Tag Archives: dividing perennials

Must-have plants for any garden

My must-have plants for any garden
Gardener Bourne End, garden care Taplow, lawn care Wooburn Green, Hedge triming Cookham, Bourne End Gardener.

I’m often asked about favourite or a must-have plant, but I don’t think there is a singular answer. Many merge together creating the effects I like, and succeed each other in an orchestral fanfare lasting months on end.

But these listed below can form a core that would enable a long featured display from February to December.

Specific varieties are mostly not detailed, that would be part of the colour scheme or them of an individual garden. They could all be a must-have plant.

There are some shrubs for structure, grasses and perennials that will start early in the year, others that will last until Christmas.

And now is the time to consider any new plants for your borders. March and April are best months for planting, and if it gets as hot as last year, May will be too late. Unless you have irrigation installed or area slave to the hosepipe.

My Must-have plants – grasses and shrubs

Cornus, coloured stem dogwoods. Or coloured Willows. These provide basic flowers on fresh leaves, but of managed well offer coloured stems from December to March. They must be maintained annually, else they can grow beyond reach and the task becomes a chore. These are absolute must-have plants.

Phalaris. A vigorous variegated grass that can be divided annually to fill spaces.

Calamagrostis. Super tall grass that forms large clumps, lasts through winter as a frosted statue.

must-have plants
Two striking grass forms together

Miscanthus. Generally softer than above.

Stipa Gigantea. A most imposing grass with open oat flowers.

Black currant. Minimal fuss plant with great rewards. Grows in shade, but better, sweeter fruit is produced in a little more sun.

Essential perennials

Rudbeckia / Echinacea. The basic yellow or purple flowers are tough and will self-seed. They can be temperamental in wet ground. The newer alternative colours are more tender.

must-have plants
Echinacea purpurea, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’

Lupin. A packet of Russel hybrid seeds will see your garden full of flowers for years.

Crocosmia. The fresh dense growth provides a great contrast to most other forms. A few nice flower colours too.

Iris Germanica. Buy from a specialist as bare roots, all the colours you could imagine, various sizes and variegated forms too. The flowers can be shirt lived, but are still must-have plants.

Must-have plants
Bearded Iris provide some of the most intricate flowers in the garden. Short lived in warm periods, but so worthwhile.

Echinops. Spikey blue/purple globes on serrated leaves, can be vigorous.

must-have plants
The spiky foliage and flowers contrast with soft foliage and rounded Achillea

Eryngium. Sea holly, spiky leaves and flowers, great contrast.

Achillea. I love the tall yellow flowered version that look like cauliflower. Other colours are available, but can be more tender.

Must-have plants
Achillea cloth of gold.Tall, log-lasting, contrasting flower and foliage form. A simple must-have plant.

Hemerocallis. Day lillies, a mainstay for any garden. The flowers offer morning and evening therapy, deadheading while checking the rest of the beds. The more you deadhead, the more flowers are produced. So many colours, spreads easily, grows in ditches on freeways in California so is very tough.

must-have plants
An example of some day lily colours.

Verbena Bonariensis. Never be without this plant. I use it with Stipa to form screens through which the garden can be viewed.

Must-have plants
Stipa gigantea and Verbena bonariensis combine beaufifully.

Penstemon. Or this one. It is generally tough when established, many colours that can flower into December. Can be susceptible to drought or waterlogging.

Ground cover must-haves

Ajuga. This is wonderful, all but indestructible ground cover, bronze leaf with blue flowers. Leaf shades, size and flower colour vary slightly.

Heuchera. A wonderful variety of leaf/flower colour combinations mostly for shade or partial sun.

Geranium. The hardy ground cover plant, not tender pelargoniums. They vary by leaf shape and size, and colour, and by flower colour.

Bergenia. A very useful tough ground cover that tolerates shade well. Varying leaf sizes and flower colours.

Replanting a flower bed – Rip it up and start again

Replanting a flower bed – Rip it up and start again relaying flower bed, replanting flower border, dividing perennials, splitting plants

One of the first beds I planted about 6 years ago has looked tired throughout the year. Some of the plants did not really get going, while others seemed swamped. Large daffodils were still going in July, their unruly leaves spilling and spoiling. It just was not working, so it’s time to consider replanting a flower bed.

Replanting a flower bed
Extended dry periods have taken their toll

What I need to do is dig it all up, remove the weeds that were sneaking in, and replant with a fresh layout. Some bargains from the garden centre will help to diversify and extend the season as well.

Earlier this year I removed a large Stipa Gigantea from this bed, splitting it into five. This left a gap that I filled with Lupins and Achillea, mainly because I had lots of them. Some of them have established, but the dry summer took its toll.I will increase the number of Rudbeckia here, making the drift larger.

When replanting a flower bed the first job is to decide what stays and what goes.  Any surplus – in this case most significantly Crocosmia George Davison – are split and potted up. These are useful for passing on to friends or clients in need of a border filler.

Dig it all out, start again

I split and replanted some Iris siberica, Iris germanica and hemerocalis. Stipa tenuissima have been brushed out and replanted closer to the back.

Daffodils are replanted further back, so wilting foliage will be hidden amongst new growth.

There were also a few large Verbascum – mulleins – that grow over six feet tall with towers of yellow flower. The large leaves smother anything growing close by, so I have trimmed back the foliage and hope they can make do.

The space created allowed for some additional Heleniums to go in, something I have been building stocks of slowly, but not fast enough. The garden centre had some reduced from £9 to £3 in the sale, along with some Helianthus and Kniphofia,

Replanting a flower bed
Tidier, and ready to mulch for winter

I had put off this job, in part due to being busy, but also because such projects can be quite daunting. But it actually only took three hours. Achievable in a morning or afternoon with time to spare!

Local gardener Bourne End, garden design Bourne End, planting plan Bourne End

Spring planting Week 19

Spring planting – again

Spring planting
The warm weather – tempered by a couple of chilly nights last week – has really sprurred the garden along. Much needed rain was the catalyst to kick-start growth, with many perennials noticeably taller. Lupins, Delphiniums, Digitalis  and Rudbeckias have almost doubled in size over a few days

And now the ground is wet and warm I can get a few more projects under way.

A narrow south facing bad seems ideal for some tropical plants. It has a dry and a damp end, so will acomodate a wide range of plants. I have a banana – Musa Basjoo – and Cannas fr that tropical leaf feel, and colour from Dahlias and Callas. Some previous residents will stay, including Nerine Bowdenii, Helianthus Lemon Queen, several Penstemons and a Phlox.

For spot plants I have some Lilly Regale and Tiger Lillies. This is also the spot I like to try to grow the best sunflowers, and they disguise an ugly downpipe as well.

Agapanthus – a trade in at the last plant swap – and Alstromeria provide additional interest, and  the latter hopefully long-lasting cut flowers. The slightly banked front will be covered by Osteospermum, Alchemilla Mollis and Sedums.

Finally a few Mammoth sweet peas for scent.

Food glorious food

In the kitchen garden I have planted out the Chard, Pak Choi and about a million beetroots. There are four varieties, one of them a golden one that I have never tried before.

Potatoes were another benefactor of the rain last week, requiring earthing up already.

And the peas in the greenhouse experiment has worked, to the degree that we have mange tout to eat from the garden for the first time. The broad beans in the greenhouse beds are pinched out and all  in flower.

 

The main flower border is now storming ahead.

Spring planting
The main front border on April 17th

Spring planting
And the same border 4 weeks later

The bad news is though… that there are only 4 weeks until midsummer.

Spring planting Week 16

Spring planting

Spring planting
The last two weeks have mostly been put to use in clearing and tidying. That took care of the jobs that either the cold or water in the soil prevented.

That has involved some hard landscaping, replacing a slippery path with something more stable, cutting and edging lawns. I have also been potting on plants grown from seed and cuttings. And setting out Dahlias to start sprouting in the greenhouse.

Spring planting
These alpines were in need of tidying and redressing. Now they’re ready to go out.

And the beds have have a good clear out too, with the last of the winter structure removed. That included any detritus that had been previously left as protection. I also used the opportunity to remove some of the very invasive bluebells that can colonise the front of borders. Finally another mulch of rough garden compost and its ready to start growing. Some of it’s off to  a great start.

Spring planting
Two weeks after splitting the Delphiniums are growing stronger than ever

A late spring?

This year seems to be about 3 weeks later than last year after the warm early spring we had in 2015. That always leads to an anxiety about where certain plants are, have they appeared yet, will they appear?

The obvious things so far missing are Heleniums – three differerent ones not so far seen – a couple of Echinaceas, and Achillea and all the Hostas. I went to an open garden in Cookham on Sunday and the Hostas  where all showing nicely.

The cold blast due this week will certainly slow progress down a bit more. So those plants potted and ready to go out will have to wait a week or more than expected before they can be planted.

The main flower border is not looking too bad though so far.

Spring planting
This south and east facing bed is the first to show colour

Spring planting Dahlias

I have some greenhouse borders that are spare before tomatoes are due to go in. These will be used for the Dahlia tubers, laid out and gently watered to stir them into life. That way I can see what is growing before setting them in beds or pots; nothing worse than carefully planning where to put them and finding nothing grows.

So far about 10 of 80 are shooting, with more showing every day.

Spring planting vegetables

Not too much more on this front, but the broad beans are all out. Peas are planted in between potatoes, and many leaf and salad veg are ready in pots to go out. they too can wait until the cold spell passes.

Dividing perennials

And the process of creating more and better stronger plants goes on. Last weekend a friend came over with a couple of chunky Salvias – not something I’d grown before – so they could be split. They were tough to break, with the carving knife not being man enough I resorted to a spade. She took the main divisions and I kept one, plus all the bits that fell off.

I have planted them in a sharp draining compost and kept in the propagator for a few days. It looks like 90 per cent or so will be good. That’s a good block for the garden beds and some for the Plant swap on May 7th.

 

 

 

 

 

How to divide perennials Week 14

Divide perennials

Divide perennials 
Knowing how and when to divide perennials is key to productivity in your garden. It enables the stock to increase in numbers, both for better display and impact, and cheaply insure against loss through slugs, deer, excess wet or cold winter. And dividing will increase the vigour of the plants for better flowering.

Having more enables you to repeat a plant in a border or garden plan – a keystone in garden design – making a connected theme and a more attractive display.

Knowing how to divide perennials will make this easy.  Faced with digging up a prized plant that is doing fine, doubts can set in.

This is how I tackled one of my prize Delphiniums this week. I say “prized” because it took a long time, and probably more dead plants than I care to recall before I got Delphiniums to grow well. And they do grow very well. In fact they are virtually unstoppable.

I started by digging out a clump that had about six shoots showing.

How to divide perennials

A large delphinium in need of splitting

How to divide perennials
The Delphinium freshly dug up

It was not clear what it looked like under the soil, so I washed it off for a better look.

How to divide perennials
Washed off to reveal the extent of the plant

Underneath was covered in shoots, with the strongest at the outside. I know that this plant had not been split since I planted it three years ago, so I was not sure how tough it would be. I decided to try a knife first rather than a spade, and it worked just fine.

How to divide perennials
Splitting it with a carving knife was easy.

I cut it into four even pieces, each with several shoots and plenty of root.

How to divide perennials

Before putting the pieces back I dug the hole deep with a fork, and put in a bucket full of rough compost. You can almost see the clay turn into perfect soil as you do it.

How to divide perennials
I would say that the continual addition and digging in of compost was the most significant factor in making the clay soil here viable.

And after planting them back I gave them a light mulching of more compost, just in case we get another frost.

When to divide perennials

The basic rule I apply is that if the flower in spring, wait until afterwards, otherwise spring is better than autumn. But there are exceptions. Hemerocallis is one, and Hostas too seem to perform post spring splitting.

They must also be shooting. Some perennials like Helenium are still dormant in my garden.  They must not have any flower spikes showing, as the Kniphofias do already.

The Delphiniums here have flowered better each years since I put them in, with an earlier start and later finish – some were still flowing in December 2015. So when to divide is a judgement call.

Another “rule” is to wait until after flowering, which is technically what I have done. When plants are as strong as these you can be more confident about doing it.

Other ways to create more plants

Dividing perennials is for more more about the health of the plant than creating more. Dividing – like taking cuttings – does assure the same variety of course, where seed produces all sorts of strange versions.

So combining some division, some cuttings and some seed sowing allows increasing stock, better healthier more vigorous plants, and a better display for your enjoyment.

 

Dividing perennials – from the ground up

Dividing perennials gardening workshop

This workshop will be held on Saturday 9th April at 10.00am.
Dividing perennials is something most gardeners can and should do to increase the number of plants they have. And also to improve or maintain the plant’s health and vigour.

It is in theory a simple exercise. But when faced with digging up a prized plant that has established itself, many gardeners decide not to take a chance.

Many perennials will start to fade as the centre of the plant tires. Growth continues only around the perimeter. Splitting them and creating “new centres” will encourage new and vigorous growth. You’ll therefore have more, and more healthy, plants.

The wide variety of perennials available also have a wide variety of flowering times that you’d prefer not to impede. And a variety of root structures that you’ll not want to damage. So it’s straight forward, except it isn’t quite as as easy as it sounds.

In this gardening workshop I’ll explain the things to watch for, and show practical examples of several different types of perennial and how they are dealt with. I will also demonstrate some basic rules about when to divide and how to care for different plants.

The dividing perennials garden workshop will cover:

What is a perennial
What can and can’t be divided
When best to divide, season and weather
What plants to divide
The different types of root structure to look for
How to get the most from each type
Which plants are easy, and which need more care
What plants can’t be divided easily
How to treat plants that can’t be divided
What soil or growing medium to use
What containers to use

Dividing perennials
Dividing perennials – you’ll see how to divide what plants and when to do it.

About the dividing perennials gardening workshop, and further gardening workshop events

Each gardening workshops can only host a limited number of guests on each occasion, on a first come or invitation basis.

Events will be presented by myself, and other local garden enthusiasts with particular passions and specialist knowledge.

This gardening workshop will be held on Saturday 9th April. Book your place by sending your details below.

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]