When it comes to getting a garden design bargain, we’re all a bit cannier than we used to be. Voucher website's are really popular, TV shows like SuperScrimpers get millions of viewers, and many of us wouldn’t dream of going out for a meal without checking for a deal first. So you won’t be surprised to hear that there are also lots of ways of saving money when it comes to plants. This time of year – early spring – is an especially good time for saving money. Here’s my 5 top tips:
• Split up snowdrops that have just finished flowering. This will give you even more flowers next year but cost you nothing! It’s easy to do - just dig up the whole clump, use your fingers to tease out groups of 6-8 bulbs with their green stems and leaves intact, and re-plant straightaway.
They look especially good spreading out from under a tree or shrub. But most of us don’t spend much time in the garden in winter, so the most important thing is to put them where you can actually see them from the house, such as near the patio, or by the front garden path.
• Do some research. if you’ve got plants that you’ve had for a few years but never seem to flower well, don’t throw them away before first checking if they just need different conditions. You can find advice from the RHS website http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/Search or look them up in a gardening reference book from your local library. You may find you just need to do something simple like move them from sun into a shadier part of the garden, for example, or give them a bit of a feed. The best time to move plants already in the garden is usually late winter/ early spring – now! Once they’re happy with their situation they’ll soon get flowering.
• Have a clear out and sell unwanted garden equipment, furniture or excess plants. That way you’re reducing the overall cost of the new stuff you want to buy. You could try using Ebay, offer it through your Facebook network or colleagues at work, or use local swap sites like Freecycle where once you’ve donated an item up you can then request something you’d like yourself. I got some huge clumps of snowdrops that way last year.
• Look out for local plant sales. In our neighbourhood there are several plant sales a year in aid of Cats Protection League, and a neighbour has a plant table each weekend in summer with an honesty box for donations to the RNLI. The plants are good quality, very good value AND you’re contributing to a good cause!
• Grow from seed instead of buying expensive potted plants from the garden centre. It’s true that some plants grow so slowly, or are so difficult to grow, that it’s not worth it. But there are loads of colourful annual flowers – cosmos, nigella, nasturtiums, marigolds, poppies, violas that are easy and quick to grow, and don’t need special equipment beyond a sunny windowsill, some old margarine containers, and a bit of compost. Look out for the words ‘hardy annual’ on the packet, as this means that if you plant them in the next month or so you’ll get flowers this year. They’ll cost you around £2 a packet and you’ll get 50-100 seeds for that – a fraction of the price you’d pay at the garden centre for a potted plant. Growing things yourself is not only cheaper but incredibly satisfying. And at that price you’ll even be able to give some away to your impressed friends and relatives!