Urban retail nurseries can and will charge you an arm and a leg for perennials, shrubs and trees. Yes, the quality is usually good, yes the convenience is there, and yes your husband will look at you with squinty eyes when you tell him you spent how much on a what? Here are some ways to avoid dirty looks:
Check out Home Depot and other cheap places first: Listen before you roll your eyes. Just like you can find some awesome designer jeans for cheap at vintage shops and discount stores, you can sometimes find some decent plants at these stores. For instance, if you just have a basic need for some basic plantings you can often find them. You won't find the latest two-headed daisy hybrid, but you might find some nice plain old dogwood trees, boxwood hedges, arbor vitae etc for a lot cheaper than Gert and Louie's very expensive local nursery.
Take a Saturday drive: The further you get out of town the cheaper the nursery stock often. You may even convince some nice wholesaler to sell you twenty hostas if you take the initiative-although don't be a pest about this. Some wholesalers have hard and fast rules. A lot of nurseries don't really market themselves but they have nice stock if you come to them. Plus, who doesn't like a nice drive in the country?
Think before you buy: Don't go the store without some idea of what you want to buy. Control yourself! I like to do "drivebys" before I purchase. Sometimes you find a lot of plants in Sunset magazine that aren't exactly available or what you were looking for once you get to the nursery. Save yourself some heartache and plan based on availabilty. If you have trouble making decisions this will limit your decision making process and therefore make it easier to choose.
Remember that your plant will grow: Not to assume that you don't know this, but ask yourself if you really need five daphnes. Save some money and realize that if you plant well and fertilize one or two plants will eventually cover the view of your neighbor's rusted out Camero.
Hunting for plants if fun-esp when you find a bargain-you'll feel like you've hit the jackpot!