Ways to Save Money with the Poorly Department

Thyme and rosemary

My new weekend obsession is trawling the ‘poorly department’ of garden centres and finding bargain plants for sale.

Last weekend I found a load of pretty verbascum for £1 each (instead of £6.99 – £8.99). A couple of months ago I managed to get £60 worth of lavender for £2 – they had been slightly zapped by a late frost but have since completely recovered – and last year we salvaged a load of white and pink echinacea plants for £1 each too. This year they’re really strong and ready to bloom!

It’s well worth checking out the poorly department because more often than not, the plants are absolutely fine, just not pretty enough to compete against their counterparts who are often in bloom. Some may be a little neglected and just need a good water or feed, and often have more buds waiting to bloom. In fact, it puzzles me why people buy flowers in bloom, as by the time they are planted in they often only have a week or two of flowering time left in them. It’s essentially paying a premium and not getting the full benefit.

In my new age of austerity, I’m happy to eschew the stunning displays of plants and scour the poorly department of my local garden centres and wait for the plants to recover, flower the following year or later in the season. If I can’t find what I need, then there’s always the option of buying smaller, younger plants from our local nursery and waiting for them to grow!

£1 'Barbecue' variety of rosemary, £1 thyme and some garlic chives

£1 ‘Barbecue’ variety of rosemary, £1 thyme and some garlic chives

Of course, buying up tired plants that have finished flowering applies more to perennials as you’ll get a good few years out of each plant for a fraction of the price, but if you’re quick enough off the mark you might even be able to grab a few vegetable plants. Having a greenhouse or polytunnel (or just a small space under glass) to hand is always a bonus as poorly department veg plugs can be grown on later in their ‘natural’ season and avoid any frost damage.

We’ve also saved a heck of a lot of money buy sowing from seed – it’s just common sense. In the past, one packet of cosmos (around £2.50 plus a bag of compost) provided a stunning display throughout our long border from around August through to the first hard frosts in November. To buy that number of plants in from a garden centre would probably cost in excess of £80.

And whilst we’re still waiting for our current crops of vegetables to mature we’ll be filling in the spaces with bargain veg plants and easy to sow salad crops. So far we’ve found space for a ridge cucumber and another squash plant. I’ve got a few gaps in the flower borders that will easily accommodate edible plants, so this weekend I’ll be on the lookout for more cheap veg plugs to grow on!

Sharing is also a great way to keep food costs down – share and swap your homegrown fruit and veg plants and over the course of a season you could easily save the price of a few modest weekly shops. We have been given some tomato and fennel plants for free by a friend… Rich happily munches on tomatoes, but I’ve got to put a little research time into recipes with fennel. Any ideas?!


  1. […] after adding my poorly department herb pot to the top step by the kitchen door, I was a momentarily inspired to at least brighten the area up […]