Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gardening on a Budget

I wonder if there is such a thing as a frugal flower gardener. I'm thinking no, because flower gardening in and of itself is a rather frivolous activity. Frivolity is verboten among the frugal. Hence, the idea of a frugal flower gardener is an oxymoron.

On the continuum between wants and needs, flower gardening comes down somewhere much closer to a want than a need. You can debate this all you want. But when it comes down to food, flowers, or something for your flower garden, you better pick food or the state will take your kids. Honest.

Some of you will suggest the answer is a garden budget. I laugh at your garden budget! How does one budget art? My suburban landscape was a blank canvas when I moved here. After more more than a decade of additions, deletions, and countless edits the garden has become a work of art. I could never allow a lack of resources to limit my artistic vision.

The limit has been my artistic vision, or lack thereof. Experts want you to plan your garden and gradually implement your plan over several years. My style is a lot more...er...organic and experimental. I see something I like, buy it, find a place for it, and hope for the best. If it doesn't work, I'll move it. A flower garden evolves.

Every gardener I know is prone to excess and likely to be generous with more vigorous selections. A longtime gardening friend orders enough perennials from various catalogs every year to completely fill her garden two or three times. Another prowls small nurseries throughout northeast Georgia in search of rare and unusual plants--and anything else that's too nice to pass up. I like shopping for bargains at big box garden centers--Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart, KMart. I'll find a place for it...somewhere.

We wouldn't be gardeners if we didn't pick up a few things at the annual sales conducted by organizations like the State Arboretum of Georgia and the UGA Horticulture Club. It wouldn't be fall without a few more packages of spring-flowering bulbs--you know--just to replace those eaten by squirrels and chipmunks. Come summer we'll need more annuals and a couple of big pots to brighten things up.

My garden spending is too often penny-wise, pound foolish. I will spend $15 for a flat of annuals without a second thought. In fact, I routinely buy 6 to 12 flats of annuals every spring and every fall. I love the instant color and the ability to change things up every year.

Getting me to spend the same amount for a shrub or tree is a different story. I won't do it. Why? Because adding trees or shrubs requires a lot more thought. I'd have to research the right plant for the spot, consider all the various cultivars and forms to identify the desired variety and then search the Internet to find THE ONE. If I choose poorly, well, it's a permanent decision!

That's right. I will spend $75 for annual flowers certain to die before the end of the year before I'll spend $15 for a more permanent plant. Think I'm crazy? Shows what you know about art!

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