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

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