Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Long Division

SCMG Plant Sale’s a-comin’! Therefore, every chance I get, I am out in the garden dividing perennials, ferns and grasses.  The first “potting party” was March 10 this year and we had a big time. There were about 20 MGs there and we potted, labeled and organized approximately 800 plants in 4 hours.

We also had hot and cold drinks, snacks and lunch provided to sustain us and a nice, warm room to sit and enjoy them. It is so  much fun to work wIMG_0007ith such a positive, enthusiastic, hard working group of people. We learn so much from one another and from the process. It is a productive day on so many levels! I delivered 170 plants to be potted up that day-I’ve got a long way to go yet! Last year I donated about 700 plants total.

I start preparing plants for next year shortly after the Plant Sale is over. I garden intensively because I like the look and because it deters weeds. I go through the garden each season moving, rearranging, and dividing plants. I love to play with color and texture and to create seasonal vignettes for fall, winter and early spring. The easiest time to do that is when the plants you are considering are at their best. As I dig them up to move them, they usually get divided.

I am blessed with a woodland at the far end of mMarch 010y property, three levels down from my back yard. It makes a lovely nursery for my divisions to put down roots until it is time to pot them up for next year’s Sale. I thought I might share a few thoughts about dividing perennials; it is not as daunting as it might seem.

How do you tell if a plant may be divided? Usually, you will want to divide only herbaceous plants. These are commonly considered to be plants that die back to the ground in winter. However, a more accurate description would be a plant lacking a permanent woody stem. There are evergreen herbaceous perennials, such as Cardamine trifolia that stay beautiful all winter, but still are easily divided. Woody plants include trees, shrubs, vines-such as clematis, subshrubs-such as Lavandula, and woody perennials-such as Iberis sempervirens. These may be propagated, but the usual methods are by seed, tip cuttings, layering, root cuttings-but not division.

When is the best time to divide an herbaceous perennial? The short answer is “not when it is blooming.” Therefore, divide spring blooming perennials in the fall and fall blooming perennials in the spring. In actual practice, you can divide perennials any time you like as long as the conditions are favorable. This is why dead of winter and height of summer are not optimal. The divisions need to put out some good root growth before being subjected to freezing or drought.

Division may become necessary for the health of the plant. Some perennials will begin to die out in the center after several seasons of expanding. To keep the plants vigorous, you divide them and discard the center-with the added benefit of creating more plants.  You don’t have to wait for center die out; any plant that has grown larger than the place you have it planted may be divided.

If this has piqued your interest, but you aren’t sure about the mechanics of division, keep your eyes peeled for my next post. I’ll cover the basics of multiplying by division.

1 comment:

  1. Ok...I'll be waiting. My interest is piqued!!! :)