As spring temperatures warm up, gardeners rev up.
Whether you are a novice or an old garden hand, the urge to get outside and start digging in the dirt is overwhelming. So is the urge to spend money on plants, containers and gadgets.
And retailers, from big box stores to online vendors, are working overtime to make you forget everything except those compelling images of big beautiful roses or ginormous tomatoes.
But how do you create a nice plot of land, without depleting your budget? We chatted with a gardening pro to give you some tips.
1. Make a List
Just as you’d never grocery shop on an empty stomach, horticulturist Laura Roberts, garden manager at the Van Vleck House & Gardens in Montclair, New Jersey, advises gardeners to make a list of their most-needed plants before going shopping. Garden center plant pallets—especially those alluring ones in front—are laden with big, flashy specimens intended to disable the frugal part of your brain. “Don’t fall in love at the garden center,” warns Roberts. Not sure quite what you want to plant? Start with a color palette: This cool gardening color wheel gives you a dozen options, from complementary colors to narrowing down to a particular hue.
2. Shop Smarter
Your local gardening store may be laid out adorably, but you’ll likely get more bang for your flower buck elsewhere. First, time your purchase based on where you’re shopping: Plants at big box stores often receive only minimal care and are best if purchased within a few days of delivery. Call the store to find out which day most of their plants are delivered, then time accordingly. Also, check garden center websites for daily and weekly specials, and put yourself on a few online vendors’ e-mail lists to receive notices of limited-time offers and sales. Some may offer deep discounts (“$100 off your next order”) if you buy one plant early in the season.
3. Pick Investment Plants
Choose hardy, easy-care perennials, like daylilies, which come back every year and increase in size over time. Roberts especially likes the many varieties of sun-loving sedums and shade-tolerant hostas, which come in a whole variety of shades. Self-seeding annuals like larkspur and California poppies also return year after year.
4. Plant What Creeps and Spreads
Have, literally, a lot of ground to cover? Rather than spending half of your take-home pay on plants, be strategic and invest in a creeper. Better yet, weeds will be less likely to flourish if you provide green groundcover. Roberts suggests woodland phlox, lilyturf or ferns for this purpose. Hostas (above) also work. They don’t creep, but they do get large and you can split them up and replant them.