Monday, 24 May 2010

Gardening on a Shoestring

Two major printer jams later, one of them very scary, I'm relieved to say that the latest batch of greeting cards is packed up and on its way to Norfolk. It's really been far too hot to be working so hard!

But, yesterday, on my way to fetch some packaging from my garage at the end of my garden, I surprised to notice that my 'Dreaming Spires' rose had begun to bloom -

It's always one of the first rose to come out but even so it seemed a bit sudden! This evening it's covered in buds and blooms -

I'm very fond of this rose, partly for the obvious reasons - the rich buttery golden colour of its blooms, its fragrance and even its name - but also because it was such a bargain! I bought it for less than £2 in the garden department of our local equivalent of Woolworths and it's particularly good value because it flowers twice a year!

It set me thinking about how a garden can so easily eat into - or should I say 'devour', one's income, especially for those of us who are gardening enthusiasts! But it doesn't have to be that way so I thought I'd mention a few little tips and ideas which have helped me to create a frequently admired little garden without breaking the bank!

The first and perhaps most obvious tip is to grow your own plants from seed, rather than buy plants. It does require a bit more patience and care and you have watch out not to rack up the cost by spending on expensive composts and containers. But the cost can be kept really low if you save the seeds from year to year and sow them either straight into the ground or in tubs of soil. I do this successfully with annuals such as Sweet Peas, Pot Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Californian Poppies, Love-in-a-Mist amongst others and mostly avoid the expense of 'bedding plants'. They self-seed as well so are a really cost-effective way of providing colour in the garden - especially as they've provided me with the inspiration for so many of my greeting cards!




So whether you are looking for something like nasturtiums or marigolds to brighten up your garden or whether you prefer the more delicate colours and wonderful fragrance of sweet peas, you don't need to spend much beyond the original packets of seeds! There are plenty of websites such as this one if you need advice on how to go about harvesting seeds from your garden. 

Sometimes you can end up with far more seeds than you need and then you may be able to exchange them with friends or through the Cottage Garden Society website -  though, be warned! A friend of mine regularly exchanges her seeds through this website each Autumn and has been known to discover in the fullness of time that she has carefully tended and lovingly nurtured a pot of grass! (I've sometimes popped a little packet of seeds from my garden in with Christmas presents for friends and nobody has told me yet that I've sent them weeds!)

My second piece of advice is that if you are on a tight budget, Garden Centres are best avoided as much as possible. If you love flowers and are anything like me, you are likely to come home overspent and overloaded with plants you won't know where to put! It horrifies me to see pots of annuals that grow more or less wild in my garden for £4 and upwards! If there's a plant that your garden really seems to need that isn't available 'on the cheap' then dropping heavy hints about garden centre vouchers, or even plants, in advance of your birthday is one little trick I'd recommend! That's how I came by my fabulous 'Alchemist' rose, pictured here in an oil pastel painting -
My mother never went to a garden centre in her whole life; I'm not even sure that they existed while she was still alive. There were 'nurseries' but even they were few and far between and not much frequented by the general public.I don't know if she had particularly green fingers but my mother spent as much time as her seven children and later, other committments, allowed, 'doing the garden' and it always looked lovely. I think she must have found it therapeutic as she always seemed to be in her best moods when gardening. She had very little spare cash but she knew how to divide up perennials to make new plants for any spot that was looking bare and this is something I've always done when moving house. 

As soon as I know that I'm definitely going to move, and weather permitting, I divide my favourite flowers, making sure that I leave plenty behind for the new occupant, and plant up what I want to take with me in large plastic flower pots or tubs. That way they can stay put after the move until I have time to plant them in the garden. Quite a few of the plants in my present garden, such as these Mountain Cornflowers and Snow in Summer -

have moved with me at least twice! As has the blue plant, which I think is a type of geranium - I'm hopeless with names! - which gave rise to this waterdolour card design:

I put it on a Zazzle mug and it's been much admired -

- though I actually much prefer its 'Nasturtium' cousin:

Finally I'll share with you another of my mother's little money-saving tricks, though I don't recommend that you follow it in its entirety! She had a knack of seemlessly 'tidying up' the flowering shrubs in the public gardens along the Esplanade of the seaside town where we lived and transplanting her 'tidyings' to our garden, where they invariably thrived! The nearest I've come to this is my splendid Mock Orange which originated in my garden in Hereford!

Its Abergavenny offspring is  on the point of coming out today -

- but it started life as about half a dozen small shoots around the base of the parent tree. I 'tidied them up' and planted them in a large plastic tub, where they stayed for almost five years waiting for the retaining wall to be built around the flower bed in which it now resides! It didn't wait the usual seven years to flower but began to bloom in its third year after the move. 

Maybe I have inheritied green fingers but I'll pass on my very simple method of replanting, which always seems to be successful, learnt from my mother. You simply dig a shallow hole or put some soil into the bottom of a large pot, water it till you make a pool of water and then lay the cuttings all around the edge, leaning outwards. Cover the centre of the hole (and the roots) with soil and firm it down as 'robustly' as you can. Hold the cuttings up in a more or less upright position and place more soil around the outside of them, again treading it down, or in the case of a tub or pot, pressing it down really firmly. Then talk to it nicely (very important!) and before long you will have a nice healthy plant to fill a space in your garden and provide subject matter for photos and paintings! 

Mock Orange, or Philadelphus is traditionally associated with weddings because the scent of Orange Blossom is said to be an aphrodisiac -

Just one last little tip - don't waste money on garden tools that you'll rarely need. Either improvise (cut the bottoms off large lemonade or mineral water bottles for great little cloches for individual plants!) or borrow tools that are not likely to get much use. For instance, a rake seems like an obvious 'must' in a garden, but I haven't used one since I first laid out the garden 8 years ago because my garden is now so full of plants that there's simply nowhere to rake! 

And now I'm off to water my garden - a big downside of the hot weather, especially when the water is metered and the water butt is running dry! We could really do with a few heavy downpours - as long as they're at night! 

Happy gardening!


Arnie Winters said...

Those are lovely Zazzle designs! Your readers may be interested in the following coupon codes, if they're going to be shopping at :)

Emmapetesho1 = 10% off when you spend £25+
Emmapetesho2 = 12% off when you spend £35+

Country Mouse Studio said...

When I worked at home support, like a visiting nurse, I noticed that every time I complimented or questioned a person they would volunteer to share the plant. After a couple years, I had a home full of houseplants that reminded me of some very special people.
I have a Christmas cactus that had been smuggled from Norway over 100 years earlier by the woman's mother-in-law and a shamrock about the same age from another one. She said her mother-in-law told her that as long as the plant was healthy. I'm not sure what she thought when it went dormant.

alineskee said...

HI Judy, thanks for following my blog am following yours too, very impressive (allicor)

Michele said...

Thanks for the excellent gardening advice. I wandered into a garden centre last weekend intending to buy some string, and came out with two pots, four small plants and several other items. At least I remembered the string!

Sunoj said...

Thanks for the great post. Your advice on starting a garden on a shoestring budget was really interesting. Keep up the great work and hope to come across more interesting posts from you in the future. Also check out and for some great blogs and news on the small business.


Di said...

Hey Judy, Lovely -both for the gardening on the cheap tips and peeks at your art inspired by your gardening.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Di - thanks for stopping by! With the weather we've been having, I thought it was time to bring out my gardening tips again. As you've noticed, I'm a bit of a Flower Freak and I love to share them with others in my designs!