Glorious gardens can cost nothing

Grow from seed, take cuttings, find a friend to share bulbs ...there are so many ways to get flowering bling for very few bucks

Some of the best gardens have been created for almost nothing, using plants raised from seed, grown on from cuttings, divided to make more and sometimes swapped with like-minded gardeners for other plants. 

This is real gardening, with the added buzz that comes with knowing you have created your little paradise yourself.

It's a lot more satisfying — and far cheaper — than buying ready-grown plants from a garden centre.

You might not even need to buy any plants if your borders need replenishing.

Perennials that are crowding out the competition — and one another — can be lifted in one large clump and divided up into smaller sections to make more. 

Groundcover geraniums, bearded iris, bergenias and sedums are just a few examples that take to division with ease. Discard the weakest pieces and distribute the rest in other parts of the garden, in revitalised soil. Plant them out at regular intervals and you have the bonus of an eye-pleasing rhythm running through the borders.

Plant self-seeders that will spread through the garden, giving you plants for free, and making your plot look established. 

One or two scraps of Mexican daisy, Erigeron karvinskianus, will spread themselves into nooks and crannies that you couldn't orchestrate any other way. The Welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica, will do the same, softening a hard landscape with its translucent yellow flowers and pretty fern-like foliage.


Pays dividends: two impressively planted pots will have far more impact and cost less than two dozen different ones. Image: Gap Photos/Visions

Buying summer annuals is folly when you can sow them so easily yourself, and open up a far wider selection than you could ever buy. If you can't be bothered to sow, transplant, pot up and plant out, then sow direct in spring — nothing could be simpler. 

Scatter the seed on to a patch of bare ground, rake it into the soil, keep the patch moist and come summer you can revel in azure love-in-a-mist, purple opium poppies, cayenne-tinted marigold Indian Prince or ink-blue Cerinthe major Purpurascens, or perhaps a dazzling mix of all four, making a Persian carpet for pence. 

Moreover, they will settle and spread, so for a few moments' work, you will always have these treasures. And who can have too many purple poppies? Any plants that are in the wrong place you can simply pull out and discard, or relocate. Thrifty gardeners aren't in a hurry.

They know small trees cost far less and get their roots down faster than large ones, so soon catch up. They buy bedding small and grow it on, for best value. 

A pack of 40 plug plants costs the same as a pack of 15 larger plants, whether bellis, primroses or pansies, and in the growing season, it takes a matter of weeks for baby plug plants to get a whole lot bigger.

Buy bulbs in bulk to save a packet. If you don't need them all, split the cost and share with a friend. Many garden centres have spring bulbs on sale now and you can plant as late as next month. Go for mass appeal from grape hyacinth Muscari and dwarf daffodil Tête-à-Tête for spring, and Allium sphaerocephalon in summer: you can't have too many of these garnet-tinted drumstick flowerheads scattered through the border.

Taking cuttings is another way of getting plants for free. It's simplest to snip off young shoots and root them in a jar of water on a bright windowsill. This works well with mint, busy lizzies, ivy, rosemary, fuchsia, begonia and many houseplants. When roots have developed, you can pot up the new plants. You don't need a barrowful of pots to put on a great patio display. 


Making more: grow new plants easily from cuttings rooted in water on a bright windowsill. Image: Gap Photos/Julia Boulton

Buy two large, machine-moulded terracotta flowerpots for a few pounds each from the garden centre. Brush them with yogurt to give them gravitas, plant them handsomely with a central evergreen surrounded by a deep frill of seasonal bedding, place them strategically and they will have far more impact than two dozen disparate containers: less buck for so much more bling.

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