Most of us have areas in the garden that could be easily improved without spending too much money.
The best low-budget plan is to bypass the garden centre altogether, and grow plants from seeds, cuttings and divisions. It may not be a quick-fix solution – requiring a little more patience and some gardening know-how – but it’s an extremely satisfying and rewarding way to get lots of plants for very little money.
There are also some easy low-budget solutions that you could try, such as sowing annual and perennial seed mixes directly onto borders.
We’ve chosen five inexpensive and readily available plants for our low-budget border. All of them can be grown from seed. The perennials will come back year after year and the annuals can be changed seasonally as you wish, or left to self-seed back into the border.
A bamboo or hazel wigwam will bring instant height and support for the sweet peas to scramble up. Towards the front, the spicy combination of marigolds and cosmos will keep going right into late summer.
More on gardening on a budget:
Check out our five plant picks for a border on a budget, below.
A tough, herbaceous perennial with a long flowering season, this has grass-green leaves with a cream mid-rib, and masses of zingy yellow-green showy bracts and flowers – the perfect foil for strong colours alongside or in front. It has an upright habit, which rarely needs staking. Sow seed in late summer or spring into a soil-based compost and cover with a layer of fine grit.
Height x spread: 1m x 60cm
Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’
A fabulous taller-than-average Calendula with deep-orange flowers and dark centres. The undersides are darker still, which gives added depth to the composition when planted in quantity. ‘Indian Prince’ does particularly well when sown in situ in spring or autumn, and grows on most soils, including poor ones, as long as it gets plenty of sun.
H x S: 60cm x 45cm
Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’
Bronze fennel is a feathery low-foliage plant in spring that in summer transforms into a tall, elegant, wispy addition topped with flat heads of yellow flowers (which then become ornamental seedheads). It combines nicely with other plants without overwhelming them. Sow from late spring into midsummer. Leave the seedheads on to seed and they’ll give you more plants for free.
H x S: 1.8m x 60cm
Sweet pea ‘Cupani’
This is a velvety, two-tone sweet pea with a fabulous scent, just perfect for cutting and bringing indoors. It’s an ancient variety with relatively small flowers compared with some of the new hybrids, but its fragrance more than makes up for its size. Sow indoors from October to March, or directly outdoors from March until the end of April. Alternatively, buy plugs from spring.
H x S: 1.8m x 30cm
Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Rubenza’
Cosmos are one of the best-value annuals around. They come in a range of mostly pastel colours and whites, but ‘Rubenza’ is a luscious deep red that turns a softer pink as it fades with a clear golden centre. The ferny foliage is an asset, too. Sow in spring, and pack a few into a small clump for extra impact. This year buy plugs or small plants for instant impact.
H x S: 80cm x 50cm
Border care plan
Buying and planting
- Most of these plants will need sowing in spring. The calendula can also be sown in September, whereas the sweet peas can be sown indoors in October/November
- To create this border for this summer you should be able to buy good-value plugs or small plants in pots ready to plant straight out
- Prepare the soil well by digging it over, incorporate drainage medium (sharp sand or grit on heavy soils) and some garden compost
- Sweet peas are hungry plants, so dig a small pit beneath where the wigwam will go and incorporate plenty of home-made compost
- Water during dry spells
- Feed regularly (using a liquid tomato or seaweed feed) to keep plants flowering
- Once the annuals start flowering, pick or deadhead regularly to keep them producing
Creating seasonal interest
- Place seasonal pots directly onto the earth for winter interest or add evergreen shrubs taken from cuttings (lavender, osmanthus, rosemary)
- Plant spring-flowering bulbs (crocus, narcissi, snowdrops, tulips) in autumn
Getting more plants for free
- The fennel will freely self-seed around
- The euphorbia can be propagated by seed sown in spring or dividing in spring
- Collect seed from the sweet pea by choosing a robust plant and stop deadheading it
- When the seed pod turns brown and brittle, bring indoors to dry out and separate the seed