Ah finally! Some warmth is in the air and for those of us eager to add to the number of plants in our gardens here are some tips on how to divide and multiply from among the plants that you already have. Veteran gardener and Tillsonburg Horticultural Society member Liz Helmer says that last year, she divided at least 500 plants. Liz has been gardening on two acres of property she inherited from her father since the early ’60s and she says that there really aren’t many plants that you can’t divide.
“Dividing perennials is the cheapest and easiest way to get new plants,” she says. “First you dig the whole plant up and if you massage it you can tell if it will come apart easily or if it will take some physical force to separate the plant into pieces.
“Some plants, if you pick them up and drop them they will fall apart. Others may require anything from a serrated knife to an axe or saw to separate off individual plants. “
Liz says hostas are one of the easiest perennials to divide.
“They’re very forgiving. Last year, I had a huge hosta that a neighbor was interested in and I divided it into 15 individual plants. The number of eyes that appear when a plant first comes up will help to determine how many divisions you can make.”
Keep the size of the divisions about the same diameter as your fist and make sure there are green shoots above the ground with roots below.
It’s particularly important to divide perennials that have taken on a bit of a doughnut shape because they are starting to die out in the middle. Dividing perennials keeps the plants healthy and vigorous.
Once you have divided your plants you will want to replant them and Liz says the key to her success in getting plants to grow has been the good loam soil that she has to plant them in. She says she’s not one to use soil supplements or fertilizers but a bit of bone meal certainly won’t hurt. Try to plant new plant divisions at about the same depth as they were growing and be sure to water them in well.
Some of the plants that you may already have in your garden that are great dividers include sedum, daylily, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, bleeding heart, rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), Shasta daisy, rhubarb, and coneflower. Many perennial herbs are good candidates for division as well.
If you end up with more plants than garden space to grown them in it can be fun to offer them up to friends and neighbours who share your interest in gardening. My garden has been the happy recipient of beautiful plants from family and friends, and from the Horticultural Society’s Annual Garden Auction, which is where many of our members take their surplus divided plants. The Garden Auction is just weeks away.
Coming Up in May
Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4
Horticultural Society members will be on hand at Tillsonburg Garden Gate’s Open House between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. to pass out information about our group, answer questions, and perhaps sign up new members.
Tuesday, May 7
The guest speaker for the Horticultural Society’s General Meeting is Linda Armstrong. Linda is a Master Gardener from London and she’ll be talking about Water Gardening with tips on how to plan, design and stock ponds and water features. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 14
Come out for the Horticultural Society’s Annual Garden Auction in the Lions Auditorium at the Tillsonburg Community Centre. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. with Bargain Toonie and Fiver Cash Tables, a Bake Sale and loads of Tomato and Herb Plants ready to go as well as an inviting Draw Table. The live auction starts at 6:30 p.m. and you can raise your hand to bid on a large variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and containers full of colourful flowers plus practical and decorative garden items, many donated by local businesses.
For information about the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society check out our website at www.tillsonburghorticultural.ca.