The warm sunshine of May and June lures people out-of-doors. Walking the Triangle’s greenways or sitting outside enjoying the bounty of a trendy restaurant are how many respond to gorgeous weather. To others, spring awakens a primordial urge to start gardening.
Once gardeners switch into the serious gardening mode, they should consult suggestions for the best planting practices before charging into the garden supply stores. One source of quick advice on gardening is Ground Rules by Kate Frey (Timber Press, 2018). This volume offers “100 easy lessons for growing a more glorious garden.” Combined with lovely photographs, the short one page articles present the basic facts on such topics as choosing plants, developing the soil, using water wisely, controlling unwanted animals, and designing a garden.
Even armed with doses of basic gardening knowledge, the visit to the plant nursery can be a disorienting experience. Wandering the aisles, new scents, shapes and hues tempt gardeners into purchasing beautiful, but expensive plants. The cart fills with annuals, perennials, bushes, and new colorful containers. Swallowing hard, many gardeners pay a higher total price than expected and experience short-lived regret at the cost before rushing home to plant the new beauties.
For those who can’t resist purchasing numerous and/or expensive plants, sensible help with lessening gardening costs is offered in The Budget-Wise Gardener by Kerry Ann Mendez (St. Lynn’s Press, 2018). She provides “hundreds of money-saving buying and design tips for planting the best for less.”
Mendez’s book is not limited to just cheaper buying tips. The what, when, where, and how to choose and buy plants are explained. She advises delaying purchasing expensive plants until fall. Not only is autumn a best season for planting, but it is also the time that nurseries offer sales to clear their merchandise.
Among the many plants that she recommends is a listing of “Shrubs that earn their keep.” These include plants such as the familiar oakleaf hydrangea and holly, which provide different aspects of beauty across the seasons.
How to shop less expensively with mail-order catalogs or at garden centers is included in Mendez’’s section on plant sources. Before gardeners mail-order products, Mendez advises consulting the Dave’s Garden website. Its Garden Watchdog section contains ratings by customers of over 7,000 mail-order companies. This website also locates companies that sell special plants and products near your home.
For container gardens, Mendez suggests filling pots with perennials and small shrubs rather than purchasing annuals as seasons change. If planning on leaving these potted perennials outside during the winter, be sure that the container is weather-resistant and that the included plants are considered hardy in at least two zones colder than the zone 7 common to the Triangle.
After reading these books, a gardener should be motivated to visit a garden store. Using less money and a cellphone to access extra internet knowledge, a cheaper, lovelier garden is possible this summer.
Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the JC Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.