I have a neighbor who has been landscaping her new home. She’s semi-retired and does freelance work in landscape design. With each new design job, she says, she earns another tree. She likes big trees, not tiny ones, which might suggest the price of those additions to her overall plan. Her pay-as-you-go landscape is slowly but surely taking shape.

America’s Best Gardener contest offers cash prizes

Get ready to enter your garden in the “America’s Best Gardener” contest, sponsored by Seedlingers, producers of plant foods, plantable pots and more. (seedlingers.com) This is a big contest with national competition. So get ready to put your garden’s best foot forward.

This year, the America's Best Gardener contest will award more than $50,000 in cash and prizes to gardeners from across the United States. Whether you're a seasoned pro or an amateur with a secret hobby, the event will celebrate the hard work that you put into making our world look, smell and taste better. There will be three first-place $10,000 cash prizes to the Best Indoor Gardener, Best Outdoor Ornamental Gardener and Best Outdoor Vegetable Gardener!

For more information and entry from, visit: americasbestgardener.com. Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. Central Time Sept. 30, 2017.

Another contest: This one is local

Merryspring Nature Center is conducting a photo contest, seeking evocative images of the nature center that beckon one and all. Perhaps the rolling green of the north meadow, the vibrant colors of the perennial or lily garden. Maybe the hexagon or a winding trail, autumn leaves or spring blossoms.

They are looking for a welcoming digital photo or two for the new brochure cover. The winner will receive a free family membership for a year and the satisfaction of seeing their work in print.

Submit images to Toni Goodridge at info@merryspring.org. Call 236-2239 for more information.

The point here is that it is all well and good for me (or any other garden writer or publication) to suggest landscape additions that call for a flank of shrubs and designs or “recipes” for container creations requiring half a dozen pricey annuals or perennials while ignoring their prices. For a lot of us, cost is often the limiting factor in our plans for that perfect landscape. That doesn’t mean we always have to scale back our expectations, but we can look for ways to keep expenses under control.

When establishing a new landscape, the larger elements — trees and shrubs — should be priorities, providing the framework for all elements to follow. But bringing in and planting large trees can, indeed, be an extravagance. However, sometimes it is the best option. In that event, consider the entire project and spring for as many of the larger specimens as possible all at once. This helps to cut down on the expense of having them delivered and planted. Often a supplier will bring in several trees for the price of trucking in just one.

On the other hand, if you are the patient sort of gardener, smaller versions of your must-have trees or shrubs are often available at a fraction of the cost. Plus, it is often the case that you can transport and plant those smaller versions yourself, saving the expense of having them delivered and planted for you. That’s doubling your savings. You will be happy to know that it is a fact that smaller trees are often easier to get started, and frequently will eclipse larger transplants in terms of growth.

Shopping around is also an option, and don’t forget online sources as well. Have a list of desired plants and compare prices. Always ask a supplier about discounts for bulk orders or multiples of the same plant. It may not get you anything, but you never know and it doesn’t hurt to ask. It lets your supplier know you are concerned about cost, which might even prompt the seller to suggest alternatives that will save dollars.

When buying is not an option, but you are still lusting after a particular plant in your neighbor’s yard — consider asking for a cutting or division or seeds. Oftentimes shrubs and perennials can be propagated from cuttings or divisions. Many trees can be started from seeds, though this takes a lot of time and patience. I offer these suggestions with one caveat, and that is that many of the new plant introductions are actually patented. That means reproducing them is illegal. Consider yourself warned.

Even so, there are dozens of heirloom varieties that can be rooted from cuttings, divided or started from seed. I have shared countless little rose bushes by rooting cuttings of one of my favorite old garden roses, Zephirine Drouhin. It is what they call an “own-root” rose, which means it is not grafted and is grown on its own roots. This tough-as-nails, yet delightfully delicate rose roots readily when handled right. And the bushes grow quickly from those “free” cuttings. Many an heirloom rose has been saved from extinction by “rose rustlers” who have rescued cuttings of rare own-root roses from abandoned homesteads or lots about to be bulldozed.

I’ve also used the cutting(s) method for older-variety hydrangeas, forsythias and many other shrubs and perennials. Same goes for perennial divisions. Plant exchanges are excellent vehicles for sharing garden favorites and spreading the wealth of our gardens. Visit the Planet Natural website for suggestions on growing plants from cuttings: planetnatural.com/plant-propagation.

Patience is a virtue, and for the gardener willing to wait for end-of-season sales for that pricey tree or shrub, patience can mean substantial savings. Fall planting of shrubs and trees is recommended, because plants are motivated by internal “calendars” to get established quickly at the end of the growing season. Come spring, they will be long established and ready to jump up and grow. But remember to keep newly-planted perennials, shrubs and trees watered regularly until the ground freezes.

Growing from seed is a great money-saving option for annuals and vegetable varieties. A $2 packet of seeds will produce dozens of little plants, a genuine savings over seedling purchases that often top the price of an envelope of seeds. Leftover seeds can be saved by storing them in tightly-sealed jars in the freezer. And when it comes to seeds, don’t just think of buying them.

Saving the seeds of many annuals, biennials and vegetables growing in your garden is like putting money in the bank. Open-pollinated heirloom varieties are best for seed-saving. Label envelopes and store for the following year’s crops. Visit the Seed Savers Exchange website for helpful ideas on saving seeds: seedsavers.org.

We can have the garden of our dreams and more, plus it does not have to break the bank, if we take the time to explore all our choices and take advantage of opportunities to save.