There are few people who have not been affected by the economy. Gardeners are no exception. What then can a gardener do? I admit to being a nursery addict. I love to see new plant varieties and cultivars. I simply want them all but of course this is not possible..
Here's what we lovers of growing things need to do. Let's take a look at our gardens. What do they need? Let's give special attention to the perennials already there. Perhaps it is time to divide them. Divisions of one plant species spread about a garden give a feeling of unity. Also let's have talks with our gardening friends. We can trade plants. What fun!
Let's go to plant sales given by garden groups. These are wonderful events. The plants cost far less than they would at a commercial enterprize. Sometimes you may even be able to talk to the person who raised that perennial and receive some worthwhile information such as when and how long the plant blooms, and its care. Just be careful to make sure the plant is healthy and properly identified. Hopefully the seller is not propagating plants that are still patented. Consider joining a garden club. You will meet such wonderful people (They are gardeners for heavens sake so they have to be great.) and will greatly increase your knowledge of plants...
Nurseries still need our support however . Before going to your favorite nursery write down either what plants you want or what the needs of your garden are. For example you may be looking for miniature evergreens, something you are unlikely to get at a garden club sale. Go to several nurseries without the intention of buying right away. Pay attention to not only the cost but the condition and size of the plants. Take notes. Revisit your garden before you revisit the nursery. Buying trees or shrubs? Consider purchasing smaller plants. Smaller plants save you money, are easier to transport and plant, and given the right growing conditions they may easily catch up in size with the larger specimens. (If they die you will loose less money too!)
Planting a vegetable garden? It is more expensive to purchase only plants. Directly plant the seeds of cucumbers and other members of the squash family, all types of beans, corn. This is also true for many herbs including dill, annual chamomile, borage, nasturtium,anise, and chervil. Consider the many heirloom plants or seeds that are available. These breed true unlike hybrid plants so you may wish to save the seeds that are produced in your garden for next year.... a great saving. You may wish to buy seeds from Seed Savers Exchange whose mission it is to keep heirloom varieties from disappearing by offering heirloom seeds for sale. Take care not to plant seeds too close together and pay attention to the proper depth for each type of seed. If plants are sold in containers that hold too many plants for your use consider partnering with a friend.
And then my favorite answer to family and friends who ask "What would you like for your birthday, Mother's Day (You name the holiday)?" is. Oh, just buy me a plant.