How We Planted Our Big Bed with Next to Nothing

When Mike moved into his house, he inherited an acre on a noisy street. One of our first projects was crafting a large front bed and filling it with low-maintenance perennials, trees, and shrubs. But we didn’t really have any money. We did, however, have some ingenuity, good connections, and researching skills. Here are three ways we filled (and continue to fill) our massive front beds:

     1. Find your generous friends and family.

I’m lucky in that I come from a rather large network of urban gardeners. But really, I think even people without lots of gardeners can make some use of their connections. Most people who actively garden over-plant or have various specimens that just plain over-grow. Virtually all of our daisies, irises, daylilies, and hydrangeas were from overgrowth. Merely mention to a gardener that you’re putting a little plot together and they’ll tell you their one azalea needs a new home or their black eyed susans are just taking over. In this case, we found if we simply offered to take said plant off their hands by doing the hard work of digging, most gardeners were happy to have us collect.

  2. Scope out after-season sales.

Every plant has a season and at the end of that season, nurseries and big box stores alike are scrambling to unload products before the next season’s shipment arrives. We found fruit trees for $10, 3 gallon hardy hibiscus for $7, 50% off bulbs, and specimens like viburnum, dogwood, and special little hostas for 75% off full. Planting after-season is a lesson in patience, too. Everything has already gone dormant but if you can manage it, you’ll have bigger, healthier plants the next year.

      3. Watch for garden club conventions.

Our local garden magazines have listings in the back for monthly sales around town. Some of these are specific to types of plants (hostas, irises, lilies) others are based more on philosophies (native, butterfly, wildlife). These are really great ways to not only meet other gardeners and pick their brains but plants are often priced incredibly low. We bought 15 kinds of hard-to-find irises at a local Iris Club show- each iris clump was between $1-3 with many containing 3-4 in a clump. We brought home bagfuls of daylilies and filled in numerous little odd spots for no more than $20. Additionally, we visited various tree programs in Spring and Fall- many saplings are either given away for free or for a donation. These are teeny little guys but a handful of years later and they’re happily flowering away.




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