Stretching your Flower Dollar — Tips to Grow your Garden and your Pocket Book

May 2012 View more


My friends tell me that there are no gardening mistakes, only experiments. Unfortunately, ill-fated experiments early in my gardening career cost me money. I’ve now learned a few economical tricks and lessons in patience.

Ignoring the siren call of new, unusual plants each year is impossible for me, and I’ll readily pay for some of these beauties. But I need plant experts to help me discern which plants have the best chance of working in my garden and which ones don’t.  Last year, several experts at the Growing Place, my favorite weekend destination, made my life easier.  Among other desires, I wanted white-flowering, climbing vines that work in shade and unusual hostas that would thrive in sun.  Mission accomplished.  There’s no substitute for good advice, something that the high-volume garden stores are short on.

I’m not knocking the chain store garden centers. I frequent them for more standard flower varieties but I keep a list of when new shipments arrive each week and take advantage of buying the cream of the crop.

Marilyn Gor, a member of Naperville’s Cress Creek Garden Club, suggests visiting the Kane County Fairgrounds the first weekend of the month for quality selections of annuals, perennials and hanging baskets at lower prices than you will find elsewhere. She also suggests – this is where patience comes in – buying perennials with a good root base in 21/2-inch pots versus more expensive jumbo containers, and watching them grow. It’s too late this year, since orders were due in March, but each May, Cress Creek sponsors the sale of a wide variety of annuals. Visit their website seeds, I bought tomato and green pepper seeds at seasons-end discounts, stored them in a dark, cool spot, planted them indoors in May, then transplanted outdoors in June. Some lived, some died, but I got enough hearty plants to make salsa and other goodies that lasted a year.

If native plants tickle your fancy, put November 10 on your calendar. The Greater DuPage Wild Ones ( have a seed exchange at Warren Tavern in Warrenville.

My best money-saving endeavor is to split and scatter perennials, and neighbors have been a ready source. When I re-created my front yard garden, my neighbor Bob supplied me with 14 hosta plants. Bob, who has a huge shade garden, splits hostas from his glorious expanse in the fall, placing them in his “baby garden,” which in springtime produces wonderful gifts for friends.

Bulbs also provide some money-saving options. After flowers have bloomed and the greenery has yellowed and withered, we carefully dig up bulbs of crocuses, daffodils and other bulb beauties, and share the new baby bulblets. Hyacinth bulbs, if treated properly, can produce as many as 20-30 bulblets, a nice way to stretch your dollar.

On May 12, beginning at 7:30 a.m., Naperville Community Gardeners holds its annual plant sale at Naperville’s West Street Garden plots located west of Naperville Central and Edward Hospital. Bob Elvert, plant sale chairman, says not only are the plants beautiful, but University of Illinois extension master gardeners are there to help answer your gardening questions.

Finally, let me suggest that Naperville Garden Club. Members have many more suggestions on how to create a beautiful garden and how to do it economically.  The Naperville Garden Club, The Cress Creek Garden Club, among other clubs, welcome new members and sponsor a number of activities to help you hone your obsession. Join, learn and save.