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Get the plot to divide and conquer.


IT never fails to surprise me how infrequently gardeners divide their perennials.

Just think of the advantages. You have a new plant for another corner of your plot and it hasn't cost you a penny. And, in some cases, it can actually help your old perennial, by moving it to a new location with refreshed soil. Then sit back and watch it thrive.

Most perennials can be divided now or left until March-April. If your soil floods during winter, it is better to divide in spring.

I always divide at the end of the year, even into December. Early-flowering perennials such as pulmonarias flower better when divided at the end of the season.

Lifting established plants is easy enough, although the clump should retain the maximum amount of earth on the roots. Not as easy as it sounds, as most pulmonarias seem only too happy to let go of the soil. However, this allows you a closer look at the crown, and fingers are usually strong enough to ease the crowns apart.

The same cannot be said of trollius, the globe flower. They have a thin, fibrous root system, which binds the soil into a tight matrix, making it almost impossible to define which roots belong to which crown.

Blasting the root ball with a hose does not help, either, so you need to get vicious and chop it up with a spade. This way an 18-inch clump provides up to nine generous divisions and if you go carefully with a knife, up to several hundred plantlets. Smaller pieces are best potted into three-inch pots and left in a cold frame, when they can be planted out in March.

Hostas are ideal for dividing. They look the part all season long. As soon as the pale green leaves begin to unfurl they bring botanical architecture to the border.

They peak about May when they are at their freshest green and quilted-leaf varieties, such as hosta zounds, glow from their golden colouring.

Hostas are particularly satisfying to divide. I use a knife and slice the rootball into two-inch square sections. Plant them immediately just to make sure they survive our harsh winter.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Gardening
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 2, 2001
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