How to save when planting perennials
How do we fill a border with perennial plants without hurting the pocket? The simple answer is sowing seed, but perennials from seed rarely flower in the first year and need a lot of time and protection in the early years. The alternative is to buy full sized pot plants but this would work out very expensive. The answer is – plug plants – very small plants that have been successfully started of in a controlled environment, nurtured in the nursery to perfection. The small plug plants are waiting to be planted in your garden or to be potted on where they will burst into growth. Each mail order company boasts bigger and better plugs but whichever you choose they have done the hard work and the wait for you.
Where to get the best deals on plug plants
Supermarkets tend to sell plug plants in early spring and they can be as cheap as 15 plants for just £1.99 from some of the discounters. If you have the time and patience go ahead, always check that they are not dried out.
My advice however is on a totally different wavelength as mail order plugs are usually much larger. Also, the supermarket plugs are commonly annuals, and we are trying to find something to save you the bother of planting annually.
Which perennial plugs to buy
If you do not have eyes on a particular plant I would advise you to buy a perennial plug mixture.
A sample of what you can expect to find in the catalogues:
Parkers offers 72 plants for £39.88,( which they claim will fill a border 8m x 2m ) or just 24 plants for £15.96 which works out at 55p and 66.5p respectively.
Thompson & Morgan are offering 72 plants for just £19.99 which is only 27p per plant.
Dobies are giving away a perennial lucky dip collection of 144 Value plugs for just £24.99 [ Incidentally Suttons have exactly the same price, same code, and same picture – they must work together !!] Although this works out at less than 18p per plant it might turn out to be your unlucky dip, if they are all plants that you already have or plants that you just don’t like – with the other companies you can choose named varieties.
Remember – the size of the plugs directly determines the price, so it is difficult to make an actual price comparison. I am sure that the above mentioned companies are offering top quality plugs, and both are good value for money, considering a pot plant would cost at least £3-£4 each even for a small a specimen.
How to care for mail order plug plants
As close as possible to when the plants arrive through your letter box, grow the plugs on in a good quality compost and in a few weeks they should be ready to be planted out, during the first year they will need a careful hoe around them to keep down the weeds, but in subsequent years most perennials multiply quickly and they should fill the border. They should reward you with masses of flowers at different times throughout the summer and all you need to do is dead head during the season and remove the spent foliage at the end of the winter.
Boris Legarni .