The flower diet

    No recent spring evening is complete without an after-work tour of the garden, car keys still in hand, looking carefully to see what has emerged in my absence. Fern fronds are beginning to uncurl, bulbs I forgot I planted last fall are bursting forth, and cool weather plants like forget me nots are forming a luscious carpet of green under the trees.

    I’m happy with what I see, except for all the weeds. When I started planting my garden a few years ago I made it too big, and despite the gobs of money I’ve spent on plants there’s still a lot of open space for the weeds to colonize. I’m one overscheduled weekend away from losing control of the whole thing.

    Solving this problem is going to be tricky because I’m on a flower diet. My current financial situation resembles the government’s recent sequester. But at least I’m not fighting with myself about it. I have drafted and signed my Budget Control Act, and the automatic spending cuts have already gone into effect. No plant buying this spring.

    This doesn’t mean no acquisitions, however. Although on a diet I’m not good at self-denial. Besides outright theft, there are ways to get plants for free, and this is how I plan to populate my garden with more of the plants I like, so that fewer plants I don’t like will move in.

    Seeds- Luckily last year I saved some, so I have envelopes of nasturtium, poppy, and sweet pea seeds ready to go in the ground. And I bought some others before the sequester went into effect so I should have decent patches of nigella, more nasturtiums, and Sweet William soon, and climbing moonflowers on the porch.

    Dividing- Some perennials can be divided every year and the chunks will grow to the size of the original within months. Hostas are the best example. A sharp shovel through the center of the clump before the plant leafs out (this is right now) soon results in a handsome reward. The same is true for summer blooming perennials like daylilies, sedum, bee balm, and yarrow, and anything that blooms in the fall. Spring plants like iris and primrose I’ll wait to divide until after they’re done flowering.

    Other means- I said I drew the line at stealing but that’s not entirely honest. In the past I’ve found some very good plants at abandoned and unkempt properties. My best columbine was dug up as a seedling from an unmowed graveyard. A bright yellow scotch broom was liberated from a railroad embankment. And the clumps of daffodils and snowdrops blooming in my garden- let’s say they didn’t come from the store.

    I also plan to hit up my friends for extra plants they may have. In the past this is something I’ve done gingerly, since it can introduce hitchhiking weeds into your garden. So I’ll be picky (sometimes beggars should still be choosers.) But I’m already thinking of which friends I’ll generously offer to help thin their overcrowded gardens. I won’t be cheating on my diet, and it will be phase one of my horticultural stimulus plan.

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