Dividing, cutting back, pruning in the November garden
The bounty from last summer brought you an abundance of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and now they all would appreciate a little tender loving care for their upcoming winter snooze with a nip and a tuck.
With the mild climate of Southern California, perennial plants can benefit by being divided every couple of years to revitalize them for some healthy new growth and to propagate more plants to utilize in your garden or to share with others.
Now is the time of year to attend to this garden chore, and the plants will be happier with your T.L.C.
Ready, set, go to have some autumn fun out with nature. Let’s get to it, so don your garden boots, sharpen your pruning shears, loopers, maybe even some knee pads, and a pair of sturdy gloves. Here’s a partial listing to review.
• Agapanthus: Many new selections today exist for this Lily of the Nile family and they are robust growers. The clumps might be significant, maybe a couple of feet across, and you’ll need a spade shovel or a garden-digging fork. Plunge the spade around the perimeter to at least 12” deep and lift the clump out of the hole. Look at the clump and split it up (like you would be cutting a pizza into slices), but not too small, making sure you include some roots. Remove any dead foliage from the base, and you can replant the new divisions to another sunny location in your garden.
• Hemerocallis (Day lily): Few plants are more hardy and persistent and give the garden a wide range of color forms, from single to double flowers. These plants have strap-like leaves similar to agapanthus, and you can follow the same technique of digging and dividing just like agapanthus.
• Clivia: The Kaffir lily from South Africa, clivia is one of my favorite shade plants, and I have been growing and breeding them for over 40 years. These plants have many cultivars and come in yellow, red, tangerine, and apricot colors, and some with variegated striped leaves. Since they are slow growers, it takes some years to develop into large clumps, so I don’t split them very often. The division is like the other plants I mentioned above, ensuring you have some attached roots.
• Ornamental grasses: These are not used for lawns or fairways on a golf course. For the past few years, ornamental grasses and similar-looking plants have been increasingly popular in natural-looking landscapes. There are entire books dedicated to this clan of grassy plants. Some are petite like dwarf mondo grass, even with black leaves, and giant ones like Calamagrostis, “Karl Forester.” This grouping of grasses grows very fast, so you must do your homework in selecting suitable ornamental grass for the right place out in the landscape. I like to cut them down almost to the ground. Depending on the species, they can also be dug and divided mid-winter. I never use the common fountain grass in my landscape projects, for when it goes into its flowering cycle and sets its fine seeds, it can spread like wildfire in the neighborhood and become a weed, in my opinion.
• Bearded Iris: This clan can flower from springtime into early summer and likes a bit of dryness in the mid-summer months. The roots are called rhizomes and are relatively shallow. These roots can be lifted and cut into six-inch lengths and replanted back in the garden but not too deep.
• Bulbous plants: After these plants flower in spring and finish the photosynthesis process, the bulbs can be lifted in early summer and divided like Amaryllis belladonna (the pink naked lady bulbs)
• Amaryllis family: This is a gigantic family with many species and cultivars. The U.S. imports over 10 million hippeastrum bulbs destined for this holiday season. They come as dormant bulbs or pre-potted, ready to water and watch them grow and bloom. These bulbs will mature and multiply with offsets from the mother bulb and can be divided in a few years.
• Other perennials of all types: A large array of different plants can be lifted and divided, usually in fall to early winter. Search the internet and discover more information than I have space to cover, and you’ll enjoy the quest and find the adventure of plant hunting very informative and fun.
“Every day, you may make progress in life. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Sir Winston Churchill.
Roger Boddaert, Maker of Natural Gardens, horticulturist, landscape designer, arborist, author and gardener, can be reached at 760-728-4297.