Divide and Conquer

Most of the garden centers in my area are touting fall as
the season for planting. I agree that autumn is a great time for assessing gaps
in your garden design and filling in those blanks spaces not only with new
plants, but also with divisions from existing ones. 

Recently, a client wrote a testimonial expressing her
gratitude that I used the plants that were already on site, rather than only
purchasing new.  My response was, ‘Why
wouldn’t I?’  Dividing plants is not only
healthy for your wallet, it’s also healthy for your plants and it keeps them
looking their best. 

Divided daylilies – three became seven!

Divided Echinacea helps fill in blank spaces

Hostas, for example, are notorious for growing into a large
clump with a bare spot in the middle – a plant donut if you will.  By dividing them, you can eliminate this
problem, while giving yourself more plant material to relocate in your own
garden. Divisions also make great gifts. Who wouldn’t want a free plant in good
condition?  I have cherished peonies in
my garden that originated from my grandparents’ farm in Michigan. I can’t think of a better way of sharing
plants than to provide divisions to others. You are giving a gift that keeps on

Divided Hostas grace my new water feature

Peony divisions from my grandparents’ garden

As a designer I feel strongly that repetition in landscape
is key to maintain a natural and cohesive look. If you only plant one of every
plant, your garden can appear chaotic instead of harmonious. I often repeat
plant types and colors to carry the eye from one part of the garden to another
and to provide balance in the overall design. One of my clients said she loved
the feature of repetition in my garden, commenting that it was like continually
running into old friends.

Astilbe chinensis has been moved around my garden to create repetition of color

The more I get to know my garden, the more I learn from the
plants.  I’ve been able to observe which
plants like which conditions and which ones don’t. If my design isn’t being fulfilled by plants
that I want to grow in a space, I look at nearby plants.  If they are doing well, I’ll divide them and
use them to fill in the voids. I recently moved some Heuchera from the front of
my house to the woodland area where I had some empty spaces.  I’m confident these plants will prefer the
part shade conditions under some deciduous trees; they are already looking
happier and less crispy! In contrast, I have areas where certain plants are
taking over.  I’ll divide them to keep
them in bounds and relocate the clump I removed.

Plants that respond well to division include Peonies,
Hostas, Daylilies, Echinacea, Rudbeckia and more. Simply dig out the plant and
pull it apart or cut it with a spade, ensuring there are leaves and roots intact
in each division. Then replant the divisions where you want them.  It’s as easy as that.  So pick up your shovel, go out into your
landscape and prepare to divide and conquer!

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