Gardening Experts

Q&A with Kerry Ann Mendez, author of The Budget-Wise Gardener

By Shelley Pierce | June 17, 2018
Image by St. Lynn's Press

Q&A with Kerry Ann Mendez, author of The Budget-Wise Gardener

by Shelley Pierce June 17, 2018

Q&A with Kerry Ann Mendez, author of The Budget-Wise Gardener

By Shelley Pierce | June 17, 2018

As an award-winning garden speaker, designer, and author of four popular gardening books, Kerry Ann Mendez focuses on time-saving gardening techniques, workhorse plants and sustainable practices.  Her business, Perennially Yours, LLC, is based in Kennebunk, Maine. In recent years, Kerry Ann has presented over 300 lectures in 19 states. She has been on HGTV and in numerous magazines including Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Garden Gate and Better Homes & Gardens.  Kerry Ann was awarded the 2014 Gold Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for her horticultural accomplishments.  In Kerry’s latest book, The Budget-Wise Gardener, she offers hundreds of money-saving buying & design tips for planting the best for less!  Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies from St. Lynn’s Press!


1. How will this book help plantaholics like myself to maximize their garden budgets?  What are some features that readers will find particularly helpful?

Gardeners will be able to stretch their hard-earned dollars with tips on how to buy the healthiest, top performing plants for less, or for free, as well as discovering little-known venues for finding these treasures. Readers will also benefit from learning sustainable, labor-saving and money-saving garden design techniques.

2. What are some of your favorite trade secrets from your book?

*Go for ‘Godzilla’ perennials. Save a pretty penny by purchasing super-sized cultivars in a plant family, versus petite ones. One monster plant can fill the same space that would require two or three smaller ones, For example, Heucherella ‘Galatica’ is 8”-10” tall and 16”-20” wide compared to Heucherella ‘Sunspot’ that is only 5” tall and 12” inches wide.

* Replace many annuals in containers with long-lived plants such as perennials, dwarf flowering shrubs, vines, and conifers. Not only does this save a bucketful of money spent on annuals and potting soil each year, it also slashes time spent planting all new containers. The Budget-Wise Gardener includes lists of gorgeous, hardy plants to use as thrillers, fillers and spillers.

3. What was the best or most memorable plant bargain you ever scored?

Display gardens at flower and garden shows can be gold mines for scoring deeply discounted (or free) plants. This is one of the venues I mention in Chapter Two. It is not unusual for nurseries to offer significant discounts on display plants at the end of a show, in light of the time and labor needed to load the plants back on trucks and then unload them again at the garden center. I was able to buy a pricey Japanese maple called ‘Full Moon’, for a song!

4. Even the best bargain hunters can end up with bad deals on occasion.  What was one of yours and what did you learn from it?

Many gardeners, including me, have been bamboozled by less than forthright mail order companies. Eye-popping photos and heavenly descriptions can be irresistible. There are premier, top-rated companies like Bluestone Perennials and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, but unfortunately there are also businesses that receive very mixed reviews. Last year I ordered from one such company and was shocked by the quality of the plants shipped and by their condition on arrival. The plants were strangled in plastic, in smaller than advertised pots, sickly in appearance, and there were no plant tags. A knowledgeable gardener might have been able to identify the four different perennials if they had healthy leaves, but a few scraggly stems offered no clues. I had been hoodwinked! I’ve learned not to trust companies I am not familiar with and to check their customer ratings on The Garden Watchdog, a website that provides customer reviews on over 7,000 gardening mail order companies. The Budget-Wise Gardener includes many other tips for eliminating unhappy surprises and getting the most from your online order.

5. How did you become a budget-wise gardener and does your thrifty/frugal nature extend to other areas of your life or is it strictly gardening?

My husband and I went through some tough financial times early in our marriage. This character-building period necessitated creative, budget-stretching solutions. After I became obsessed with gardening and became a plant collector, my bargain-hunting skills soared to new levels when I became an employee at a number of garden centers and gained an insider’s view and perspective on how to work the system to my financial advantage.

Win one of two copies of The Budget-Wise Gardener!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, June 24, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Are you a thrifty gardener?  Do you have any frugal gardening tips that you’d like to share?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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    Nicaam
    Comment added June 27, 2018Reply

    Without naming names I recently got burned buying 5-3yr. old blueberry bushes at an amazing price of $50 plus a $40 s/h (ok not so great). Here was my vision...all of them grazing the front of our new home producing fruit from the get go. Here's the reality...all 5 dead plants with 0 guarantee from a not so customer friendly "family farm". Moral of the story, find out the policy first, go with stores that have better customer service and be patient. Air layer the one blueberry plant you do have.

    Sylvia
    Comment added June 23, 2018Reply

    I too am a frugal gardener. I grow some perennials from seed because it’s so much cheaper & buy seed-starting supplies at the end of the season when they’re marked down.

    Norm Ewing
    Comment added June 22, 2018Reply

    I found the article to be very helpful. My Scottish ancestry makes me very frugal!

    Erin Walsh
    Comment added June 21, 2018Reply

    The last few years I have been taking cuttings in the spring of all of our trees and shrubs and putting them in a bed in the back of the garden that we developed with really good soil to overwinter our patio plants. It's kind of hit or miss but I've had a few that are really starting to take off back there that I'll transplant when the reach the appropriate size.

    Connie Lee
    Comment added June 20, 2018Reply

    When I go plant shopping, I always make sure to check the rack with the damaged plants or not so pretty plants. They're lower price and the store just wants to get rid of them. If I think I can make the plant pretty again by giving it some TLC, I buy it. It's fun to watch them re bloom again, and I feel good knowing I got that plant for half price or less.

    Carolyn Lugan
    Comment added June 20, 2018Reply

    I am the don't want this plant any more Lady. I love receiving these plants and receive lots of compliments on some of their own old plants.

    Patsy Henderson
    Comment added June 20, 2018Reply

    Love perennials, it’s getting plants for free! I have a small garden and a few fruit trees and bushes. Would love to win the book a learn more!

    Crystal Abel
    Comment added June 20, 2018Reply

    I am a thrifty gardener, many don't know this, but you can get seeds for edibles and fruit/veggie/herb/nut bearing trees and plants with your food stamps. I did this when I was on food stamps and it is a whole lot healthier and more sustaining than buying soda or ice cream with them. http://finamoon.blogspot.com/2014/08/planting-fruitnut-orchard-and-edible.html

    Cindi Whittaker
    Comment added June 20, 2018Reply

    I am always looking for ways to repurpose things in my frugal garden. I have a number of various sized containers from old colanders to reusing bakery packaging as a mini-greenhouse to start seeds. The big plastic tray with clear plastic lid works great and you can use egg cartons to start your seeds in with good seed starting mix. The egg carton can then be planted right into the ground to slowly break down! (Note: this would apply to natural paper egg cartons, not those made with styrofoam!)

    jenni j
    Comment added June 18, 2018Reply

    I always buy perennials that can be divided and/or produces seeds to play with. I love free seeds and cuttings also.

    Stefana Szytec
    Comment added June 18, 2018Reply

    Love quick tips like these. I stroll down the gardening aisle of places that only do seasonal supplies - they get rid of their bulbs for cheap when summer starts!

    Jean Puff
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I’ve learned to plant perennials that come up every year and can be divided 😊👍🏻

    Kim Piland
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I normally buy on the sale rack but I could certainly use some more pointers.

    Sheila Boettcher
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I buy perennials and plants that multiply!

    Beth Ann Bruno
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I wouldn't have a garden if I wasn't frugal! But I'm at a loss for creative new ideas-this book looks great! Personally, plant swaps are good but nothing replaces Craigslist free section!

    Joanne Bransford
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I always buy perennials when I do buy plants. I never buy annuals unless they are "dirt cheap"! Lol. I collect seeds from all plants and propagate when I can. And, I never turn down a freebie. Also, known for finding discount racks at nurseries and trying to revive them!

    Kimberly@ gardenjournal.org
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    Yes! That is what I do, too!

    Melinda Holcomb
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I take the seeds from my flowers,at the end of summer, and sprinkle them all over my garden beds. This gives me all the new plants that I need for the next year when then come up in the spring.

    Vickie Ann McCoy
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    Yes! I swap landscape plants with neighbors and save pineapple tops, potato cuttings, avocado seeds etc. to grow in my kitchen garden.

    joshua ferguson
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I have to be one by necessity lol

    BONNIE ELLIS
    Comment added June 17, 2018Reply

    I am thrifty! I use donated plants and love hostas, since they can be split many times!

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