Rita Jokerst, Horticulturist, Gardens on Spring Creek
Choosing a theme for a new garden or landscape bed is an exciting process. There are so many aspects to consider. In addition to your site conditions and cultural requirements of all your plant choices, you can fantasize how you want to bring the space together. Do you want the area to burst with fragrances? Do you want a cutting garden? Do you want whimsy to carry the design? Or is your motivation perhaps a bit more practical – are you on a budget and need to fill the space with plants easy to procure and propagate? In this article, I’ll explore some ways you can make your landscape dollars go further.
The easiest way to start a garden on a low budget is to ask friends, neighbors, and family members if they have any plants that need thinning or removal from their yards. You can mostly likely take a hunk of clippings or divisions from their gardens and be off to a good start on your own garden. Most commonly you may get plants that are spreaders or colonizers. While you should be careful of filling your whole garden with these, I find they do have their place in the garden, especially in areas where a bit of neglect is expected.
Some common plants you might see up for grabs are irises, sedums of all types, squill, ice plant, hens and chicks, grasses of all sorts, partridge feather, Russian sage, Mexican primrose, hardy herbs of all kinds, Corsican violets, and sedges, among many, many others. If you’re not sure if a plant will divide nicely from your friend’s yard, consider its root system. Plants with a large central tap root will not fare very well with divisions. Instead, focus on taking from plants with more fibrous or rhizomatous root systems.
Cast your plant-seeking net wider by posting on sites like NextDoor, Facebook, Craigslist, and the like. Many gardeners recognize the need to renew and refresh their own spaces but don’t want their extra plants to go to waste. Be their hero – take their seedlings, rhizomes or divisions, and everybody can achieve a better-looking garden! Additionally, various organizations in Fort Collins host seed and perennial swaps or starter barters, and you can usually find these promoted on social media. These are great opportunities to get plants tested by gardeners in the area and have proven to be fruitful. Likewise, keep an eye out for interesting, successful plants when out on your walks or bike rides. I have knocked on many a stranger’s doors to ask if I could take just a little bit of this or that from their yard. Nine out of ten times, the homeowner is tickled that someone else is a fan of their plant choices and lets me take some for my own yard.
Finally, get familiar with local nurseries, many of whom throw big beginning of and end of season plant sales. Here at the Gardens, we partner with Colorado State University to grow more than 35,000 plants each year for our Spring Plant Sale in May. Stay in the know by signing up for our newsletter at https://fcgov.com/gardens/newsletter-signup, and while you’re at it, get in touch with our friends at Fort Collins Nursery by visiting https://fortcollinsnursery.com to learn about their upcoming sales and promotions too!
From all of us at the Gardens on Spring Creek, happy plant sourcing!