May 25, 2010

Frugality is Not Dead

This post is dedicated to my grandmother, from whom I inherited a love of gardening and an admiration for thrift - the virtue, not the plant (Armeria maritima is called thrift). Not that she will ever read it, since she doesn't have a computer. But after posting about my extravagant plant purchases this spring (see that post here), I feel the need to write about my frugal habits, too.

I have made use of seeds in my garden, which is a very thrifty way to get plants. Never mind about the entire flat of annuals that I nurtured on my kitchen windowsill for six weeks this spring, then set out in full sun with the cover on and STEAMED to death in a mere hour or two . . . no, let's not dwell on that. Instead, let's focus on all the new columbine (Aquilegia) plants that are growing from the seeds I scattered last fall. The top two photos show 'Melba Higgins', and the one below is 'Clementine Blue'. The new plants aren't blooming yet but should look something like the parents in these photos.

Actually, I didn't kill all of the seedling annuals - some of the 'Dolcissima Fragolino' petunias survived, so I planted them out this week. I ordered more 'Victoria' salvia seeds to replace the dead ones, and I hadn't used up all the 'Twinny Peach' snapdragon seeds, so I replanted those.

My other frugal habit involves a knife to divide plants. Along with two 'Blue Moon' wisteria vines, I ordered two 'Pink Double Delight' coneflowers from The coneflowers that arrived were large enough to divide into four plants each, eight total. You can see a couple of the little clumps above.

Last fall I cut apart my clumps of 'Walker's Low' catmint (Nepeta) to spread around the yard. They're just starting to bloom now, and will continue until October. I love this plant enough to put up with the seedlings that pop up all around the mother plant.

When I found 'Marcus' salvia at WalMart - definitely a store for the thrifty - I snapped up six pots and cut them into 11 plants. The 12th cutting didn't end up with any roots, oops. That's always the danger with dividing little plants. Marcus is supposed to be a miniature form of 'May Night', with slightly lighter-colored flowers and a similar long bloom time. I was in need of some low growers around the front yard, so I was excited to find these.

So there you have it, Grandma. I'm not completely lost to frugality. Phew, I feel better now.


  1. I am in awe of anyone who can successfully divide plants. It's an art.

  2. I use seeds and divide to conquer the spending habits, too.

    As for salvia 'Marcus'--I've had him for several years. He's a short fellow, but if you don't deadhead him, he'll seed around for you and the offspring will be true and identical. I find that to be the case with salvia nemorosa 'Sensation Rose' and 'Caradonna' as well.

    Since you read my post today, you know that I divided that achillea into three plants. It was a gallon pot for $8.99, but I got three great divisions from it.

    I buy one sedum and pinch the tips and stick those in the ground. I pinched a lot of ice plant today and did the same. Succulents are so easy.

  3. Wow, dividing plants, very impressed. I'm far too scared to try... The only ones I've ever done were accidents where I'd ripped a part off the plant, tried potting it up and hoping for the best - Primula Vialii for example.

    I love your Aquilegias, especially the second, oh how I long for some of those shady types...

    Ok, really need to learn to divide plants.

    Seeds are fine by me, more than happy to sow seeds... I have seedlings in pots coming out of my ears as well as some I've sown onto the new border.

  4. You are a funny girl. I killed an entire row of freshly planted annuals my first gardening year. I had a hose that dripped so in an effort to be "frugal" I let it "drip" in a little stream on my plants. The sun was hot, the day was hot, the water was hot and it scalded those poor little plants. I LOVE the blue columbine!

  5. Lovely photos of these blue flowers. I do a LOT of growing some seed and dividing -- and taking cuttings and layering. It's the only way to get a ton of plants without going broke!

  6. Oh' that flower was so cool! This is the first time I saw like that. Anyway, thanks for sharing this post. I enjoyed reading it.


  7. Yay, VW~~ You do Thrift proud! Don't you love this about plants? I love Forest Farm but haven't bought from them in several years. Any 'Berry Smoothie' yet?

    I need to get over to Wal-Mart. It's about fourteen miles from here, in another town and many people around here are anti-wally but I don't care about any of that. I just think it would be fun to see what they've got.

    I had to laugh at your admission to steaming your seedlings. Not laugh at you but with you. I've steamed, drowned and otherwise rendered DEAD many a seedling in my day. I think it's sort of a rite of passage for getting to the "advanced" stages of garden making, don't you think?

  8. Hi VW, I like what Grace said. I do think steaming is an original way to kill seedlings though. I prefer plants that give and are generous, so they can be culled rather than coaxed. And I'm so pleased you love my namesake plant so much. Cheers, catmint

  9. I love your Columbines. Blue flowers are always winners.
    I have cooked a few plants in my day too. After one time you learn your lesson and remember the carnage LOL!
    I just planted Walkers Low last fall but I am enjoying the blooms and am glad to hear it will spread.

  10. Hi VW! Your grandma can be proud of you! I am better with dividing than with growing plants from seeds. I tend to under- or overwater them. I bought a lot of plants in HD recently. They have a Clearance shelves where they put perfect (almost) plants just because nurseries send them fresh plants of the same type.

  11. VW, I tend toward allowing plants to reseed and then move them about~I scatter seeds but haven't had the space to care for them inside~This year I am going with gardenfaeries seed starting technique; it sure seems 'gail-proof'. The columbine is lovely. gail

  12. I think I'm a combination of both being frugal and splurging a bit on a few plants like it sounds like you are. My Nana often tells me about starting all of her plants from seeds and cuttings because they had little spending money and she didn't drive. I find the plants I've started from seed are the ones I'm most proud of, especially the perennials that require the patience of two years to see bloom. The Columbines are really pretty! I think I'll try some new ones this fall.

  13. I'm sure your grandmother is proud of you! I think the idea of dividing bought plants before you plant them is so smart. I have done this on occasion, when I wanted 2 or 3 of something and they only had one left, but I haven't done it on a regular basis. Thanks for the suggestion. -Jean

  14. This is music to my ears and eyes, VW! I can count on you to provide us with wonderful cost saving ideas. Still using the cheapo composted manure in bags all over except on the veggie garden and the garden loves it. Dividing plants is nearly an addiction, isn't it? Sometimes, often, I kill the whole thing by being too aggressive, and greedy, with the knife. Same with losing seedlings, but your success with the columbines and others is a testament to thrifty behaviour. Love the reference to Armeria, brilliant! :-)

  15. Good practices for all of we could go broke feeding our plant habit. :-)
    Love Marcus, have May Night and love it.

  16. Those are wonderful ideas to grow plant. I will make use of them. Thank you for sharing. Happy gardening!

  17. I just came across your blog... enjoyed the photos especially. I divided a number of primula recently, only to be rewarded with the hottest May on record... much to the chagrine of the primrose divisions.... Larry

  18. VW girl ! We share plants and experiences too ! Earlier on in the season I left a flat of Wizard coleus in what I thought would be a safe place on the deck .. NOPE ! they were COLD burned and gone .. after picking out each little container so carefully .. JEEZ !!
    I too have Marcus salvia and it is intense with its blue .. and smaller form is perfect .. I started out with May Night and had it paired with an orange geum which made the two look amazing ! .. ahh ! years ago that happened.
    My dark pink seas thrift has been blooming its little heads off this season .. must be the heat ? .. and I fell for expensive cone flowers myself as well .. Tiki Torch and Flame Thrower .. has to be the Halloween in me .. that amazing in your face orange colour ? haha
    Nut .. I to cut divisions to scatter plants .. and soon I will have to do that to my Walker's Low as well .. I love that plant as well !
    Hey .. I have to find out what is going on with that hosta you mentioned .. I will freak out no doubt and check all of mine and worry myself crazy ? LOL
    Joy : )

  19. I do that dividing thing sometimes, too. Even annuals frequently come with more than one plant in each section, and if I can, I'll separate them. It's amazing how much money one can end up spending on plants. Since we got our kitchen remodeled, and now, my husband is about to get a 1974 motorcycle with low miles, I am just having to stay out of the stores. Oh, I've already spent a lot, but now have to quit, except if I run into a 'Marcus' salvia, I may have to make an exception.


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