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Bringing Home ‘Rescued’ Plants

Every year, while visiting my favorite nurseries, I prowl the sale tables in late August and September. I cheerfully call these plants that I purchase “rescued plants.” I bring them home at a much discounted price and find them a home in my garden so that they can make it through the winter.

How to choose

Will this plant survive? I saw this sad Viburnum bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’ at the nursery’s ‘Ugly Plant Sale’ looking quite brown, misshapen and decrepit, but as many gardeners are, I am optimistic and hopeful! First I determine if there is indeed life in the plant.

I scratch the bark to see if there is green underneath. Next, ask myself if this plant will do well in my area. My Sunset book says it is good in my zone 5-8, its fragrant with showy pink flowers and is partial to full sun. I’ll plant it near the front door where I can get the fragrance!


Is your shrub or perennial? (Don’t bother with annuals at this stage , buy them in spring when they are fresh.) Will it survive the winter at your altitude and hardiness zone? Refer to the nursery’s Sunset Garden Book if you’re not sure.

I look for signs of new growth and find it. If among the dry and sometimes brown and crispy foliage, you see new leaf sprouts, that’s a good sign. No need to remove the dry leaves unless they particularly bother you…they will fall off when they are ready.

How to Plant


I plant bargain plants as usual in good soil mixed with my native soil and mulch them well to protect the root if temperatures are still hot. ‘Live or die’, I say to the plants, as I walk away and know I have done all I can…. They’ll get a good start and be easy care once the fall rains begin. With hope in my heart, buying rescued plants brings me a renewed interest in my garden after a hot, hot summer of hand watering. Something to look forward to and bargains as well!

Visit Sue Langley’s blog SierraFoothillGarden for lots of timely info on gardening in the Sierra.

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