• Bringing home ‘rescued’ plants

    by  • September 15, 2012 • Plant Profiles, Winter • 4 Comments

    How to choose end-of-season sale plants

    Every year, while visiting my favorite nurseries, I prowl the sale tables in late August and September.  I cheerfully call these plants that I purchase “rescued plants.”  I bring them home at a much discounted price and find them a home in my garden so that they can make it through the winter.

    This viburnum was $5. in a 5 gallon can.  Who knows why it turned brown, but it was in the nursery a long time and needed to be put in the ground to grow!

    This viburnum was $5.for a 5 gallon can. Who knows why it turned brown, but it was in the nursery a long time and needed to be put in the ground to grow!

    How to choose

    Will this plant survive? I saw this sad Viburnum bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’ at the nursery’s ‘Ugly Plant Sale’ looking quite brown, misshapen and decrepit, but as many gardeners are, I am optimistic and hopeful!  First I determine if there is indeed life in the plant.

    I scratch the bark to see if there is green underneath.  Next, ask myself if this plant will do well in my area. My Sunset book says it is good in my zone 5-8, its fragrant with showy pink flowers and is partial to full sun.  I’ll plant it near the front door where I can get the fragrance!

    New growth is a great sign!

    New growth is a great sign!

    Is your shrub or perennial?  (Don’t bother with annuals at this stage , buy them in spring when they are fresh.) Will it survive the winter at your altitude and hardiness zone? Refer to the nursery’s Sunset Garden Book if you’re not sure.

    I look for signs of new growth and find it.  If among the dry and sometimes brown and crispy foliage, you see new leaf sprouts, that’s a good sign.  No need to remove the dry leaves unless they particularly bother you…they will fall off when they are ready.

    Brown leaves will fall and hopefully sprout again in spring!

    Brown leaves will fall and hopefully sprout again in spring, I hope!

    How to Plant

    I plant bargain plants as usual in good soil mixed with my native soil and mulch them well to protect the root if temperatures are still hot. ‘Live or die’, I say to the plants, as I walk away and know I have done all I can.… They’ll get a good start and be easy care once the fall rains begin.  With hope in my heart, buying rescued plants brings me a renewed interest in my garden after a hot, hot summer of hand watering.  Something to look forward to and bargains as well!


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    4 Responses to Bringing home ‘rescued’ plants

    1. September 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      I think this sounds fun! Kind of like plant roulette. I bet you end up with many wonderful things that you would not have considered otherwise.

    2. September 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      I’ve done this a few times, especially when I look at a poor forlorn root bound specimen, that just needs room to stretch its roots. It’s amazing what can happen with a little TLC. I bet you won’t recognize that Viburnum come spring!

    3. September 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      What fun! Well, sales haven’t started here yet, but I’m hoping in October I can start rescuing myself.

      • September 27, 2012 at 6:43 am

        Hi Mouse, yes, I was surprised tp hear that the little nursery in town plans to close up at the end of October! Fall is the perfect time to begin planting for a wise gardener and the root growth that occurs in the still warm soil is highly valued. I think I was still rescuing and planting in December last year…it was pretty mild, remember?

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