Seek out those bargain buys for your plants

The glorious hippeastrum has certainly lived up to its promise as its flowers continue to entertain. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
The glorious hippeastrum has certainly lived up to its promise as its flowers continue to entertain. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Value for money is something we all search for when purchases are in mind, and gardening is no different.

There are year-round bargains to be found, it’s just a matter of making frequent visits to local plant outlets, watching the media or keeping your ear to the ground.

Garden centres are well stocked with potted plants in the approach to Yuletide; poinsettia, azalea and orchid being most colourful.

But back in December I was more interested in those showing potential – prepared bulbs.

Having missed the opportunity to start the forcing process with hyacinths in autumn, the chance to match-up and buy them rich in bud in single pots pre-Christmas was ideal.

With plenty of bowls, compost and moss already to hand, the desired display proved inexpensive. Better still, after a month-long presence of colour and fragrance on the window sill, these hyacinth bulbs will be added to the naturalised group outdoors.

A Hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulb in presentation box is another winter plant that oozes value for money.

A double flowering variety, complete with compost and container, bought in December, has done just that. There was the satisfaction of watching a flowering stem rise fully 30cm before three spectacular blooms unfurled. Then just as it was thought to be all over, a second spike came up with four flowers, which are still entertaining.

Once the show’s over, don’t let energy-sapping seed capsules form, but do allow the spent flowering stems to die down naturally. As the leaves emerge, keep watering moderately and feed to boost the bulb, which will store until next winter for a repeat performance.

The group of bargain-buy zonal geraniums we found standing in two-litre pots at a garden centre last July looked at first to be in a sad state, with yellowing leaves and dead blooms. But at the heart of some were strong young flowering stems, and their price had been greatly reduced to £1.20 each – potential!

A quick tidy-up and continuing TLC was all it took to get them back on track, and they’ve flowered all winter. These plants have already been a source for stem cuttings, and more will come when they’re pruned back, re-potted in fresh compost and set up for summer.

Sometimes the local supermarket is a source for cheer-me-up plants at knockdown price.

It can be as simple as the bunches of daffodils in bud presently on sale at £1 for 20. Get them into a vase of water, stand in the kitchen window, they’re open within days and bloom for a week.

They also stock pots of herbs. You can buy plants of basil and curled parsley for less than their respective cost for a packet of seeds. This is amazing given how slow both can be in germinating.

A pot of basil bought in March last year for £1.20 stood in the kitchen window where it offered cooking leaves, cut-and-come-again, for many months, in return for an occasional drop of water.

Better still the curled parsley, same price, was transferred to the garden where it remains productive beneath the snow at minus 5C.