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Garden Times: Dividing Perennials

Garden Times: Dividing Perennials

Purchase spring flowering bulbs and plant them in the ground now so they will put down roots this fall. Next spring, you’ll get a spiritual lift when the flowers miraculously appear from the brown bulbs that you all but forgot you planted. You’ll enjoy a show of colour that is unrivalled in your neighbourhood.​

Perennials that are particularly well-suited to division this time of year include hostas (every 4 to 6 years), peonies (every 8 to 10 years), daylilies (every 3 to 5 years), ornamental grasses, and virtually all fleshy-rooted plants that tend to clump as they mature.

Then there are the travelling plants that just keep pushing roots out laterally in an effort to take over the world! Keep them in check before they push through the kitchen window looking for food! These include monardas, shasta daisies, false loosestrifes, lilies of the valley, pachysandras, and vinca periwinkles. Dig them up with abandon. If you can’t replant the divisions around your garden or give them away, then toss them onto your compost pile.

Back to the fleshy-rooted species: daylilies and hostas, for example. Dig up the entire root mass of the existing clump with a shovel or spade sharpened with a bastard file. Push the sharp blade into the soil and remove it without wiggling it until you have circumnavigated the entire clump. It is not as difficult as it sounds. Then pop the clump, roots and all, out of the soil. You will literally hear a ‘pop’ as the vertical roots lose contact with the soil that has been their home over previous years.​

Now you are ready to divide. I find the easiest way to do this is to just slice the clump like a pie, first in half, and then slice the halves in half again using a perennial division knife, otherwise known as a sod cutting knife. I might divide it a third time if the clump is big enough. The resulting wedges will not take on the odd shape of a piece pie. Much to my own surprise, the developing clump establishes itself in a very natural fashion, giving no hints to the casual observer that you took this tather geometric approach to the whole exercise.​

An Introduction to Spring Flowering Bulbs​

Purchase spring flowering bulbs and plant them in the ground now so they will put down roots this fall. Next spring, you’ll get a spiritual lift when the flowers miraculously appear from the brown bulbs that you all but forgot you planted. You’ll enjoy a show of colour that is unrivalled in your neighbourhood.

Narcissuses

Narcissuses are miracles. If you choose the right varieties, you will get fragrant flowers with reliable colour that can be cut and brought indoors. If you leave them in the yard, they will last up to three weeks in cool spring temperatures. Moreover, they multiply each year with every clump growing in size and flower count.

Tulips

The most popular spring flowering plant by far is the tulip. Tulips are extremely winter hardy and a reliable spring bloomer that take the abuse of late fall planting. They also lend themselves well to cutting for indoor bouquets. You should consider investing some time and money into planting tulips around your property this fall.​

Crocuses

Crocuses are associated with early spring blossoms, but they actually arrive after the snowdrops. Nevertheless, I am always disappointed in myself for not planting more of them in the fall. For a wonderful spring flowering pie, dig a 3 cm deep hole and space 10 or 20 crocus bulbs about 0.5 cm apart in a random circle.​

Holland Bulbs

Mark’s Choice® bulb collections are premium bulbs from Holland that are selected for Canadian gardens by Mark Cullen.​
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