Snowdrops April 2018 (2)

Walk around your garden and count the number of plants that came to you free of charge from another person’s garden. I have many such gift plants from the hostas given by a friend who purchased a new house and wanted to replace the raised beds with lawn to the flowering almond and Japanese boxwood bonsai from my brother’s green thumb. Most gardeners love to share and their reasons may include:

Over-planting or abundant growth – Though I’ve never planted zucchini I’ve been told one will have to devise cunning schemes to unload the crop on unsuspecting neighbors. We thinned our iris bed and placed the surplus rhizomes beside the curb with a “free to good home” sign. A neighbor reported that the lady who claimed the treasure giggled like a little girl as she loaded the booty into her car. That was a better solution than simply tossing the overabundance into the compost pile.

Joy and compassion – I cannot speak for you but I find pure joy in some of my plants. For those specimens that prove themselves as winners I want to share. I love the feeling of helping another get a start from such plants. And I love knowing that my gardening efforts possibly brought joy to another.

The need for connections – My brother, Jeff, lives in heaven now with gardens far beyond anything I can grow, and I think of him as I water his bonsai or enjoy the spring bounty of the flowering almond blooms. I have plants in my garden from my mother’s gardens and she has several varieties I in turn have shared with her. Gardeners who share find common ground, memories, and a sense of community.

In Paul’s powerful words gardeners can find similar motives in giving and sharing of our money, time, and possessions.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NASB

The snowdrops in one of the front beds have wowed us this year. These quiet beauties have now spread from a small clump to consume a noticeable portion of real estate, and given their beauty I can only say, “Grow, baby, grow!”

The parent clump of snowdrops from which mine derived lived on a junior high friend’s West Virginia farm. When I showed teen-age interest in the blooms my friend’s mother invited me to dig a clump to plant in Mom’s garden. I did, and Mom enjoyed them each spring until she moved. When I purchased my home in North Carolina Mom helped us seed the garden with many starts from her plants including a clump of those snowdrops. My daughter and granddaughter are starting with a blank garden canvas at their new home, and I’m delighted to pass on the connection of the snowdrops.

Here’s my pictorial guide for dividing a clump of perennials like snowdrops so the plant you share has a higher chance of thriving in your friend’s garden. Of course, care for the plant after the move is a must, but that becomes the new owner’s responsibility.

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Pick a suitable clump that can be removed without leaving a hole in your bed. Sometimes I remove the entire plant (for example with hostas) and use a knife to separate the root ball but in this case I found a portion ready for harvest.

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My tool collection includes several shovels but for dividing plants I prefer the garden spade on the right. I also use it for edging the garden beds to create a crisp border between the grass and the bed. The best tip I can offer is to keep your shovels sharp. Yes, just like the lawnmower blade, the shovel needs maintenance.

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With the shovel as close to vertical as possible make the first incision. I had it easy as the recent rain left the soil quite workable. Soaking the area with a hose the day before digging can also make the job easier.

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I move around the plant and repeate the cutting process.

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This cutting work continues until a square or circle or whatever shape I desire has been etched completely around the plant. At this point I usually repeat the work with the shovel to assure the clump is isolated from its surroundings.

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When is the plant ready to lift? I use the shovel as a lever from the most accessible side and gently pry the clump from the hole. Work slowly and do additional digging if the clump gives any resistance. Patience is the key in this step. My goal is to lift a growing plant and transport it to my daughter’s garden where she can simply dig a spot and install the clump. The odds of plant survival will be greatly increased.

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Add a couple of generous inches of fresh soil and compost.

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Insert the clump of snowdrops.

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Backfill the open space around the clump and tamp lightly.

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The end result should look something like this.

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Water the plants until the excess runs from the bottom of the pot to address any air pockets. Add more soil if needed, and repeat the watering. Keep the potted plants moist in a partial shade location until they are replanted. Plants I have divided in this manner can last for months in the pots as long as I remember to water them. Often I will hold on to the plant for several weeks just to guarantee the cutting is thriving.

Snowdrops April 2018 (1)

I am ready to share the wealth into my daughter’s garden!