As I mentioned in the previous post – I am a frugal gardener. Actually, my frugality isn’t confined to gardening; it is an unbreakable habit, encompassing all aspects of my life, instilled in me by my thrifty Mother. My daughter, with the blunt authority of a teenager, calls me cheap. Whatever you call it, some of my favourite plants are – free plants!
Some of my free plants are divisions or seedlings shared by friends and family, like the beautiful hellebore seedling my sister gave to me last year. This spring it bloomed, and I was thrilled to see that the white flowers were intricately spotted with burgundy. Exactly the colour I wished to have in my garden – how lucky is that?
I’m also the proud possessor of several free plants given to me by my employers at the garden centre. Some are new trial plants supplied by the growers, like my Stormy Weather rose, some are plants that are damaged or sickly to the point where they are unfit for sale, like my Laburnum vossii (a broken, branchless stick when I brought it home) and sometimes I get to take home plants that are unprofitable to overwinter, like geraniums.
But by far, the most prolific source of free plants is…my laziness! I could use as an excuse that I have two jobs, two teenagers and ten animals to care for, not to mention a husband and a time-consuming blogging habit (and perhaps a teeny, tiny, internet addiction). At any rate, I’m busy enough managing all this stuff along with my garden, that one of the last things you’ll find me doing is keeping up with the weeding.
So all those little weeds grow for a bit before I get around to ripping them out, and usually grow enough so that I can recognize them. And you’d be surprised what seeds itself in a lazy persons’ garden!
Sometimes I talk to customers at the garden centre who swear that none of their flowers reseed for them, and invariably there is someone in the household who can’t stand to look at weeds, deleting all their free plants. I notice these gardens every so often as I drive about town, perfectly manicured, without a whisker of grass out-of-place. That’s so NOT my garden!
I have tons of the usual self seeders, like violas, pansies, foxgloves, snapdragons and columbines, but there are many other plants that self seed if given half a chance. I have several Delphinium that have popped up in unlikely places, and my Veronica longifolia has reseeded all over the back garden, in complementary shades of blue, purple, rosy pink and baby pink. I am enjoying the alpine strawberries that have propagated themselves, when the dogs don’t get them before me!
One of the most surprising volunteer plants in my garden this year is a lovely salpiglossis sinuata (painted tongue). I grew a few of these last year on the other side of the garden, so I’m not sure how it managed to cross the yard (probably in compost), but it’s gorgeous! Right behind the salpiglossis is self-seeded dill. I planted dill in my new garden in year one, knowing that I would never have to plant it again because it reseeds with enthusiasm. I just weed out the ones I don’t want, and leave a plant or two where there is room to accommodate them.
In my front garden last year I had some beautiful mauve and white osteospermum, a lovely little daisy that is very deer resistant. I have never known this plant to reseed, but I saw some rather familiar little plants this spring when I was weeding and sure enough, I have new osteos – and they were free! I have some “free” cleome in the front garden too – which my father mistook for something illegal last time he was here for a visit. Well, this is BC, but no Dad; I’m not growing those weeds!
New to my garden this year are Nasturtiums and Calendula. I know that these babies will reseed, and look forward to enjoying them in years to come.
Some plants reseed a little too frantically, even for me. One is Solidago (commonly called goldenrod) a North American wildflower with lovely yellow flowers in summer and an iron constitution. I put one in the front garden last year because it’s reputed deer resistant (and it was), but it kind of clashed with my Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ (a different shade of yellow) and this spring what seemed like ten thousand goldenrod seedlings sprung up across the front yard – so out they all came. Another prolific self-seeder in the front garden is Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima). I love this plant for its wispy tendrils that wave in the slightest breeze, but it often doesn’t come through our wet winters very well. That’s okay though, I just remove the ugly old plants because there are sure to be numerous offspring, which I can selectively weed so I always have enough in the garden.
All these free plants to be had, just by neglecting my chores!