Archive for ‘Perennials’

April 29, 2012

T is for Transplanting

Transplant, relocate.  Whether you’re talking people or plants, its lifting our roots and establishing them somewhere else.

Spring is one of the two best times of the year to transplant any plants, trees or shrubs to a new location.  (The other best time is fall.)

Let’s imagine for a moment we want to move a Hosta.  Right now, as the shoots are just beginning to poke up out of the ground like little spears, but before the leaves unfurl, is the best time to transplant. The same goes for most other plants as well, but I recommend looking up your specific plant or dropping me a line if you’re not sure.

The tools you will need to transplant are a pitch fork, a sharp spade and possibly a pruning shears or lopper.

Keep in mind the goal with transplanting it to cause as little stress, trauma or shock to the plant as possible.  You want to give them lots of room and be as gentle as you can.  Before you dig-up a plant, keep in mind that you are only seeing the shoots, when they leaf out they will be considerably wider.  Tree roots, for example, extend, at minimum, out to the canopy and most often much further.  So before your spade touches the soil, look up.  If you’re inside the canopy, you’re too close.  Move out.

Most perennials are similar.  Think of their leafed out size as their canopy and dig outside of that line.  It also helps to know what kind of root system your plant has before you even start this process.  In other words, it a shallow rhizome?  Deep tuber?  Tap root?  Or fibrous roots?  Knowing this is like having a road map for digging.  It gives you a rough idea as to what to expect as you go.  If the plant has a deep tuber or a tap-root, be extremely careful not to sever the top of the plant from the root.

As a side note, tap rooted plants typically don’t like to be moved (think of carrots), so make every effort to site them properly the first time they are planted.

Okay, time to start digging.  Personally, I like to use a pitch fork to do the first round of digging.  The pitch fork will allow you to test the waters a bit without severing any roots.  It allows you to feel around in the soil and help determine whether you’re out far enough or whether you’re still in the root zone.  Once you’ve determined that you are out far enough from the center of the plant, grab your sharpened spade and slice into the soil.  (Try to keep your spade upright so you don’t inadvertently slice off the roots you just worked to avoid.)  Dig all the way around the plant and gently work your way underneath until the plant feels loose.

Hopefully you get everything on the first try to the root ball comes out of the ground.  Typically what happens with me is that I think I’m set, but as I start gaining momentum and go to lift the plant out of the hole it comes to a screeching halt because one root is still be attached.  It feels much picking up an old TV, getting a grip on it and turning around to have it nearly fly out of your hands because it’s still plugged into the wall.  If this happens to you, get back in there and continue digging until you find the “cord”.  Occasionally there will be one wild root that seems to go on forever.  You’ll be digging and digging, following the root nearly to China.  If this happens, you need to make a decision, fish or cut bait?  My recommendation is to check out the whole root ball and determine how much damage you think you will cause the plant if you cut this wild root.  If it seems like it’s a major player, keep digging.  If not, grab your spade, pruning shears or lopper and give it a nice slice.

Woo, hoo!  It’s free!  So now what?  Hopefully at this point you’ve already selected a site for your plant and have the new hole pre-dug.  If not, leave the plant in its current place in order to prevent the roots from drying out by keeping them out of the sun and wind.  Ideally you won’t have to worry about the sun and heat drying it out because you’ve chosen a cool overcast day to do your transplanting, right? 🙂

Okay, so off we go to the new home for our little transplant.  Dig a hole about 6″ wider but at the same depth as the original hole.  You want to have loose soil around the sides of the plant for roots to establish in, but you do not want to have a soft bottom or the plant will sink deeper than it was previously living.  You want the bottom of the hole to be firm to provide a nice foundation for the plant to sit on so that your plant sits at “ground level” in its new hole at about the same place it sat at “ground level” in its old hole.  This is important because plant depth can effect many things including flowering, fruiting and in the case of trees, stem-girdling roots.

Once your new location is ready, go get the plant from its first location and bring it to its new home.  Gently set it in the hole and make sure the plant is sitting at the right depth.  If it’s not, adjust the hole until it is.  Then, make sure it’s evenly spaced in the hole. Water the plant thoroughly, allowing water to partially fill the hole.

Next, add some compost to the soil loose soil that will be going back into the hole, making about a 1/3 of the mixture compost.  Put the soil/compost mix into the hole around the plant, gently packing with your hands. Do not step on it!  (Plant roots need air space in the soil in order to get established, not compacted soil.)

Finally, with some of the remaining soil, create a small ridge of soil at the perimeter of your hole.  This should look like a dish, which will help direct water down to the roots and prevent it from running away from your plant.  Cover the open soil with mulch, repeating the dish with the mulch.

Note: Never mound soil or mulch at the base of a plant or tree!  This can cause rot, disease and damage.  If you have mounds on your plants or trees, simply pull the mulch away from the base/trunk and create a dish instead.

Once you’re done mulching, keep the plant well watered until its established in its new home.

Voila!  You’ve successfully transplanted a plant.

Questions?  Let me know!


April 17, 2012

N is for New Growth!


Corkscrew Willow


Parker Pear

Summercrisp Pear

Winged Euonymus

Pussy Willow

Horse Chestnut


Sedum 'Autumn Joy'


"Fiddle head" Ferns


April 17, 2012

M is for Monticello

If you live in the Twin Cities, or once resided somewhere in Minnesota, you may think this post is referring to Monticello, MN.  For those of you who were hoping that is the case, my apologies.  For the rest of you, I’ll continue on.

As a gardener, designer, what have you, every time I begin a project, whether it be at home or a project for a client, I’ll seek inspiration.  Sometimes it’s a plant, or a tree.  Sometimes it’s a detail on their home.  Sometimes it’s a place they’ve traveled.  Sometimes it’s nature.  There are many, many things that can be my source of inspiration, but when I’m looking for some inspiration for myself, I often turn back to a place I visited a number of years ago, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  Now, some of you may recall I did a post about Monticello, or rather part of a post about Monticello in my History, gardening and experiments post about a year ago, but Monticello made such an impact on me I figured it was worth visiting again.

What’s so special about that place?  Well, what’s not to love? Ive you’ve ever been to the East Coast, or “down South” for that matter, I’m sure you’ve visited at least one or two plantations.  And while many of them are similar, at least to me, Monticello was different.  Sure, they have the huge estate, the enormous tree lined drive and massive spans of lawn, but at Monticello there’s something more.  Gardens.  Amazing gardens.

Now, I’m going to stop for a moment.  I don’t want to go any further without acknowledging what took place back in the time Thomas Jefferson was at Monticello.  That was a time of slavery.  I also don’t want to ignore the fact that Jefferson had slaves, because he did. Many of them.  And this plantation, like all the other plantations at that time would not have existed had it not been for the slaves who took care of them.  So while I wish slavery had never existed, I’m also very grateful for the slaves Thomas Jefferson had, because had it not been for them, the gardens I fell in love with would also not have existed.  So to the slaves, and the descendents of the slaves, I thank you.

So what about Monticello is so amazing?  Let’s see, where to begin? Let me start by saying this is a gardener’s paradise.  Whether you like annuals, perennials, fruit trees or veggies, it’s there.  And do you like heirlooms?  They have heirlooms, not only veggie heirlooms, but how about roses dating back to the 1400s?  They even have the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants!

What else?  Okay, Thomas Jefferson was a gardener himself.  And what I mean by that, is that he tried, experimented, tried again.  He planned the estate with curving pathways and flower gardens.  He created micro-climates by installing terraces on the South side of the hill to plant a veggie garden, and orchards with apples and apricots, peaches and pears, pomegranates, cherries, plums, nectarines, even almonds and olive trees.  And there’s Mulberry Row.  Many people pull mulberries thinking of them as “weed trees”.  Not Jefferson.  He planted them intentionally.  You’ve never seen Mulberry Trees look so stately.  And why not? The berries are wonderful! (Add that to your edible landscape.)  And the vineyards, yes he had two.  Okay, okay.  I know I get excited, but this all happened in the 1700s!  And what’s equally cool is that many of his plans, meaning, yes, sketches of the grounds, still exist.

Now, granted, the original plants are not there, but they began restoring the gardens in the 1980s to bring them back to what was once there.  Not to mention, heirloom seeds and plants are not only used on site, but also available for purchase if you have the inkling to do so.

There are so many things about Monticello that I love.  Oh, and not just outside either, of course Jefferson had amazing tropicals growing indoors as well.  If you want to take a peak, catch a little history and get a little inspiration, the folks at Monticello have done an amazing job on their website and have also created the Monticello Explorer, which lets you take a little tour from your desktop so you can catch a glimpse of this amazing estate.  There are plenty of photo galleries of the house, gardens and plantation as well.  And, like I mentioned before, they even have an online store where you can get plants, seeds or a replica artifact or two.

So as much as I would love to hop a plane and fly out and stay for the summer, instead I’ll be taking a virtual journey to Monticello today.  I’d love for you to join me!

And I almost forgot to mention, next week is Historic Garden Week (April 21 – 28) so if anyone would like to take me on a surprise trip, I’ll go!



April 17, 2012

L is for Landscaping

L is for Landscaping

and Landscape Design


and Lilium

and Lettuce


and Lupine


and Lamium

and Lamiastrum


and Lilacs

and Lablab

and Larix (or Larch)

and Lantana

and Laurel

and ahhh, Lavender

and Liatris

and Ligularia

and Linum

and Liriope

and we can’t forget Lobelia

and ohh, the sweet scent of Lobularia

and Lonicera

and Lychnis

and Lysimachia, but you have to be careful, they can be invasive, some of them will run if you turn your head for a minute, then they’ve gotcha

all of these plants and these trees and these flowers are zone 4 friendly and oh, so lovely!