Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Dividing & Sharing Perennials

a garden of yellow daffodils in the shape of a cross

Hello Fellow Readers, I hope you enjoy the story of how I celebrated Easter 2020, dividing and sharing perennials.

Easter with family wasn’t to be as I’m sure was true for most of you. Instead, we took a road trip up to Pine Bush, NY, to tend to my family’s plot. I brought a sack of garden tools; three I cherish that were once my dear old moms. Fiskars tools were made in America back then, very hardy, as evidenced by the years in service.

White Daffodills with Yellow CentersMoving or dividing perennials in bloom is not ideal.

Before we left, I considered digging up a clump of daffodils. But I thought for sure I brought some last spring. Plus, plants in full bloom are not a good time to make a move. They are blooming more bountifully than years past. Just as a garden of daffodils not far from here planted in the shape of a cross. Each year they magically reach peak bloom on Easter Day, no matter the weather. Hence why Daffodils (Narcissus) are symbols of rebirth and new beginnings.

How perennial cuttings from my garden began

a woman tending to a garden around a gravestoneThe New Prospect Cemetery is modest with headstones next to the church that dates back to the 1800s, many with the names worn away. Mom loved to tell how her grandma, she called Baba, used to help herself to plant cuttings around the gravestones when they visited. And how her Aunt Bessie, who raised her, would scold Baba for taking plants. “They would give them to me if they were here,” her comeback. And as every generous gardener knows, Baba was right. It’s not stealing. Its spreading joy and the gift of life, which inspired the idea to bring divides from my garden that first spring three years back and plant them around my mom and dad’s headstone.

The dried stems from the Shasta daisies planted last year proved there was a boisterous summer bloom. The Giant Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina ‘Helene von Stein,’ also called’ Big Ears’) was plentiful and taking over the Palace Purple Coral Bells (Heuchera micrantha). I separated the Lamb’s Ear and planted them by the headstones of generations past, giving the Coral Bells more room to flourish.

There were indeed two sprigs of daffodil foliage to the left of the gravestone, but no promise of blooms this year. That’s okay; they’ll absorb enough nutrients to flower next spring.

The Hosta divides were showing their little faces. I acquired them by way of the “Hosta Lady,” the mother-in-law of a dear friend who lived in Lancaster, PA. When she passed away, my friend invited me to gather some of her hundred varieties. Not knowing which types I have, I call them all ‘Nancy’ after the Hosta Lady.

The best time to divide perennials

Most say it’s best to divide spring and summer blooming perennials in the fall and fall bloomers in the spring. That way, all the plant’s energy can go to root and leaf development rather than flowering. I say most perennials recover best if divided in early spring, just as new growth is emerging no matter when they bloom. The root systems are full of stored energy, and the young foliage is easy to workaround.

So, make some divides, spread them around your garden, and share them with neighbors. Why not use some in pots and window boxes too. Come Fall, you can transplant them into your garden, making more plants to share with others for generations to come. Here’s to spreading joy.

Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

Golden Retriever walking next to DaffodilsA few daffodil tidbits

They say yellow daffodils represent joy and positive energy. White means purity and youth and orange hopefulness and camaraderie. They all say happiness.

Can you plant daffodils in the spring?

Jim of Washington, NJ, asked whether the daffodil bulbs he planted in March (having forgotten to plant them in the Fall) would bloom this year. Like most spring-blooming bulbs, most daffodils require a chilling period of below forty degrees for eight to twelve weeks to flourish. Some more miniature daffodils don’t. But during the winter, bulbs are busy growing roots. As long as Jim’s bulbs were not dried out, they’ll likely only push out foliage this year.

Click through to learn about bulbs to plant now in the column titled- Spring-Planted Bulbs.

A link to The American Daffodil Society

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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