By Samuel Murray
Gardening doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. Some of the
most beautiful gardens I’ve ever grown cost me nothing but
sweat and sore muscles – and paid off with the kind of
satisfaction you’ll never get from a paid-for landscape.
Throughout the spring and summer, I have the pleasure of
tending the miniature rose bush I got for Mother’s Day six
years ago, the Virginia bluebells that grew in my mother’s
garden, the border of hostas that my son dug up from behind a
neighboring store (with the store owner’s permission, of
course!) It is a found garden – a friendship garden – a
garden that was never planned, and is all the more beautiful
because of it.
Building a Found Garden takes a bit of foresight – but just a
bit. To start, you’ll need three things:
A Sunny Spot In Your Yard
Location is everything. Find a spot in your yard that gets
plenty of sun during the day – at least 6-8 hours of full sun
is ideal. If you don’t have a spot like that, though, you can
work around it by being careful in your selection of plants.
the spot you want to fill with flowers is shady, look in other
shady gardens for plants that do well in the shade.
Simple Garden Tools
A spade and a rake are all the tools you’ll need to get your
garden going. If you’re really skimping it, and only can
one tool – get a 4-tine pitchfork. It’s one of the most
versatile gardening tools ever created. You can loosen and
soil with it, shake out the biggest of the rocks, and even use
it to mound earth for trenches.
Friends, Neighbors and Vacant Lots
The beauty of a found garden is how it grows and what it comes
to mean. If a neighbor has a beautiful garden, chances are
that they’d be happy to share a few cuttings for your garden.
The woods behind your house or the vacant lot across the
can yield a bumper crop of stones to build walls and borders.
Keep your eyes open for plants along the side of the road.
Building a Border From Found Materials
Borders and walls are an easy way to set off a flower bed or
garden patch from the rest of your yard. You can use broken
paving stones, bricks, and construction blocks – any material
that is weatherproof. Simply dig a trench around your garden
perimeter that is 2-3 inches wider than the base of the stones
or bricks, stand them on end, and pack dirt around them.
Acquiring Plants for a Found Garden
If you have gardeners among your acquaintances, you won’t have
to look far at all for flowers, border plants, bushes and
If you do your building during “gardening season”, you can
advantage of the cultivation efforts of friends and neighbors.
If you notice a neighbor out in his garden transplanting or
moving plants, don’t be shy. Ask for root divisions or
for your own garden. True gardeners believe in sharing the
DO NOT dig up plants from public gardens, wildlife
along highways or in public parks. It’s illegal in nearly
state, and many states have protected species of flowers and
plants. Stick to friends, neighbors and properties whose
are known to you.
Among the best plants to propagate from root divisions are:
Hosta – Shade-tolerant perennials that make beautiful borders
or ground cover, hostas are easily among the most popular
border plants in the United States. They spread so easily that
gardeners often thin them by root division.
Iris and day lilies – Like hostas, irises and day lilies
quickly. Gardeners often thin them in the autumn to prepare
a spring growing season, and are nearly always willing to part
with a few root divisions. Plant in the fall and let them
winter over – they’ll bloom in the spring.
Virginia bluebells – Wildly beautiful, the delicate violet
flowers of the Virginia bluebell open in the sun, and close in
the shade. They also grow like wildfire wherever you plant
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