My Money Saving Garden Secrets

Trash Lillies

Trash Lillies

Today, I’m going to share one of my best kept money saving gardening secrets.

A few years ago, I suddenly found myself unemployed. I decided to start gardening to enjoy the fresh air and get my thoughts together on my future. But, after visiting my local home and garden centers, I realized that buying potted perennials can be quite expensive. My parents dug up a lilac bush from their garden and “donated” it to my cause. Seeds are pretty economically friendly, but take most of the summer to grow and flower.

Luckily, I eventually stumbled upon some local websites for plant exchanges and I was hopeful once again that I could grow a beautiful garden without going broke. I’ve found that most gardeners are very generous and will share cuttings or divide their plants with anyone willing to take them. I’ve even found a few local websites on Yahoo! that list private postings of plants being offered for free. Sometimes gardeners will dig up their extras and put it in an old pot or plastic bag and just leave them on their porch. They post their address and you just need to drive by their home and pick up your new addition to your garden. I’ve met so many nice garden ladies that will even dig up more plants once you arrive to pick up what was offered. Gardeners love to show off their gardens and sometimes they will give you the grand tour of their handy work. On one such occasion, I had a very generous lady gardener who loaded up my trunk with several varieties of hybrid hostas and lilies. She was so knowledgeable and really inspiring to a newbie gardener such as myself. We sent e-mails back and forth. I kept her updated on the progress of my new plants and I even sent her a few photos of her babies that she shared with me.

Now, comes the good part…my own garden secret to saving money. I’ve been gardening for about 6 years now, and I can recognize basic leaf forms and can identify what plants they are. During the summer, I started noticing in my neighborhood, on garbage day, that people would throw away extra plants from their gardens. I would recognize day-lily plants, yucca plants, garden mums, Easter lilies, etc. I thought to myself…wow, those are plants that I can use. They were in the garbage…they aren’t wanted…so why not take them home and see if they will take.

At first, I was a little embarrassed to take plants from someone’s garbage. But I don’t know them and they don’t know me. What’s to be embarrassed about? The people who throw away perfectly good plants probably aren’t aware that they can post them for free on the internet or don’t want to take the time to advertise them.

So, during the summer I have my favorite local neighborhoods to drive around on garbage day to scope out new plants to add to my garden. Honestly, most of my garden didn’t cost me anything at all…other than some gas in my truck to cruise a few neighborhoods. I’ve been so lucky and found an abundance of rainbow colored lilies thanks to my crafty garden garbage picking. And another secret…a few weeks after Easter, you can find nice Easter lilies, tulips and hyacinths that people have received as gifts. Once they have dried up, most people just toss them into the garbage. They must not realize that they can be planted and like magic…they will come back next year!

More trash lillies

More trash lillies

Another great time to find discarded potted garden plants is a few weeks after Halloween. I find a ton of potted garden mums that don’t get transplanted by their owners. They just toss those mums…pot and all…right into the garden waste trash. So, I have lovely yellow, white, pink, purple and burgundy mums that bloom every fall.

Besides being a huge money saver, finding new plants from the trash is pretty fun because it’s a mystery what color the plant will be. Every year, when they bloom for the first time, I get excited to see what I found. Obviously my garden is very colorful and quite random. I enjoy the gardens that aren’t meticulously planned out. I feel that nature is the best gardener and it shouldn’t be too organized.

Now, I will be honest. Some plants that I transplant don’t make it the next year. Maybe their roots were too dry or they were frozen before I could get them into the ground. I’ve learned to give the plants a good soak in a bucket of water over night to help the roots take better. The majority of what I have transplanted from the trash…always blooms again year after year.

So…my fellow gardeners…go forth and pick those plants from the trash! Let your knowledge be your guide. Don’t be embarrassed! It’s a shame to let the plants die and not give them a new home. Most people recycle plastic, paper and metal so I’ve just taken recycling to a new level… that’s all. Or is that upcycling?

And the very best part of all….it cost me next to nothing!

Trash Lillies

Trash Lillies


Holiday Traditions

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and my home will be filled with the aromas of a special dinner for my family. I’ve hosted my family holiday dinners at my home for a ton of years. (I think it’s been about 18). I’m not really sure how I started…but I’m very glad that I kept the tradition going.

One of my first memories of holidays dinners centers around my grandma’s small kitchen table in her home in Detroit. My grandparents were immigrants from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. My grandma was a fabulous cook. As a kid, I just took it for granted that all holidays were spent at her kitchen table. My grandma would start really early in the morning and even the day before…preparing a huge variety of dishes for us. Thanksgiving wasn’t just turkey and Easter wasn’t just ham…it was also breaded pork chops, stuff cabbage, creamy cucumber salad, homemade coleslaw, potato salad, meatballs, mashed potatoes with a whole stick of butter, all followed up by fancy cakes and pies. My mouth is watering just remembering all her home cooked dishes. And my grandma prepared all of this in her super tiny kitchen with an antique gas stove. I think she had a roaster oven in her basement…she was multi-tasking before it was even invented!

I remember if I was lucky enough to arrive at her house early enough…I was her official kitchen helper. However, I mostly watched and enjoyed the wonderful aromas and little did I know that I would later take over her tradition.

My awesome grandma cooked these fabulous meals for my family each and every holiday until she wasn’t able to anymore. She had some heart problems and eventually had a minor stoke. Asking her for her recipes wasn’t an option because my grandma cooked everything from her memory. She never used recipes or measuring cups. Her measuring tools were coffee mugs and spoons from her silverware set. Thank god that I watched her every year as a kid. She tasted her recipes as she made them and made adjustments along the way. I think she brought some of her cooking knowledge from the old country. She never really talked about it much and I think that when I was little…I just thought all grandmas could cook like mine.

After my grandma passed away and I was married, I decided to try and cook a holiday meal. I invited my parents and my favorite aunt over. My father in law came too…to try out his new daughter in laws cooking talents. At first…I made a few mistakes but I eventually got the hang of it. I certainly don’t claim to be as good of a cook at my grandma. My meals mainly consist of the traditional items with only one main entrée. I like to think that I am a good multi-tasker but cooking several entrees is totally pushing my culinary (?) talents.

But, every holiday my kitchen gets hot from the oven and my windows steam up…just like my grandmas. I love the smell of freshly cut cucumbers for my creamy cucumber salad and rolls baking in the oven. All the aromas from my kitchen bring back all those memories like it was yesterday. Isn’t that funny how that works?

I try to make everything like hers! I make many side dishes and usually a pie for desert. And I invite my family…just like my grandma did. I love sharing this tradition that meant so very much to me…with my children.

Now, my little daughter helps me in the kitchen. She helps to peel the potatoes and cucumbers. She stuffs the turkey with me…and bakes cakes and pies. I often share with her how I used to help my grandma in the kitchen when I was her age and I hope she’ll carry on this tradition in her own way…as I have.

Spring…a time to move on

Today is the first day of spring.  Being a home gardener, I always count the days until it’s official.  I scan my garden looking for tiny shoots poking up through the snow. Searching for new life and signs that spring and summer are on it’s way.

At my last inspection for spring life, I found daffodils and hyacinths peeking up.  It’s truly amazing how nature knows exactly the right time to come back from it’s long winters nap.  I don’t try to understand it (although I have read botany and gardening books) … but instead, I try to appreciate that it does happen each and every year.  I don’t have to analyze the science behind it…just be thankful that God and nature has blessed us with this wonderful place to live. 

As I happily think about my garden and look forward to the summer,  I have to think about moving as well.  I’ve lost the battle for my home and it’s going to be sold tomorrow at a sheriff sale.  I’ve been trying to get a modification and was verbally turned down last night.   The attorney has already scheduled a sale for March 21st and since it was denied today, it’s going to be sold.  

So, it’s time to face reality and think about moving on.  I am trying to think of this as a new adventure and a fresh start for my family.  We don’t know where we will live yet, but at least my children will able to finish the school year and we can move over the summer. 

So, my garden will be left behind to a new owner of my home.   I hope they will enjoy it and give it chance to bloom.  I’ve been blessed by receiving many plants from other gardeners who have shared their bounty with me. 

My garden has been a source of so much happiness for me.   I have really learned to appreciate nature and how perfect everything is on earth.  After I lost my job several years ago…I felt lost and so sad. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never been unemployed before and it was hard to adjust. I never knew that I had a love for gardening. I’ve always loved flowers from pictures and photos and always enjoyed drawing them. Then, the idea just came to me…to start a garden and make my home look beautiful. But, I didn’t know where to start. So, my parents gave me a lilac bush they had dug up from their own yard…and that’s where it all began.

Soon, I found gardening websites where people post plants that they have divided and want to give some away. Hey…free plants…that’s what I’m talkin’ about! I was unemployed…but looking for something economical to start with and it had my name written all over it. So, I responded to everyone in my local area and I soon became the new owner of many varieties of lilies, hostas, daisies, black-eyed susans and so many more flowering plants. I felt like I had finally found something that I could do that would provide a little peace in my heart and wouldn’t cost me anything but a little time and hard work.

After about 2 years, my garden really started to fill in nicely and I was so proud of my work. I felt so lucky to have a piece from so many gardens. I’ve met many nice ladies who have shared their happiness and knowledge with me.

Now, my daughter has starting helping me in the garden. She loves to dig holes and water the flowers. She’s 6 years old and loves to garden as much as I do. I often refer to us as the “The Garden Girls”. We even planted a vegetable garden a few years ago in our backyard and she especially loves growing fresh vegetables. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

So, as think about the loss…losing our home in a foreclosure…I can’t help but feel a huge sadness, but I’m also becoming more at peace with it. I do plan on taking some plants with me if it’s possible. But, I also know that my garden grows deep…the roots from my hard work are strong…and it will bloom again for whoever buys our home. I’m glad to share my garden with someone new. I was so blessed to have several years here to make it beautiful and I feel a little better knowing that I can pass it on.

I feel like I’ve made my little corner on earth a little more pretty, peaceful and enjoyable…and it was all worth it. Now it’s time to stop being sad and start looking forward to my new garden…where ever it may be.

Being hospitable…a lost tradition?

My thought today is about people being hospitable and friendly.

Years ago, people used to smile and even say hello to others they would pass by on the street. Today, I find that we rarely do this anymore. I wonder if a person’s demographic location has anything to do with this? It seems as though it’s becoming a forgotten tradition to be friendly and acknowledge each other as we go about our daily lives.

Growing up as a kid, I lived in Detroit until the mid 70’s. My parents bought an old “fixer-upper” and we moved to a little suburb outside of Detroit. I can’t really ever recall taking walks in my neighborhood in Detroit. That city doesn’t encourage friendliness or a sence of community. Once we moved to the suburbs, I still can’t ever recall people ever waving or nodding their heads at us and saying “hello” when we passed by on the street or in a store. I wonder if this is just something we don’t do in Michigan?

I really began to question this when my husband and I drove from Michigan to Colorado on our honeymoon. While we were driving down a country road in Colorado, I noticed that many drivers would wave at us and nod their heads as they passed by us. It was such a friendly gesture that I wasn’t used to. I was puzzled and asked my husband why they were doing that? I wondered if they thought they knew us?

My husband explained they were just being friendly. He said that’s what folks do out west. He knew this because he was born here in Michigan, but his family moved out west when he was young. He was lucky enough to live and grow up in places like Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

Once we returned to Michigan, it became so real to me how different we act toward each other. It almost seemed like everyone here in Michigan was being just plain rude.

Even today, as I take walks in my own neighborhood, I try to look people in the eye and smile. Some people will make eye contact with me and maybe smile back…but most people don’t. They just stare straight ahead or are busy playing with their smartphone and don’t acknowledge that I am walking by.

What’s happened to our society? Is being friendly, a thing of the past? I really hope that by just looking someone in the eye and saying hello, that I can make a small change and help to bring back the tradition of being friendly and hospitable.

Birthday Traditions

Today’s thoughts are still focused on birthdays. I wonder about how we celebrate our birthdays.

When we were kids, we anxiously looked forward to our birthdays. We couldn’t wait to be another year older and have a fun birthday party and get gifts! Our parents would lovingly do anything to make our birthdays special.

But as adults, I wonder about our traditions for giving birthday presents to each other. Why do we still feel obligated to give birthday presents to other grownups? What is the purpose of the gift…we didn’t really do anything to deserve a gift. We were born, plain and simple.

I do understand wanting to celebrate a birthday and telling someone that you are so glad they are here and shared another year of their lives with you. The celebration part is wonderful…you are happy to be here another year. But, do you really deserve a gift? What does it signify? Let’s see, I’m happy that you are another year older and I so I buy you a new shirt? I think some traditions (started by parents) are just hard to break.

Being a mom, every year on my children’s birthday, I always remember the day they were born. They each have their own unique stories that I love to share with them on their birthdays. I love to share with them the overwhelming joy I felt when they were born. All the fun little things that happened while we were at the hospital and our first days home with them. Their birthday is such a wonderful day for ME. I celebrate because I became their mom on that day. I want them to know how lucky I feel that I became their mom.

I’m sure my feelings are shared by other moms too. So, on my birthday I thought about my mom. I’m sure she went down memory lane on my birthday. My mom always tells me the funny story that happened on the way to the hospital. My dad saw a house on fire and wanted to stop at a payphone to call the fire department. Good thing they didn’t stop because I was born shortly after they arrived at the hospital!

This year, my mom made a beautiful handmade card wishing me a very happy 45th birthday with a generous gift. As I think about traditions, I think we might be missing something. I think I should be the one making her a card…saying thank you for becoming my mom all those years ago. I thought about giving her a gift to say thank you for bringing me into this world.

So, on our birthdays we should remember…it’s not all about us. It’s really a shared celebration of another year of our life.

Birthday Blog-How do I begin?

I set up my WordPress account a few weeks ago and of course the first thing I did was to play with the themes. I had to find the perfect theme to represent me. Isn’t that silly? After all, it’s WordPress…not Picturepress or Imagepress or Themepress.

I haven’t posted anything yet because I felt that my first post should be absolutely perfect. I felt alot pressure deciding on the content and the direction my blog should go. My first thought was to talk about being a mom. I love to talk about my children. What mom doesn’t? But, I’ll save that for later.

So, today is my birthday. I thought about birthdays and what they mean and how people celebrate them.

Last night, my daughter told me Happy Birthday, in advance. It slipped my mind and I actually forgot it was going to be my birthday. I told my daughter, who is six, that I forgot about my birthday. To her horror, she exclaimed in her six year old confused voice, “How could you forget your birthday?” I didn’t want to burst her bubble and tell her that when you get older, they don’t really mean so much anymore. It’s really just another day, like any other day of the week. But, I didn’t want to sound so pathetic and I just told her that’s what happens when you get older…you get forgetful.

Now, this morning as I was starting my day, I thought about my birthday. I really don’t like to make a big deal about it. I really don’t want a bunch of gifts or expect others to make a fuss. I’m a simple person. I try to not be vain or boastful about myself.

But, then I thought that maybe instead of thinking that my birthday isn’t a big deal…that I really should be thankful that I had another year, here on this earth. I was fortunate enough to be my kids mom for another year. I was lucky enough for another year, to enjoy my husbands wonderful music and have pizza on Friday’s with my dad. I was here another year to feel the warmth of the summer sun and enjoy my garden flowers for another year.

So, maybe it really is a big deal after all. I am so glad to be here another year and hope to be able to feel this way again…on my next birthday!