Here are Becky’s time tested tips for potting garden plants. Start digging!
It is a challenge to keep potted plant divisions thriving and looking good until the Garden Club auction in June. This will be especially true this year because our plants are rushing into early growth and we seem to be stuck in an abnormally warm and dry weather pattern. Here are some tips to maximize both your success and the benefit to the club’s treasury.
Plants should be divided before they have put on a lot of new growth. For example, hostas can be most easily divided when their little pointed noses have emerged, but the leaves have not unfurled. If your plants have already put on substantial growth, don’t be shy about cutting back some of the foliage. The goal is to have divisions with a good balance between the roots and the growth above ground. Cutting back foliage reduces stress. Similarly, don’t hesitate to trim the roots. First remove any dead or non-vigorous roots, then cut back the healthy roots to encourage new growth.
WATCH THE WEATHER
Try not to dig and divide on a hot, sunny, windy day. The best weather is cool and overcast with showers or light rain forecast. If you can’t summon up that perfect weather, protect your newly potted divisions from the sun and wind. Some ideas are to place them on the north side of your house, cover them with a bushel basket, shield them with a beach or patio umbrella.
Water is going to be especially important this spring. After digging your plant soak it for several hours or overnight in a pail or tub of water. I have had good luck adding a couple of drops of Super Thrive to the water. The soaking will hydrate the plant and make division easier.
GROUP OR BURY
Keeping your potted divisions watered can be a challenge. The task is easier if you can keep your plants grouped closely together near your water supply. Plants will also not dry out as quickly if you can bury the pots in a free space in your garden. They will grow happily until you are ready to pop them out in June.
DON’T HESITATE TO ASK
Terri and I are always happy to answer questions if you are unsure about when, how or whether to divide a particular plant. If you look for information on internet, some of the most reliable websites are those connected with botanical gardens or universities.
A FINAL PLEA
Use potting mixtures that do not contain peat. Not only is peat difficult to hydrate, our planet needs those peat bogs to act as carbon sinks. You can make compost in a few months; peat bogs take thousands of years to form.
Aconitum napellus (Aconite), better known as Monkshood for the helmet-like sepal that covers the rest of the flower, has a long history as both a deadly weapon and an herbal remedy. It is a member of the buttercup family and is a hearty perrenial. The flowers come in a range of colors including blues, yellow, white and pinks. It’s other common name, Wolfsbane, is said to have come from the plant’s use in keeping wolves at bay. Villagers used the toxic sap to coat arrows that would kill the unwanted animal.
The ancient Roman naturalist Plinius, better known as Pliny the Elder, referred to it as “plant arsenic.” In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the evil sorceress Medea conspires to kill the hero Theseus by offering him a cup infused with the deadly poison. Fortunately for him, her plan was foiled. Had he drank from the cup, his death would have been painful, but relatively fast. Even a small amount of exposure to the roots can produce tingling and numbness, and large-scale exposure can induce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat and death.
The European variety, although poisonous enough to be deadly, is not as toxic as the Asian variety, and yet even the Asian variety has been used in healing medicine for centuries as well as in the preparation of poisons. Aconite can trigger hallucinations. I has been used to slow the pulse and as a sedative for heart palpitations. The use of aconite in medicine is probably at the basis of its connection with werewolves, as is the legend that it was given its poisonous qualities from the slobber of Cerberus during Hercules’ fight with that ferocious dog of Hades.
By the way, the seed, wrapped in a lizard’s skin and carried allows you to become invisible at will. I gotta go catch me a lizard…. Anyway, if you are looking to do in a werewolf this Halloween, go for the silver bullet, as wolfsbane merely slows ’em down. Ditto for vampires.
During the last decades of the nineteenth century, Celia Thaxter’s beautiful garden was flourishing on Appledore Island. She wrote a book about her beloved garden called An Island Garden. Appledore is one of the nine Isles of Shoals, making her unique island garden not easy to visit. Filmmaker Peter Randall is making a film which will bring the story to those who can’t make the trip. View this video for a preview of the film.
Back in 2007, Nance and her husband Brian visited Kuekenhof Gardens in the Netherlands and shared these spectacular photos with us. Since it is the dreary month of March around here, we need a harbinger of spring to cheer us up! Don’t you love the bands of color?