by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia
Dad taught me “it’s not what you make but how you spend it.”
That philosophy has guided me in everything I do, even in my garden.
What does spending wisely have to do with gardening? Everything, if you want to get the most out of your plants, time and money.
My gardening dollars are divided into categories: yard art, garden structures, maintenance and, of course, plants.
For art, I favor a few major quality pieces that stand out – not bunches of small art that end up looking like clutter. Bronze, stained concrete, resin and fiberglass are materials that weather well, and even look better as time marches on. Repurposing old items into new, artsy uses is a fun and affordable way to garden – think old shoes, boots and odd furniture pieces recycled into containers and backdrops for plants.
For garden structures like trellises, arbors and fences, look for composite materials that just need washing annually. Wrought-iron is easily spray painted every few years. Rich woods like cedar, redwood and teak age well with minimum care.
For minimum maintenance and maximum eye appeal, consider large mulched beds with wide, curving lines that are simpler to mow.
For plants, incorporate long-living, reliable trees and shrubs as the “bones” of your garden. They will be there for years to come, especially strong specimens like oaks. Use perennials, annuals, vines and ground covers as filler plants that gift you with different seasons of beauty.
To achieve the look you want, resist the urge to do it all at one time. Plan and prep your beds, mulching them for the time being while you discover the plant or art that suits your goal.
Instead of shopping just in spring, visit your favorite garden center multiple times throughout the year. Frequent visits allows you to see the different plants brought in for the four seasons of the year – Hellebores and camellias for spring, daisies and salvias for summer, goldenrods and asters for fall and hollies and cedars for winter.
Over time, your garden takes on a life of its own – and your garden dollars are wisely spent.