Start dividing perennials now, before they get too big. Daylilies, hosta, some of the Siberia irises are showing good growth but demonstrating how crowded they are. Dig up a clump by sticking a shovel under them to pop up the whole bunch, then carefully separating them by hand. The Siberian Iris are different than the bearded iris and easier to divide because they are growing from individual bulbs. Bearded Iris roots (actually RHIZOMES,) on the other hand, look like a bunch of lobsters that got a little too friendly. These need to be gently pried apart before you can replant them. Not sure which is which? Do a web search of Van Gogh Iris and you’ll see a magnificent representation of the bearded iris; do Monet iris and you’ll get a very good picture of the Siberian type.
Because the calendar and the weather are so in conflict with each other, it’s a good idea to do your shopping at a nursery or garden center rather than the Box Store. Box stores, although they will often have quality merchandise, are in the business of selling you impulse buys. They will sell you tomatoes in April to plant on that random 80 degree day, and then they will resell you the same kind of plant at the proper time to replant the ones that died. Independent Garden Centers folks are much more apt to give you the right planting times when you buy your seeds and transplants. HINT: IT’S STILL TOO SOON TO PLANT TOMATOES.
Take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a bike ride to take in all the beautiful blooming stuff; mark down on a list this things that you particularly like and the date you saw them blooming, and consider working them into your landscape in future years.
Do some de-vine intervention. Go out and look before all the leaves are on the trees, and deal with vines while you can see them; consider cutting them off at the bottom rather than pulling them out of the trees. Do what you can do around the roots to discourage the growth, rather than yanking them down and possibly causing damage to the trees and shrubs. We’ll talk in future weeks about things you can do and make with vines should you decide you need to actually remove them.
Go out and clean up your ornamental grasses. If you righteously left them tall last fall so the birds could eat the seeds, now is the time to give them a crew cut. Cut them evenly across, just a hair above where green blades are starting to show. You can also divide these now. Pop up a clump with a shovel underneath; take an ax, saw, or sharp knife to hack then into four or six pieces; replant them at the same level they came out of the ground.
Plant some fruit. Now is the time to be dividing other people’s raspberries, since the new shoots are still small enough to transplant happily. OPP (other people’s plants) is a time-honored tradition, since gardeners are always generous people! but ask permission anyway. Raspberries put out leaves the first year, and flowers and fruits the second, so if you are digging up smaller shoots, don’t expect fruit this time around; if you dig up plants that already have long stems, only prune back dead wood, so matter how annoying the thorny branches are. Trust me. I’m sitting here still pulling thorns out of my arms above the glove level, but I expect to see some fruit this year!
Sally McCabe is Assoc. Director of Community Education at PHS, and grows stuff at two community gardens and in her backyard. She has been a faithful Primex customer since all the way back when Pops (David’s grandfather) was still around.