants just need a little time and patience now, and they should thrive. But while I have you here, come and see what else is going on in the garden.
We’ll start in the greenhouse where my little coleus seedlings are growing strong and fast – even though they are just starting to show color.
I am a little disappointed that I’m not seeing more variety in the leaf patterns so far, and I’ll probably use a different brand of seed next year.
This year I’m growing Pomodoro “Lilliput” tomatoes. They are said to be compact, disease-resistant, and good producers.
I’ve since moved the tomatoes into larger containers, using the tomato-growing tips I learned from a dear old friend.
In the garden, things are just starting to gear up. I did splurge a bit on this new birdbath for the shade garden.
I love it because it looks like it’s been here for years – like something we might have discovered one day while we were cleaning out the garden.
The Corsican hellebore is always spectacular this time of year – for months actually, starting in early January.
Another upside-down pot, topped with a square saucer, makes a cute, low-maintenance planter.
While my back was turned, violets took over the pot and spilled into the soil. More power to them.
Sweet woodruffs have moved into the flower bed above the dry stack wall.
And near the shed, bishop’s weed is trying to swallow my new garden edging.
When the perennials start to pop, the flower beds will become even more chaotic. It’s a very casual and accidental garden. But having some structure in the form of a few well-pruned trees, manicured hedges, and a neat lawn helps to balance all that chaos.
I will be sharing more of our garden as the season progresses.
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Pest Control (Hopefully!): Last summer we had a wasp nest on the side of the house. We don’t like to use chemicals to repel or kill insects if we can avoid it. So this year we put this “Get Lost Wasp” visual wasp deterrent under our eaves.
It’s not the most attractive thing to look at, but at least it blends in. Wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets are said to be territorial. They won’t build a nest where one already exists, so this product (in theory) deters them because it looks like an insect nest. It was fairly inexpensive, so we thought it would be worth a try.
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