It's not just the price – there’s something appealing about being the plant’s last hope, about taking something one step away from the trash and making it live. If the mission fails, there’s no disgrace when even the vendor had given up on the plant.
I don't look for shrubs or trees. Early maltreatment or root damage can show up years after you plant it, and I want the best possible permanent residents. I stick to ‘just for fun’ plants, those annuals and perennials that are interesting but not essential elements in the design.
One of the bargains that revived to bloom again were seen here on June 29th, the ‘Crème Brulee’ coreopsis. That was 3 months ago, and they’re still opening new flowers. Making it through winter without rotting won’t be easy for them in my clay ground, but I hope they’ll live to bloom again next summer.
An end-of-season bag containing 3 oriental lily bulbs was less than $2 a few years back. It was past mid-summer when I planted them in a good-sized container. They sat in semi-shade and were watered regularly. The soil was light with lots of humus, and there was a layer of wood chips on the bottom of the pot. Nothing happened that fall, but some stalks emerged the following spring – all leaves, no flowers. Another year, some time and care and the pot overflowed with fragrant lilies, in bloom when our house was up for sale. I brought the pot along when we moved here and planted them in the ground the next year. They didn’t do much last summer, but this July they bloomed again.
Sometimes you see cardboard cartons of clematis roots, with the roots enclosed in a plastic bag of peat moss. This is not the kind of clematis to buy if you’re putting together a garden – get one in a decent container from a good nursery. But I was just fooling around, trying to see what could grow in a container on a deck in Austin, Texas. One section of that deck was more test plot than garden. I noticed that one of the clematis in a carton on the clearance table seemed to have viable leaf buds, so I brought it home and potted it. It grew in that pot for a couple of years, making a substantial root system.
When it eventually bloomed, the Clematis was not the variety pictured on the cardboard, but I liked the color. I planted it near the back door when we moved here, with blue plumbago to shade the base. This August the clematis looked like heck, with most of the leaves turned crispy brown. But the stems retained a hint of green, and several weeks ago new leaves appeared, followed by buds, then once again, the purple flowers.
A decorative container with 9 dying lantana plants stuffed into it was $2, but lantana is basically a weed - all I had to do was get them out of the pot and into the ground.
I had such high hopes for this pitiful Alocasia ‘Hilo Beauty’, a deal at $2 instead of the original twenty. Bought last fall and looking ratty back then, too, this plant lived through our winter in a dormant state, and awoke in spring.
Will it ever forgive me for making it live in Austin this summer? My mission could still succeed if I'm patient and lucky.