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Landscaping and Gardening the Cheap Way: Free Plants

Here in Western New York we’re getting very close to our typical first frost of the Fall. This means every gardener is scrambling to make sure they get their gardens and yards ready. It’s the time of year where people start thinning and splitting their perennials: Hostas, Irises, Lilies, even Rhubarb. Which means that for someone who is very frugal and has a bare yard it’s a great time to scrounge for free plants and get your landscaping and gardening started off nicely on the cheap.

A number of hardy perennials simply start overgrowing their spacing in gardens, and for things like a hedge or bush that means it’s time to trim. But for some plants the solution is to split off sections at the roots. Those are the plants that keep on giving.

We bought our house last year and made one of our goals this past summer to start getting our yard and landscaping under control. The previous owner had neglected anything but the bare minimum of maintenance. We had overgrown trees and hedges. We had very old roses bushes growing up through half-dead hedges. Maple tree “weeds” that clearly had grown up where they shouldn’t and were getting past saplings. So, we hired tree trimmers. We pulled out old plants, bushes and plenty of weeds. We dug and pulled and tilled. We edged and mulched and arranged. We also spent a good deal of money on all of this. But we managed to save some good money by pure luck.

Our neighbor saw us toiling away in the sun and offered up some Hostas she had split off last year and had forgotten to re-plant in a new area. We gladly accepted and split them even further and placed them around our rather large garden surrounding the back of our house. These plants are extremely hardy and make for great fillers between shrubs and hedges, or showier annuals and perennials.

Check with your neighbors, family, and friends to see if they have some you can grab to help fill out your garden/landscaping. Once we got started there, we just kept getting more offers and more plants. The same neighbor was getting her front walkway re-done and had a number of plants that would have otherwise been tossed. We quickly accepted them and then make a nice little garden around our front lamp post and our mailbox. We split off 4 small lilies, 4 mums and 4 smaller flowering cover around the lamp post. We planted two huge Irises around our mailbox.

Not to be outdone, my aunt then offered up plants of her own. We’re going to take her up on her offer very soon. And then just this week, when taking our son for a walk we ran into a neighbor who had actually left out a wagon with the extra Iris and Lilly roots that they had placed out by the road for people to take for free rather than toss out.

I know, it may seem odd to ask to bum a free plant or two from a neighbor, but it can save you money and time – and it can keep them from having to fill up their trash bins with perfectly good plants no one will take. If I was the one splitting off these beautiful Irises you better believe I’d feel better giving them away than throwing them out.

Update: I wrote a follow up to this post with some more ways to get plants cheaply. Go read Free Plants: Part Two!

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