Tips and Fun from a Strictly Amateur Gardener
Each spring and summer, I cruise by the garden center several times a week to check out the banged-up plants on the Dollar Table. This year, eighteen of the twenty plants that I’ve babied back from their near death experiences are thriving, and adding real zing to the flower beds.
Here are my strategies for Dollar Table gardening:
1. Look for plants with potential. Spindly-armed, dried-out and twiggy – these are not good-looking plants. These are the ones that got caught in a too sunny position on the display table or missed being watered. Look for signs of life, though – a bit of green here, a crumpled bloom there. Once you get them home, you can usually revive them. Cut them back, soak them with water and Epsom salts or Miracle-Gro, and plant them in the cool of the morning.
2. Lean towards perennials. These days, I’m looking for ways to cut back on the spring gardening chores. I’ll grudgingly prune the Nellie Stevens and spread mulch, but investing sweat equity in annuals that will revive, bloom briefly and then swan off… No thanks. I’m looking for stick-to-it-tiveness. The steady eddie perennials are the faithful friend plants who return to delight you, year after year
3. Focus on the hardy plants. Have you chosen a robust – looking bloomer and had it swoon and droop at the first heat wave of late spring? The easily bedraggled plants are on the Dollar Table, too. Know their names and steer clear, going instead for the hardy stock. Look for Hostas, Day Lilies, the delicate looking but bulletproof Pink Muhly grass, and the reliable guy with the homely name – the Joe Pye Weed.
4. Select ones that thrive in your soil and climate. Southern gardens can turn into broiling ovens during the dog days of summer. No need to waste money on plants that would rather live elsewhere. Choose beautiful workhorses like Speedwell, Coreopsis, Verbena, and Black Eyed Susan’s. Some plants you love just won’t work in your soil. Sadly, Hydrangeas and Lavender aren’t happy in our yard, even with transplanting and the ‘Be well and prosper’ pep talk. So I just sigh and leave them on the Dollar Table.
5. Pick some plants just for fun. Usually, I pick some plants – annuals and perennials – just because I like their names. Summer Daze Prunella made me think of Cinderella’s sister. Starsisters Dahlia and Superbells Lemon Slice Pinwheels were just too whimsically named for me to walk on by. The Gayfeather plants turned out to be like the good dancers with the megawatt smiles. They didn’t stick around long, but they sure brought flair and style while they were here!
Hope you’re having a happy summer!