Plantiful: Start Small, Grow Big with 150 Plants That Spread, Self-Sow, and Overwinter

Plantiful: Start Small, Grow Big with 150 Plants That Spread, Self-Sow, and Overwinter

by Kristin Green




“Thrifty gardeners take note: the bucks saved on plant purchases will pay back the purchase price of Plantiful with dividends.” —Tovah Martin, author of The Unexpected Houseplant

Whoever coined the phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees” must not have been a resourceful gardener. Plantiful shows you how to have an easy, gorgeous garden packed with plants by simply making the right choices. Kristen Green highlights plants that help a garden quickly grow by self-sowing and spreading and teaches you how to expand the garden and extend the life of a plant by overwintering. The book features plant profiles for 50 self-sowers (including columbine, milkweed, and foxglove), 50 spreaders (such as clematis, snow poppy, and spearmint), and 50 plants that overwinter (including lemon verbena, begonia, and Chinese hibiscus). Additional gardening tips, design ideas, and inspirational photos will motivate and inspire gardeners of all levels. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604693874
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/28/2014
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 8.06(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

After earning degrees in art and painting from the University of Washington, Kristin Green served as interpretive horticulturist, garden blogger, and photographer at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum. Now at Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, Rhode Island, Green establishes new landscapes and revitalizes existing gardens. She writes a regular garden column for local newspapers, and her writing and photographs have been published in Fine Gardening and other magazines.

Read an Excerpt

“It is the spectrum, not the color, that makes color worth having, and it is the cycle, not the instant, that makes the day worth living.” —Henry Mitchell

For whatever reason any of us are compelled to start growing a garden—and the reasons are at least as varied as our dirt-encrusted fingerprints—eventually or instantly, plants win us over. Captivated by the infinite variety in the shades of green, shapes, textures, and personalities, and spurred by the thrill of any plant’s survival under our care, we inevitably develop a craving for more. In part, this book is about building a collection to satisfy that hunger.
It’s also about gardening with plants. Some say it takes at least twelve years to create a garden, time for shrubs and trees to mature and for the garden to come into its own. While I understand that every gardener participates in nature’s processes in varying degrees and with different expectations, I don’t want to wait that long. I expect my garden to grow.
Six years ago, when I first set foot in my yard, I was so impatient to see a garden grow there that my friends gave me as many extra annual seedlings, perennial divisions, tender-perennial cuttings, and dahlia tubers that I could stuff in hastily made beds. Those starts filled in around the few precious specimen trees, shrubs, and perennials I scrimped for, and loaded my garden’s first and subsequent seasons with color, and bird and insect activity. To me, it is established already, and it’s a work in progress that gets better all the time. I have been chasing my dream garden long enough to know that it’s the chase that keeps me gardening. After all, no garden is ever done.
I know that’s true because I make my living tending a mature one. The family that purchased seventy acres on the Narragansett Bay shore in 1895 began planting gardens there immediately and never stopped fine-tuning their dream. Some of the trees at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, now a thirty-three-acre nonprofit public garden, are over one hundred years old, others over one hundred feet tall, but the gardens change all the time as gardens do. Plants grow from seed and out from the roots every day of the week. Stems lengthen, leaves unfurl, flowers open, bees visit, hummingbirds bicker, seedheads form, leaves fall, plants die, and the garden staff and volunteers take advantage of every opportunity to help effect transformation.
The stumbling block for a lot of gardeners, me included, is that time keeps changing along with the garden. We have so much to do inside that some of us are spending less time outside. The days feel shorter than ever and 99 percent of us feel pinched financially too. So we all look for shortcuts along the garden’s path to maturity. My shortcut, described in this book, involves dirty knees, compost heaps, and propagation. I take the route paved with old-fashioned resourcefulness and engagement with plants that grow, some of them by leaps and bounds, and a hands-on approach to garden design.
Aside from some full days in spring preparing for the season, I spend only as much time as I have—stolen minutes to a couple of hours on Saturday—transforming my own garden because the plants do a lot of the work for me. It might be the momentum of obsession that propels me to wander through it when I do, snips and trowel in hand, determined to make the adjustments that could turn dream into reality, ephemeral as it may be, but it’s also how I mark the passage of time, decompress after long work days, and reconnect with my very own patch of the planet. The more time I spend in it, the more time I want to, and days lengthen like magic.

In this book you’ll learn how to use, edit, propagate, and choose fifty self-sowers that emerge year after year in new and surprising combinations. Let self-sowers, also known as volunteers, work for you as ephemeral screens and formal focal points. Allow them to weave through borders and drift into crevices, and press some into service as early-summer groundcovers and weed barriers.
You’ll discover fifty spreaders that make it possible to grow more garden than you ever thought your schedule or budget would allow. Plants that spread from their roots and shoots will function as placeholders and fillers that outcompete actual weeds and give heft to skimpy borders. They can be used to establish a rhythm and to knit one-of-thises-and-thats together. Save for a rainy day by borrowing extra suckers and runners from shrubs and perennials to use as cheap thrillers, spillers, and fillers in containers.

And you’ll find out why plants that can’t survive our winters don’t have to be thrown on the compost at the end of the season. If you have the space—on windowsills, in an enclosed porch, under the cover of a cold frame, or in your cellar—why shouldn’t the garden, or at least part of it, follow you in from the cold every year? Treat yourself to richly ornamental bee magnets and hummingbird feeders that are worth the investment because they can survive the winter with some protection, indoors or out. The fifty season-extending frost-tender plants profiled in this book are sure to keep your garden active right up until a killing frost, you engaged through the winter, and your wallet stowed the following spring.

Gardeners are usually described as generous but I think evangelistic hits closer to the mark. Most of us cheerleaders would give everything we have and know to anyone who so much as glances in our garden’s direction, wanting nothing more in return than to see another dream garden started and the love of the chase passed on to someone else in turn. I would share every plant in my garden with you if I could. Instead, I wrote this. Pass it on.

Table of Contents

Preface 7

Gardening with a Generous Nature: Some Ground Rules 11

How Plants Grow 15

Opportunistic or Invasive? 19

Making the most of Your Garden 22

Self-Sowers: The Price Is Right 27

Guide to Serendipity: Taking Editorial Control 35

Start a Seed Collection 39

Propagation: Sow it Grows 45

50 Faithful Volunteers 53

Plants That Spread: When a Little Goes a Long Way 85

Guide to Abundance: Reuse, Replant, Repeat 92

Propagation: Easy Pieces 96

50 Thrilling Fillers 107

Frost-Tender Plants: Push the Zone 141

Guide to Optimism: Plan Ahead and Save for Later 147

Propagation: Beg a Cutting 148

Overwintering: In from the Cold 155

50 Come-Back Keepers 173

In Sum 205

References and Resources 207

Metric Conversions 210

Plant Hardiness Zones 211

Acknowledgments 212

Photography Credits 213

Index 215

Customer Reviews