After a very long winter and a very cool spring, it’s hard for many to believe, it really is June now. But around New England, especially after a good two-day drenching, it’s turning very green – and becoming that time of the year when you can really appreciate the beauty of a yard full of blooming shrubs and plants.
If you've been thinking about adding or replacing some plantings, for this week’s Money Saving Mondays report, we went to Ken Brown, a fourth-generation co-owned of the family-run New England Nurseries in Bedford, Mass., to ask about some smart ways to green up your place that won’t break the bank.
For $100 in a 10-foot-by-15-foot area, Brown said, “You can buy enough shrubbery to fill that in and give you your base plants,’’ Brown said. Two of his good-value favorites are spirea, a bush that is almost unkillable, even by road salt, and gives you spring blooms in white or pink; and weigela (variously pronounced wye-JEEL-a or wye-JEEL-ee-uh), which provides a couple of weeks of colorful blooms and comes with straight green or variegated leaves.
“Those are good foundation plants,’’ Brown said. “You don't have to go crazy having large Japanese maples for hundreds and hundreds of dollars.’’
Once you've got your shrubbery base, Brown's a fan of adding big splashes of color, like petunias, available in dozens of shades and mixes of red and white and blue for just $6 per pot right now at New England Nurseries and comparable prices elsewhere. “It looks small, but it will get quite large,’’ up to four feet across, Brown said. “This little plant right here is going to expand into a nice big mound spread out across the ground. It will really give you a carpet of color.’’
Maybe the most important tip to make sure the greenbacks you spend on your greenery are well spent: First, beef up the soil where you're planting with compost. New England Nurseries, for example, makes and sells its own blend of compost-enhanced loam – dirt mixed with composted leaves and grass and plants – for $25 per cubic yard, and bags of Coast of Maine compost blends for $9, which you typically mix into soil at a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio with the existing soil.
In city and suburban yards where plants were first installed decades ago, Brown said, “The soil can get very old, very worn out, not a lot of organics in it and nutrition in it, so it's a great idea to add to boost the organic content of that soil,’’ Brown said. “Organic soil, high organic soil, retains more moisture. Soil that retains more moisture means less watering, less feeding. So you're spending less money throughout the season, and you have healthier, happier plants.’’