A full spring schedule and recent home projects opened my eyes to the astronomical increases in the cost of landscape installation, construction, and green material (plants, trees, and sod.) Now that warmer temps make it safe to plant, you've surely noticed how the cost of materials has skyrocketed. The pre- Covid cost of a 2x4 was about $2.40; now it is close to $11. Professionals up and down the supply chain are passing on the their increased operating expenses to the consumer. Items impacting operational budgets include vehicle maintenance, truck tires, labor, gas and plant material. Last year the pain of isolation was remedied by an abundance of outdoor home projects. Consequently, the supply of tall and larger plants was exhausted. Plants aren't widgets. They take time to grow, and the result is felt at the the landscape centers with limited supply and increased cost of taller shrubs and trees. For example, a pre-pandemic five foot tall evergreen cost around $175 and now it it is $350 or greater.
What can you do to ease the financial pain?
Plan now, Plant later
Take this year to plan for the future and stage your renovation over a three-year period. Plant structural and evergreen plants first. Then add seasonal interest plants over the course of next few years. Shop sales in the fall. Planning prevents 'splurge plantings' that often result in dead plants and wasted money. Taking your time to think about your plants allows thoughtful consideration of your growing conditions and choosing the right specimen for your space. Remember this motto: Right Plant, Right Spot.
If your plan includes fast-growing shrubs like weigela, viburnum, spirea and junipers, try purchasing young, small plants. If your project includes a large hillside or mass planting, consider purchasing 2-year old saplings. For example, you can purchase young junipers at Musser Forests for $2.05 ea. (quantities of 25 or more) rather than larger plants at $40+. Buy and plant a few more young plants than you need because inevitably, some will die. The disadvantage to purchasing smaller is keeping them watered due to the small root balls that can quickly dry out. I usually recommend installing a soaker hose for large areas.
By mid-June many nurseries are trying to unload their annuals. Purchase a few select annuals now for immediate color, but fill empty bed and container spaces by shopping sales in late June and early July. The plants should flower through September.
Instead of planting new things this year, focus on maintaining what you already have. Much of my business is the result of home gardens that haven't been maintained. Weeds have overgrown through ground covers so that the entire areas must be killed and replanted. Shrubs haven't been pruned and are past the point of salvaging. A yearly or bi-annual maintenance plan will save you thousands in replacement costs. Give your beds a clean natural edge, keep up with the weeds, use corn gluten as a weed seed pre-emergent, and skip the mulch this year.
Bonus: A view into my spring garden.
To ease my garden costs, I have planted seeds, bare root roses and shopped online sales. Rather than working on any big projects this year (I need to replace some trees declining boxwood), I'm focusing on the fruits of my labor and enjoying my outdoor space.
After a long, dreary winter, spring blooms bring me much joy. And I enjoy experimenting with contrasting textures and colors....hard and delicate, square and round, spiky and soft, yellow and green. I have a small yard so each plant must have purpose. I am ruthless in removing plants that don't live up to my expectations. Roses and climbing hydrangea serve as trellises to support my clematis. Ground covers like thyme, geranium biokovo, trailing baby's breath, and lamium add seasonal color, reduce weeds and significantly lessen my mulch costs. I deadhead the salvia and coral bells to extend bloom times. Feeding my Knock Out roses rewards me with waves of blooms all summer. Deutzias stabilize a hill and the baptisia provide loads of indoor bouquets and garden structure. Peonies and lilacs are 'one and done' plants (short bloom time and look "homely" rest of the season). I rarely add them to my clients' designs, but they are a treat and I must indulge by sharing my valuable garden space with these single season bloomers. Snow-in-Summer softens the the hard edges of the walls in my back yard. The gray winter foliage breaks up the stark precast stones which are viewed from every room within my first floor. The crazy spring with its unusually warm and then plummeting temps caused many of my cutting garden perennials to die this year....red hot poker, asters, and daisies just never showed up to the party this spring. So I appreciate the years they bloomed and get excited to try something new. To take their place, I planted native wildflower seeds and 4 bare root roses. I'll keep you posted on how this experiment works. Despite the weeds, deer, rabbits, ground hogs, and loss of plants, the beauty of each seasons' colors and textures brings much joy. Happy Spring and Happy Planting, Gwen
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Gwen Wisniewski: Landscape and Garden Designer. Contact me. Let me help you integrate these garden inspirations. Choose the links below to find out more about my landscape design service or to make an appointment.