You can visit local nurseries and greenhouses. These are usually owned and operated by local growers, which means that shipping costs are not included in the price of the plants. (For more information on the advantages of shopping at local greenhouses and nurseries, read my article — “Shop local greenhouses and nurseries for big savings“.)
You should also talk to your gardening friends. Most gardeners are more than willing to share their plants, especially in the spring and fall when it is usually time to divide plants. Volunteer to help them dig and divide or to even do all of the digging yourself in exchange for some free plants. Very few gardeners that I know will turn down help with digging in their garden.
Plant exchanges are another way to acquire new and different plants for your garden. Last year at plant exchanges, I added to my garden such plants as forget-me-nots, Black-eyed Susans, and ‘Montana Blues.’ I even got a couple of houseplants. If you are just starting a garden and have no plants to exchange, go anyway and tell the gardeners there that you are just getting started gardening. Did I not mention earlier that gardeners love to share? They will also gladly share their knowledge and gardening tips with you.
Many retail outlets, such as Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, offer big savings on plants near the end of a season. Some may not look that great; nevertheless, if the plant is a perennial, the odds of its coming back the next season are definitely in your favor. I have also purchased numerous miniature roses right after Mother’s Day for virtually nothing. These little beauties have proven to be quite hardy and are even starting to bud as I type this. (Miniature roses are great in the front of borders, by the way.) Sometimes, you can actually get free plants from nurseries, who were just planning on throwing away plants that did not sell during the season. A bit of tender loving care can quite often bring these treasures back to life. If that does not work, you have lost nothing since the plants were free.
You can go on a hike, as well. As long as you are not on federal, state, or private property, woods and other wilderness areas are great places to find ferns and native plants. Abandoned areas, such as old construction sites, are also good places to find native plants. Of course, you want to be careful. It is against the law to remove plants from federal and state parks. Some local parks, however, will actually allow you to take certain plants during certain times of the year. For example, where I live in Tennessee, they will allow you to harvest wild ginger at times. You do need to check with the local authorities, though. You also need to be safe. A broken leg or a snake bite can take all of the fun out of your excursion.
Yes, gathering new plants for your garden does not have to be an expensive undertaking. Think outside the box, and you will have a blooming garden in no time.