At Home in the Garden
Inexpensive and ingenious gardens
Have you ever stopped to think about how much money you have invested in your garden? Most of us would say we don’t want to know. After all, how can we put a value on such a labor of love? I know I’ve spent a few dollars over the years, but I can’t imagine myself without my beautiful garden to putter around in. Gardening is indeed an investment in our homes, ourselves, and the future.
Due to my work as a horticulturist and nursery owner, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to meet many gardeners. We gardeners all have one common link: our love of plants. But the types of plants that make each gardener happy are very different.
For some it is the trees, all types of trees—tall ones, flowering ones—they just want lots of trees around them. Some gardeners are all about flowers—perennial flowers, annual flowers, or cut flowers. Others simply want a very calm green space without much color, just a space that isn’t busy or needs to be fussed over. Then there are the “I like everything” gardeners like myself. We just want it all.
One plant at a time
My garden has grown one day and one plant at a time, as most gardens do. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks to make gardening a little more economical, but patience is still the most valuable tool of all. No matter what your budget, a garden doesn’t just happen overnight. You have to learn to enjoy and appreciate your garden today no matter what stage of development it is in.
Visiting new gardens and listening to gardeners tell their stories inspires me. The pride they feel is so vivid as they describe the simplest things—like planting a tiny lilac given to them by their grandmother, or the torture of a day they spent digging out ivy to make way for the new garden space.
Tepee of tropicals
When your garden is young and your budget is slim, what can you do to add height and personality to your garden without spending a fortune? I have come across a few simple and beautiful solutions that can work in almost any situation.
This first idea is ingenious, in my opinion. Take a few very tall branches, anchor them to the ground, fashion them into a tepee over a walkway or an area you want to look like an entrance, and then plant tropical/annual vines on them.
Wow! So simple and yet so beautiful. The tropical vines will take off and be gorgeous in no time at all.
You could use perennial vines if your structure is sturdy enough to last several years. The quickest source for long branches is to head to the nearest farm fencerow and cut down a few unwanted seedling trees, and you are ready to build your garden tepee.
The second is equally inventive. Take branches and vines and fashion a gate and fence leading to an area that was previously floating in a yard. This gives the space definition and a sense of enclosure, even if the fence doesn’t go all the way around.
Don’t worry about it being strong enough to hold in cattle, just make sure it is strong enough to hold itself up. If you don’t have access to grape vines or other vines, you can purchase large grape vine wreaths and soak them in water, making them pliable enough to untwine. If your structure isn’t strong enough for the gate to be opened and closed, anchor the gate open and it will still serve the same visual purpose.
Rustic farm equipment
I bet a lot of us have access to some good farm “junk.” I could take a walk in my parents’ farm shed right now and find all kinds of things that could immediately become garden art. When we moved into our house, we found an old manual reel lawn mower hanging high up in the garage. It now resides in our garden like a statue or tribute to times gone by.
An old wood splitter makes a perfect trellis for vines in the garden, and believe it or not, rust is still in style. Have you ever considered making a collage of old rusty tools on your garden fence or turning that old porcelain washtub into a fountain or planter?
If rustic just isn’t your style, try a few formal columns. They can be found made of wood or plaster, which can be treated to last in the garden, or a simple concrete one will do. Columns can be placed singly in the garden or in pairs, and they can have a decorative top attached or left alone as your style dictates. Most columns are sturdy enough to grow vines but can also be left clear for a more open view. They work wonders in making the eye move around the garden or designating another area of the garden to enter.
Showing your true garden style doesn’t have to be expensive and doesn’t always have to revolve around the plants. Take a look at what you may be hanging onto in your own garage or barn, and you may be surprised what garden treasures you find.