The other day I was out for my morning run when I happened upon an all-too-common urban sight: gardeners pulling up plants to make room for the next season’s flowers in commercial flower displays. To be precise, the gardener was pulling up young boxwoods which over the course of the growing season had lost their perfect lollipop shapes, and replacing them with rounder versions of the same plant. Anyone who has boxwoods in their yards will know that they are perennial plants which grow slowly and make excellent living borders. Certainly not landfill material after a growing season.
To replant the same thing and toss the old plants seemed like such a waste for a little aesthetic symmetry, so I stopped and asked to rescue as many as could be carried. The gardener said sure, and in fact, wouldn’t I like to come back the next morning, too, when they would be pulling all the marigolds and replacing them with mums? Of course I would! So the next morning I bundled up early and went to retrieve the flowers. Though marigolds are annuals, and were near the end of their lives, they were heavy with seeds, and easily yielded at least 2000 for planting in the spring. Not bad for a morning’s work! And in two months, the whole process begins again as a new season’s colors take over the beds.
This is pretty much the norm for commercial landscaping services. If you are looking for inexpensive (usually free!) plants for your garden, consider asking your local plaza who does the gardening and contacting them about rescuing unwanted plants. They usually keep a regular schedule which you can put on your calendar. Even almost-spent annuals can make great displays of color for entertaining before yielding seed for future plantings. If you have a compost pile, this organic matter will greatly aerate your pile, increasing the speed at which the soil is formed. And, of course, you learn a little more about what goes into creating the perfectly manicured version of the world that we urbanites take for granted.