A guide to garden bargain shopping


Save time — and money — by learning how to bargain shop for plants

garden centreHR

Early in the season when your garden centre is looking like this, it probably won’t be offering many discounted plants. But at the end of the season, it’s a different story.

Did you know many gardeners these days don’t plant seeds or take cuttings? They dig, weed, mulch, trim and tidy up, but they often don’t have the time to wait for a cutting to send out roots. Waiting for seeds to germinate can also be a stretch and so instead, they pop down to the garden centre. Here you can buy a plant or seedling that someone else has produced for you – looking lovely and ready to go. It’s a great arrangement, which gets even better when you learn how to bargain shop for plants…

Let’s set the scene. Plants are living things and they have an active growing season (spring, summer and sometimes fall, depending on where you live). This is followed by a resting and regrouping season – winter. Even in the kindest of climates, a visit to your nursery in mid winter and then again in mid summer should show you the difference. At the start of the active season, nurseries are stocked to the max with plump, ready-to-impress plants. At the other end of the growing season there are fewer plants on the stands and these may be looking a little less impressive. This is where you come in, ready to snap up the bargains. But you’ll need to have your wits about you…

These Flower Carpet roses are in peak form and commanding full price. A few months later it may be a different story…

flower carpet pots in bloomHR

These Flower Carpet roses are in peak form and commanding full price. A few months later it may be a different story…

1. Know what can be saved: So you’re wandering around looking at the end-of-season items or maybe marked down stock and the prices look great. Stop and look closely at the plants themselves before you start piling them onto your trolley. A little yellowing of the leaves is ok, but is there enough healthy foliage to let the plant bounce back once you’re giving it all the fertilizer, water and sunlight it needs?

Does the plant look like it’s been regularly irrigated or are you suspicious that it has been allowed to dry out to the point where any water now would just run down the inside the pot and straight out the bottom. Quickly lifting the plant out of the pot – something that’s easy to do late in the seasonwhen roots are well-established – will let you confirm that there are living roots.

2. Good plants to look for: Not every type of plant hangs in there for months to be a worthwhile end-of-season-bargain. There are no hard and fast rules, but as a general guide, plants that hold their own in the garden through a long summer are often good bargain candidates. Think agapanthus, roses, lavender, cistus, camellia, etc. That impressive display of Flower Carpet roses that you spotted at the nursery in spring, may now be reduced to a hand-full of plants that are looking a little scrappy. But don’t be fooled. These left-overs are time bombs ready to burst into action once you get them home.

flower carpet end of seasonHR

This is a Flower Carpet rose that’s been on the shelf waiting to be given a caring home. Take it home at a discount, then give it sun, fertilizer, water, a bigger pot and time and you’ll end up with fabulous results.

flower carpet pink splash pots HR

This is what an end-of-season Flower Carpet rose Pink Splash looks like after it’s been in the care of a bargain-hunting home gardener. It’s clearly worth the effort to keep your eyes peeled.

3. Have a list but be flexible: If you’ve been planning a garden refresh, and are canny enough to wait for these plant clearances, you may need to be flexible. Your lovingly drawn planting scheme in reds may have to shift to pink if that’s the only color available on the shelves. One approach is to draw your garden plan and mark the areas to be planted in heights. This helps you find what you need – amongst the bargains on offer – to make the essence of your design work.

4. Those seductive seedlings: Seedlings are like babies – they are irresistible. At the beginning of the season when their pansy or primrose faces are looking up at us from perfect trays, we’re transfixed. Later in the season when they may be looking a little leggy, limp and sad, if they’ve been marked down, it’s still tempting to take them home.

By all means do, but only if they are seriously discounted because you will only get a few weeks value from them. And if you do bring some home, treat them like cut flowers. Condition them with ample water doctored with some liquid fertilizer, clean them up by carefully removing any spent foliage and flowers, then plant them tightly into pots and arrange them for short-term impact at the door, on the outdoor dining table or even on the sunny kitchen window ledge.

colourful plants in garden

Seedlings at the beginning of the season are worth every cent. Two months later they need to be marked down to make them worthwhile.

For more information

Anthony Tesselaar

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