Sticker Shock

May 27, 2008 | By | Comments (7)

Back in the good old days (approximately 6 months ago), you had to take out a $350,000 loan at 12% interest with no money down to totally wreck your life financially. But now there’s a much easier, quicker way to go bankrupt. It’s called “gardening.”

Surprised? I was too, especially after the cashier at a local garden center recently totaled up my meager purchases I‘d gathered to fill one lousy planter. Here’s what I bought:

• 1 burgundy Cordyline in a half-gallon pot

• 2 burgundy-and-green ‘Bonita Shea’ Athens Select begonias in pint pots

• 3 ‘Landmark Flame’ lantanas in 4-inch pots

• 2 ‘Flamenco Rhumba’ Cupheas in 4-inch pots

That’s a total of 8 pretty small, mostly annual plants. You know how much they cost?

Forty-Four Stinkin’ Bucks!

I remember not too long ago when you could plant your whole garden with flowers for $44.00. You’d buy annuals in six-packs. Sure, the plants were small, but they grew quickly, and you wound up with a nice garden without having to hock your wife’s jewelry while she was away visiting family.

But then the garden and home centers figured out that they could make a lot more money if they could sell you one, somewhat larger plant for the same price you used to pay for 6 plants. And hey, times were good, time is money, and who has the time to watch flowers grow? No, we want big color NOW, so let us happily fork over an Andrew Jackson for one lousy hanging basket of petunias.

That Was Then, This Is Now
It’s the same reason automakers are so eager to sell you a huge, honkin’ SUV or pickup when all you really need is a dinky Ford Fiesta. Profit increases in direct relationship to the ridiculously extravagant size.

Trouble is, lots of people now can’t afford their houses. When you see dandelions the size of baobab trees dotting the lawns of neighbors who haven’t been seen in months, a bad moon’s a-rising. Gas will soon cost $4 a gallon, rising food prices are quickly turning mulch into an attractive cereal substitute, and the next time you fly in a plane, you’ll have to buy the propeller.

Don’t Blame the Little Guy
It’s not really the fault of the Mom & Pop Garden Center. When oil prices double in the time it takes to boil an egg, it jacks up the cost of producing plants from the time seeds are sown and cuttings are stuck. Heating greenhouses costs more, pots cost more, and shipping costs more. So my stinkin’ flowers cost more.

Cheaper Stuff Now!
But I have a message for garden centers out there. You’d better figure out a way to sell me flowers for less than $4 a pop. I’m not gonna spend 200 bucks just to plant one crummy flower bed. I’ll spend the money on beer. Beer doesn’t need to be weeded.

Have You Been Ripped Off Too?
Are plant prices driving you crazy? Tell me and fellow Grumpians about it. What’s the most ridiculous price you’ve abandoned good sense and paid? What’s your strategy for gardening without going broke? Click here and have your say.


  1. Grumpy

    That’s excellent advice, Katie. I hope this procedure can be expanded nationally so that eventually thousands of acres of cheap perennials can be converted to ethanol, thereby reducing our dependence on imported oil. We all have a vital role to play in this. Let’s get growing for America!!

    October 18, 2008 at 10:25 am
  2. Katie

    Steve: At last, I found you, before I started to wilt and turn brown like potato vine at first frost from want of pithy garden commentary! My advice for a garden on the cheap? Buy perennials that you like, one of each is the limit; those that actually survive the first year will be doubled in size the next; proceed to divide and conquer, knowing that you not only have a winner, but can now double or triple your plant count, depending upon your skill and the sharpness of your shovel.

    October 17, 2008 at 10:50 pm
  3. Grumpy

    Oh, I care, I care. If there is one word co-workers use to describe me, it’s “sensitive.” That, and “brilliant.” Sensitive and brilliant, yes, but also one who cares not for the fats cats of Wall Street, but for the working men and women on Main Street. And if I’m elected President, I’ll never forget that, not even when I’m vacationing in my beach house on Aruba.
    Judith, I know you feel abandoned, but ending my column in SL wasn’t my idea. Look on the bright side, though. Now instead of hearing from me just once a month, you can hear from me every day! And you can use words and phrases that never would be used in the magazine. So keep reading the Grumpy Gardener. I promise never to forget my roots and the little guy who’s just trying to get by one day at a time.
    I love America! Grumpy

    October 3, 2008 at 7:42 am
  4. Judith Tye

    Hmmmmph. Exile may be fine for you, running and doing as you please…what about your poor devoted readers? “Tough,” is that it? You just don’t care, is that what you’d have us believe? No, I won’t be disillusioned THAT much!

    October 2, 2008 at 7:47 pm
  5. Grumpy

    Exile isn’t all that bad. It’s kind of nice here. I have all kinds of freedom. Why, I can even say words that are banned in Southern Living, such as “toilet.” Toilet, toilet, toilet, toilet. Tomorrow, I’m going to run with scissors. Grumpy

    July 28, 2008 at 8:32 pm
  6. Debra

    The problem is that I have to keep buying all the new stuff that I see in SL and yes, it costs quite a bit. And it has taken me months to find you in your new exalted and exiled status as sr. gardening editor for SL. I’m following Wm. Welch’s advice for Tx and listening to Felder’s advice on MPB, so I have some irrational and irreverent advice, but I miss your monthly columns.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:16 pm
  7. pat

    my secret is charging at home depot

    June 7, 2008 at 9:45 pm

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