The Five Secrets of a Dollar Table Gardener

Tips and Fun from a Strictly Amateur Gardener

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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.

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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!

Here is pic of an originally sorry looking Coreopsis just a month after being given a second chance.20150709_082437[1]

Hope you’re having a happy summer!

Susan Schild’s Southern novel, Linny’s Sweet Dream List, will be released January 5, 2016 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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10 thoughts on “The Five Secrets of a Dollar Table Gardener

  1. bschild1961

    Good Blog

    Bryan Schild

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  2. donnaeve

    Uh oh. I planted two hydrangeas and one is definitively starting to look “$1.00 table’ish.” I think it needs more sun, but like your comment above, it could be it just doesn’t like the soil in my yard. I love them though, and wanted to give them a chance!

    Great tie in to your book!


  3. Martha Tilyard

    I was just talking about you this morning to Bob…..about what a force of nature you are. And now you garden too! I’d better not let Bob see your post, since he’s both a devoted gardener and a born saver. He’d leave me in a minute!


  4. MJ

    I am totally going to try this. I always bypass the banged up plants but now I will give them a once over and use your tips to plant a few. I didn’t et to do my summer herb garden so for the fall I want to make out deck and front steps beautiful with plants. Thanks for the tips.


  5. Tiffani

    These are some very helpful tips. I wish I was a good gardner because I do love going by the clearance table and rescuing plants, but they always end up not lasting very long under my care. With your tips I might be ready to get back to rescuing! Great post!:)



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