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Diggin' It

Autumn is prime shopping time for gardeners

Need new shrubs or trees? Autumn is prime shopping season since garden centers often put them on sale.

By Craig Summers Black / September 22, 2010

The purchase of this purple Japanese maple ignited a series of fall feeding frenzies. At $5, the ornamental tree was more than a bargain; it was a steal. And so I started looking for more.

Photo courtesy of Craig Summers Black

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Thank you, thank you, thank you. So good to be back.

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Really. Thank you. Stop. You’re too kind. I’ll be here all week.

Now where was I before I got interrupted? Oh, yes: telling you why fall is such a great time to go shopping. Not for Manolos and Jimmy Choos, but plants, especially woodies. (That's gardener talk for trees and shrubs).

I know that you know this is a great time to plant -- reliable moisture, moderate temps, warmish soil conducive to root growth. But I guess no one else does. So nurseries – and even the big box stores – drastically reduce their prices right about now so they don’t end up with a parking lot full of brittle yellow sticks.

So, naturally, I warmed up my credit card.

The Transplanted Gardener goes shopping

My best buy last week was at one of those monster mega-conglomerates. A lone oak tree was hidden in a sea of ornamental cherries (which are doomed in this climate). But it had no price tag. And, dang, the growing tip was snapped off.

So I accosted a uniformed member of this fine establishment and asked him the price of said tree. His response: “Let’s see. That size tree goes for $29.” And this tree in particular? “You can have it for $4.” Sold American!

At a local nursery noted for its frustratingly narrow range of offerings, I was surprised to find that golden sumac I’ve lusted for all year – 30 percent off! And home it goes.

Good thing I have a big Murkin-made truck: ’Cause yet another detour to a big box led to the discovery of two Japanese maples for less than 10 bucks each. Come to papa!

So went my spree: That blushing pink little willow? One-third off. The little variegated buttercup? Same. And the magnificent yellow Elizabeth magnolia, sought all season to replace the late, lamented Butterflies magnolias, a stunning half-off. Score!

This isn't the first time

My foray into this kind of fall retail therapy began about 10 years ago when I stumbled into a huge national store in a tiny Iowa town. Behold – a veritable sea of Acer palmatum atropurpureum. Five dollars each. I nearly swooned.

But because I was driving my wife’s car, I bought only one. One: Can you believe it? To this day I still sigh when I think about it, wishing I could have bought the whole lot.

Think of it: Japanese maple futures! It would have performed a whole lot better than my stock portfolio.

What else I’m into this week: Long-sleeve Hawaiian shirts.

Hey, it’s starting to get cold.

Craig Summers Black, The Transplanted Gardener, is one of nine garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin' it. You can read more of what he's written by clicking here. You may also follow Craig’s further adventures in gardening, music, and rural life on Twitter.

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