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Bargain Plants, .........Things To Look For
August 26, 2013
The Heat Is On.
Thankfully, the weather was fantastic last week when we were in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
A lot of miles were logged, and a few sights were seen.
However, I was off my game.
I often left my camera in the car, which means few pictures to share and show off.
With four grand kids, I had to be on my game physically, but forgot the camera on some occasions.
Climbing 'Castle Rock', and no pictures to share, but I couldn't allow young legs out do me on the climb up.
A Fantastic ship museum in Sault Ste Marie, MI. , but no pictures.
The ship was well worth it, and my grandsons thought it was really cool to walk around in the belly of a 700+ foot ship.
Karen says she will give it a go next time we are up there.
Sault Ste Marie, is the third oldest city (continuous establishment) in the United States of America.
A region steeped in History.
Great waterways, Shipping and ship wrecks.
The world's busied Locks, we were blessed with two ships locking almost the same time.
A 635 ship going up, a 1,004 foot giant coming down.
We simply were there at the right time, as this isn't typical.
There is native wildlife to keep your eyes open for.
The French and fur trading.
American Indians and the thousands of years they lived here before Europeans tarnished the land and their ways of life.
We don't make it up there often enough, but this time was special.
I was privileged to show grand kids and our girls some special things.
Including 'Oswald's Bear Ranch', where for a fee, you can have your pictures taken while feeding some cubs.
We did this a few years ago with Yolanda, and we did again this time.
The delight on her face is always that of seeing or doing something for the first time ...... again.
Oswald's is the largest of its kind I think in North America.
All bears come in as rescues and orphans.
No bears are sold and no bears reproduce.
They live out their lives at the ranch and its expansive habitats.
Back and somewhat rested, it is time for this week's article.
The past couple of weeks have also given us a visit or two from a few different butterflies.
Butterflies add so much to a garden, and have sorely been missed this year.
Shopping for plant bargains.
(Part of the crew on the 'Buffalo' enjoying life as they pass through the Locks.)
'Back To School' ads fade away, but not all specials end.
This time of year you can find all sorts of goodies for the yard and gardens.
Many of our plants come from seed swaps, of free plants from friends and neighbors.
Often plants are found as end of season discounts.
Most bargains are easy to find.
Some bargains however, require a bit of know how on your part.
I know, it seems as though I write on this subject every year, and some of you can teach me a trick or two, but some things are worth repeating.
Not to mention readers come and go all the time.
So let's get back to school on how to shop for bargains and what to look for.
I'm parsimonious, most of my plants are deals and bargains if I didn't get them free.
Garden sales may continue for the next couple of months, maybe longer.
Chemicals and fertilizers are viable as long as they haven't gotten wet and liquids may need to avoid freezing to prevent altering chemical composits.
These are the easy sales and bargains.
The real treasures may be found in the live plants.
It isn't simply in the price, it is in the plant and under the surface.
A bargain isn't a deal if the plant already has a death sentence.
Armed with some of these clues, you too will know what to look for in bargains.
Many garden centers and box stores have had some garden supplies and plants on sale for some time now.
Nothing like making room for winter gear when the thermometer still reads in the 80's and 90's for some of you.
Some garden centers and nurseries hold off on clearance pricing and rightfully so.
You see, for these locations, gardens and plants are their livelihood and they need to make profits and they typically care for their product much better than stores that push them in and out as fast as possible.
Even some catalogs are having sales.
Now I know, I don't have to tell most of you (indeed many of you could tell me a thing or two I'm sure), but with so many new readers lately, Some things have to be repeated from time to time.
A bargain can be found.
It's not a bargain however, if they flower, shrub or tree dies on you before it ever has a chance.
(Eastern Tiger Swallowtail)
Often, bargain plants may not look so well (often sickly), but they can still find a deal.
Day lilies turn yellow and brown, but new growth will reappear in time.
This is the case with many perennials.
If you know what to look for and what questions to ask, you can find some healthy plants.
You can also find some not so healthy plants that you just know you can nurse back to health (if the price is right).
(Red Spotted Purple Butterfly, check out the Proboscis curled up.)
What I like are the sick corners and bargain bins with mystery plants.
You know, plants that are marked way down because they look real bad.
Plants marked way down because the tag is missing (mystery plants).
Yes, you may know it is a columbine, phlox, day lily, etc. , but do you know what color it is or how tall it gets?
Sometimes the mysteries are cool and other times it may be a bust.
Sick plants may live or it may die, but for 25 cents or a dollar, it may be worth it for you.
I know it is for me.
Sometimes, you can even get prices reduced more if it is toward the end of season or down to the last couple of plants.
You may even get a reduced price if it is a healthy, full priced plant, but is the last one or two of that variety or species that is left.
Even garden centers want to clean up odds and ends.
You never know until you ask.
Here is something from my past experience as a shopper and someone that worked a garden center/nursery.
This technique works best at a location you typically shop and the workers know you.
And be friendly.
Many garden centers want to unload a straggler or two and you may want a bargain.
A win, win for all involved.
If you try this at a store or garden center where they may not know you, you may be out of luck.
Some workers may see you as a bottom feeder or a leach and wont budge.
Others may see you as a welcome sight and deal.
It may depend on the mood someone is in or your approach.
(Red Spotted Purple sitting in Hibiscus flower.)
NEVER go in demanding.
Ask with a smile.
Always say please and thank you.
Learn the art of negotiating
Always be friendly and smile.
Sometimes real bargains can be had on bulk sales at the bargain table.
Can you buy 10 plants for a better deal etc.
(Crossing The Mighty Mac.)
Bargains aren't bargains however, if the plant is beyond help.
You know, sick and dieing.
Here are some things to look for.
After they are done blooming, some perennials go through a die back or look really bad. If you know this, it is in your favor.
Example: Poppies can go through an almost complete die back and start fresh. In the mean time, they look awful and you just might get them for a song.
Some plants are cut back to just a green mound and others may show spent stalks and little else.
Start out by looking at the top of the plant.
Leaves with fungus or insect damage, I can live with.
Foliage can be cut back or treated.
You may even want to place certain plants in a contained area for now if possible.
Now go down to the surface.
How does the crown look?
Is it healthy looking or does it appear to be suffering from crown rot or other disease?
Pull the plant out of the pot.
You may have to squeeze the pot and gently pull.
If the plant come right out with little or no root system, put it back, this plant is more than likely a goner.
Now, you may know that a certain plant may re-root with proper care (some will).
Work the price down.
Most garden centers will allow you to pull plants and may even do it for you.
Just be sure to put the plants back in the pot proper when you are finished.
You are looking for a healthy root system and soil that smells like soil.
Healthy roots are whitish in color.
Plants in poor health will have brown or blackish colored roots and often the soil falls from the root system, exposing a dieing crown.
Soil should have an earthy smell, not like rotting seaweed.
In most cases, no matter what the top looks like, you can tell about the plants health by the root system.
If the clerk doesn't know this, work the price.
For Trees and Shrubs:
Look at the root system as well.
Pull the plant from the pot and look for healthy roots.
New and healthy feeder roots will also show a pink to white look.
Even when the foliage is changing colors and dropping this time of year.
Are there to many roots growing around the pot?
These roots, if not taken care of will cause girdling and eventually choke off and kill a otherwise healthy looking specimen.
Do you want to or do you have someone to take care of this issue and plant the tree for you.
Some garden centers will do this for a fee.
Is the tree or shrub planted above or below the crown line?
Always look for a tree that is planted above the crown (where the tree begins to flare) and do the same when you plant it.
Most shrubs can be planted below the crown as they branch off anyway.
Some centers will still offer a guarantee at the sale price for trees and shrubs.
Look for healthy foliage and bark.
This can be a chore, as plants are packed in tight where air can't circulate.
Not to mention night irrigation which is a big no for you.
Both promote fungus on nursery stock.
Canker will cause indentations and a smelly dark colored sap will eventually begin to ooze.
This tree will eventually die without treatment, but there is no cure, just yearly chemicals to keep it alive.
To much bark damage (scrapes, animal chewing etc.) can eventually kill off a tree or shrub.
Diseases can enter the wounds.
To much 'Cambium' (living material under the bark) damage will weaken a trunk or branch.
These trees aren't a bargain at any price.Do your homework, and look for plants that are disease resistant.
This is where planting native can help big time.
Look for plants that benefit your wildlife, including host plants for butterflies.
Have your area prepared before you plant, and keep them watered until the ground freezes or snow falls.
Even if the top has died back or the plant has lost its foliage, the roots are still alive and continue to grow and store energy.
This especially holds true for evergreens.
Where the ground freezes, put down a generous layer of mulch.
This not only holds in moisture, but helps prevent ground upheaval from freeze and thaws.
Some experts recommend to hold off on plant foods for this time of year.
Still, others suggest a light feeding of slow release food helps the root system, yet doesn't fool the plant into a growth spurt.
I suppose much depends on where you live and what you have had success with in the past.
So much depends on the plant species and health, when it is planted, and so on.
I have been successful following both programs.
One thing all expert agree on is to keep plants watered for the first year or until, they are established.
Even if the plant tag says drought resistant.
The plant isn't resistant until it is well established and deep, timely watering takes care of that.
One last thing to add.
Bargains are bargains if you have the proper place to plant them.
No matter how good of a bargain you just brought home, it will suffer if you plant it in the wrong location.
Shade plants need shade.
Sun plants need sun.
Some plants require little water while still others have some heavy water needs.
What about soil?
Acid, alkaline, clay, sand etc.
All of these needs must be looked into for a healthy plant.
Sure, you can amend your soil or individually water a spaceman, but who wants to go through that all the time.
Gardens are meant to be enjoyed and if you are Gardening For Wildlife, you will have like needs with like needs already.
A quick reminder for all:
Labor day is next week Monday for the United States and Canada,
So we can all enjoy Monday, 'Gardening For Wildlife' will be published on Tuesday, September 3.
Well, it's time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.
True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Helen Keller (1880-1968)
The bible is full of God's word on happiness and joy.
Here is but one verse.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
"Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents,
It was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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