Sunday, May 18, 2014

Perennial Multiplication

A diverse collection of plants that return year after year is our goal but we have found that the only guarantee on this point is the amount of annual work required to maintain plants in great condition.  When five trios of Siberian Iris were placed in front of the stone wall, we expected that only occasional future weeding would be required.  We really missed the mark on that one.  When our land was used to feed dairy cows, this is the point where the girls lined up to cross the road at milking time.  As a result of their twice daily droppings, this ground is incredibly deeply fertile.  The recently placed iris had outgrown their allotted space and needed to be moved.  Their deep and dense root mass made uprooting them a difficult task.  The behemoths have been moved to open ground where they will remain undisturbed for the balance of my time here. Since we are slow to learn, new trios of Siberian Iris have been planted in their place.  Two varieties replanted here have been slow to prosper in the garden near the house.  We hope they like their new home and present the challenge of moving future giants.

Cardinal flower is native to New York State but it has not been found in the wild around here.  Our harsh winters and late frosts frequently brown the early bright green growth sometimes ending the entire plant.  Every year a tray of new plants are placed in pots with the plan of moving the tray to the basement when frost threatens.  Every year enough plants survive in sheltered locations near stone walls or under shrubs to guarantee the continued existence here of this treasure.

Divided and watered these ten plants will find June homes in various spots around the gardens.  This native requires help beyond frost protection.  Not a true perennial, no part of last year's flowering plant returns.  Six new daughter plants appear in the fall around the base of the recently dead stem.  If left alone, each of those six will make six more plants creating a crowed tangle that cannot support that much plant growth.  The clump will at some point die out but new plants also grow from seed.  We have managed to maintain a sizable collection of this red flowered beauty.

Our search for a hardy white Shasta daisy has taken years.  Every Spring we would find a small piece or two to keep hope alive but none prospered.  Last year we purchased a variety with Alaska in its name and it appears that our search is over.  A single plant yielded nine healthy divisions.  More could have been taken but we wanted survivors.  Three were returned where they grew and six were potted up waiting for a new home.   This appears to be a great outcome but what happens next year?  If this bounty is typical, what will we do with 81 new plants next year?  Friends have expressed interest in acquiring some of our plants but only if we pot them up and deliver. That much extra time at this part of year simply does not exist.  The only realistic choice is to compost perfectly good plant stock for lack of time and an open planting spot.  Somehow that waste seems like heresy but we will enjoy an impressive display of white ray flowers this Summer.

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