Buying plants is my biggest vice. Perhaps it's not a vice, but it has sometimes seemed to be one during the past couple of years, when I haven't been working full time. But plants are so beautiful and when I go to the nursery, they call to me. And since I want some semblance of order and design in my casual, mostly native plant garden, I often succumb to the landscape designers' rule: three to five of each plant. The cost rapidly escalates - particularly when the three to five new plants decide they don't like conditions in my garden, or the deer fail to read the "deer-resistant" label accompanying the plants.
I've been evolving from a buyer of plants to a divider and seed scatterer. The change is in part because after eight years gardening in one place, many plants are thriving and just begging to be divided. My faith in the processes of life has been growing, and I now look at a seed and see hope - and the joy of watching the transformation from a small, dry, inert object to living growth.
But there is another factor here. The price of plants has jumped dramatically. While I once was willing to pay $6.99 for a new perennial, $9.99 is ridiculous.
It's also become more difficult to find young annuals in inexpensive six-packs. Instead, the garden centers stock large plants in bloom and charge absurd prices.
These zinnias were being sold for $5.99 at my favorite garden center.
Last year, I never got around to deadheading the zinnias, and they self-seeded under the mailbox and the sunny perennials bed along the street. For free.
Another plant industry practice I don't understand is that of putting out for sale, as soon as the last frost date has passed, hanging baskets that are so full of bloom that there's no room for growth.
Would you pay $34.99 for this hanging basket?
Or $17.99 for this one?
I planted the container below with impatiens, a curly parsley plant from the farmer's market, and torenia that I was fortunate enough to find in a six-pack for a total of $2.
The container is not lush. But it's only June and we have five months of the growing season left. I will get more pleasure out of watching this container grow and bloom than out of the ready-made greenhouse baskets that I could have obtained for the price of a dinner out.
Plants are so much more than another thing to buy and install at the home. And with the ridiculous prices, I scattered more seeds this year and hoped. Some got eaten. Some didn't germinate, possibly because of extremely hot weather early in the season. But many came up and are growing well. There is no guarantee in nature, but there's unfailing interest in observing the process of life.