KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area(www.finishingtouchesgardendesign.com). KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.
The following post is a reprint from October 2008 but we find it very timely, shall we say "timeless" and with the approval of KCB here we go!
It happens this time every year. Wine; white or red? Do I pull out the fleece and put away the flimsy? Flannel or cotton? Shorts? Capris? Long pants? While these are not earth shattering quandaries, each day is begun with this group of questions. Coupled with the fact that my right-hand man, Ryan, will be leaving me to pursue another career, I feel so lost I become stuck. In not making a decision, nothing is accomplished. Even before I learned that I only had Ryan for another week, I faced each day in puzzlement. It is as if I asked the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz for directions and he points both ways.
What has me at such crossroads? The weather. In checking my records of the past 2 years, mid-October seemed to have been the best window for perennial division. Years before it was mid to late September. The record high for September 25th was set in 1891 @ 89 º, the low of 29 º in 1963, with the average temperature of 66 º it should be the perfect time. The weather is comfortable, relatively few pesky insects and the need for daily watering moderately minimal. What am I waiting for?
Other than Hosta, daylilies, Shasta and Iris, I wait to divide most of my other perennials until all fear of potential new growth has subsided. I want to be assured that all the plant’s energies are given to the roots. I no longer prune or dead-head my roses, I allow the Stokes Aster and Dianthus to put forth their final sporadic pops of blooms without fear I will behead their fruits.
Perhaps I will feel better when the average temperature is 64 º?! What if I wait too long? My tools are ready, newly sharpened, and eager to feel their shiny improved selves against the stems of the fading flora.
The gardens I tend to will soon be pockets of space and stubs. Some old stand-by plants will remain upright for as long as they can hold their heads up high. Joe Pye Weed, Echinacea, Ornamental Grasses, and even Astilbe keep their vertical presence for that ever-important wildlife and winter interest.
Each chomp and split of clumps of roots is a rite of passage. I envision sighs as I separate and divide as if the plant knows that they will face the new spring in less crowded conditions. Or perhaps it is the contentment that they realize they can continue their work below the ground. They have given all they have for this season by offering beauty and fragrance while contributing food for bugs and birds. Oh, how could we forget the deer and ground hog? However, I feel this less thrills my plants as for the pain it causes me.
Am I selfish in my wanting the best for my plants? Or is it all about my need to prolong the season? But wait, does the gardening season ever end? There is so much more to do. Division is just one aspect of our duties, there are bulbs to plant, mums are at their fiery peak, pumpkins, gourds, and other seasonal decorative elements to add. Where do I begin? Oh, I am so confused………..
KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses