It has been mentioned before that I am a tightwad of the highest degree. Penny pinching is in my Scottish ancestry. Wasting anything, but especially money is painful, a downright sin, to my way of thinking. Now don’t get me wrong, I like to spend on quality items, or can’t live withouts, like bulbs, for instance. But to get the garden ever closer to meeting the vision requires swaths of plants. Large numbers of purchased, potted plants, by the hundreds if not thousands, like the installations of Piet Oudolf and friends require is out of our budget realm. Above: Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ backed by pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris nearing perfection. Both began life here as a couple of purchased pots.
But be not disheartened, fellow Oudolfiles, there is another way besides taking a second mortgage on the house to finance adding more of the plants that are doing well in your own particular climate and situation. That is key to a good design no matter where you live, use what works, what thrives, what has come out of these extreme weather events unscathed. Add more of those. Above: The Carex waterfall, click here_A River Runs Through It to read more about it if you wish. A small purchase, divided and allowed to seed, then spread.
Here in southeast Tennessee, now is the best time to add hardy perennials. As they keep screaming to us on television when it is time for the segment in the local newscast for the weather report and forecast, brought to you by the good folks at XYZ Nurservy, FALL IS PLANTIN’ TIME! It really is, too. I have bought violas and bulbs are on order, to be shipped at the proper planting time. But the favorite way to renovate, redesign and retrofit the garden is by shopping in the flower beds and gravel paths when the soil is moist and the plants have multiplied.
Seedlings and divisions can be moved now. I love to discover jewels and gems amongst the weeds and thuggish annuals like purple Perilla. It is cooler now and more time can be spent detailing a bed, seeing just what is in there under the violets and fall germinating weeds like henbit. Bits of the various sedums are ripe for the taking, snapping off tall stems to simply stick in the ground wherever their beauty would be an improvement. They will root easily and be nice sized by spring. Above: Sedum ‘Matrona’.
Ground covers can spare some bits to grow even more full next year and the bits can be replanted to jazz up pathways and also help keep the weeding to a minimum. Weeds love bare earth, so be sure to cover any bare spots with plants of your choosing. We had forgotten about the ornamental oreganos already growing here until seeing them used in some photos of Oudolf gardens. Golden oregano was added to the front raised planter last fall and has filled in nicely. The drought did not faze it and bulbs have grown up through it easily. Above: Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ with Colchicum ‘Violet Queen’.
The darker Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’ was purchased soon after we moved to this house, from KMart, back when Martha Stewart, or her staff, had a say in the plants they carried there. It was stuck along the side of the garage and totally forgotten as the Hellebores colonized the space through wanton seeding over time. After seeing this same cultivar in use by Oudolf, we looked under the leathery Hellebore foliage and happily found the oregano growing well, totally hidden. Rooted bits were added along the shed walkway to fill in between the stepping stones that are always a weeding nightmare. Pieces of Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ were stuck along the edge, mimicking the design seen in the Piet book. Volunteers of Salvia coccinea were transplanted there to add some vibrant flower color and hopefully self sow. And all of it was free.
These are just an example of some of the useful plants found by plant shopping right here at home. I hope you will be inspired to go shopping in your own gardens, too. But if you are too quick to deadhead, or mulch too heavily, are more worried about your garden space looking, gasp, tidy, seedlings might be hard to come by. Nature’s way of plant propagation is neither neat nor tidy at all, but works brilliantly with no human help. Embrace those plants that are happy enough to make babies if you just back off and let them be. Ease off in the neatfreakiness and embrace some free plants. Scatter those spent and well dried flower heads that you have allowed to mature on the plants. Look at the crowns of your favorite perennials, like daylilies, that are ready to keep on giving. Hemerocallis should be divided every five years anyway for best blooming. Don’t forget, fall is plantin’ time! It makes a tightwad heart swell near to burstin’.
Continuing this theme:
Shopping for Plants in Your Own Garden-Continued