Dividing perennials is an easy way to obtain plants for your garden or to share with friends.  Some plants become overcrowded and may die out in the center, become sparse, or stop blooming and then it’s time to divide them.  While we generally think of dividing plants in the early fall or spring, many plants can be divided in late fall or winter.

If you have to dig up parts of your garden at this time of the year, there are certain perennials that can be divided at anytime. You can even leave hosta and daylily plants that have been dug up on the lawn to freeze and it won’t hurt them.

Asters and mums can be dug and divided now, as long as you replant them immediately.  Lighter-weight divisions like these should be left to spring if you have a problem with frost-heaving areas east of the Cascades and north of Mt. Vernon away from Puget Sound.

Appetizer for Rabbits

Hosta, hemerocallis, astrantia, astilbe, darmera and helianthus can all be dug up, halved or quartered, with a sharp shovel (or axe) and replanted.  It’s best to remove any damaged or broken bits.  If the crowns come apart easily or smaller pieces come loose, pot them to give away.  Protect these pots from a hard freeze, placing them close to the house, in a cold frame, or covered with evergreen branches under trees.

While you’re dividing your hosta plants, make certain to protect the newly emerging tender pips not only from slugs but from local bunnies.

November and early December is the best time to dig and divide peonies and true lilies.  The lilies are dormant in November and will move best then. Peony divisions are usually taken down to 2-3 or 3-5 eyepieces.  They will reliably bloom the following spring; spring divisions less so.

Other perennials that can be divided now include brunnera, eupatorium, lamium, and omphalodes. trollius, and vancouveria.

So, go forth and divide!

Bob Lilly




Tips for Managing the Winter Garden

As Rosemary Verey said, “A garden in winter is the absolute test of the true gardener”.  I’m sitting here watching the rain come down and feeling very guilty that I’m not outside in my rain gear.  So, I guess I’ll think about what needs to be done and make my “to-do” list.

Waiting for my Sarcococco to come into full bloom

Many of the winter jobs would prefer fair weather as opposed to mucking around in the mud and compacting the soil.  There are a few jobs, however, like cleaning and sharpening your tools, that don’t mind the weather.  Winter weeds are a continual problem in the Pacific Northwest, especially shotweed (Cardamine oligosperma), so keep control of these throughout the year.  These are easiest to pull after the frost heaves the soil a bit.

Some of the grasses are still looking good and won’t be pruned back until later when the weather gets to them and they start making a mess. Pruning some vines now, such as the grapes, is a good idea while you can see where they’ve grown to, or where you don’t want them to go.

Now, is a good time to clean up leaves and litter around the evergreen crowns of many plants, especially aster, chrysanthemum, solidago, melissa, monardo, Cardamine pratensis, Digitalis ferruginea, Lobelia x speciosa, Lobelia cardinalis, Primula ‘Wanda’, and Pulmonaria angustifolia.  Evergreen groundcovers, such as galax, saxifraga, ajuga, bolax, lamium, thyme,Mentha requienii, and Oxalis mabellanica, should also be kept clean of litter and leaves .

Mulching is one of the most important jobs we do in the garden.  Winter is the ideal time for this project after the deciduous plants have died back and the gardens have been cleaned of leaves and debris.

Before we know it, spring will be here and time to start planting again.

Our First Work Party!

Entrance Bed scraped of soil with Magnolia rootball exposed

Entrance Bed scraped of soil

Thursday Dec 22 2011, 10am

Please join us at the Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St. Seattle, WA 98105 Map on Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 10 am for the first work party of our new public garden.  The diggers have been hard at work removing the horse-tail infested soil, and the new soil, EnviroMix from Pacific Topsoils will be delivered this week.  Come help us spread it out and get ready for planting.  Please bring work clothes and tools for spreading soil, if you have them.  We’ll bring some wheelbarrows.

Announcing our New Public Garden

UWBG CUH LogoWe Bob signing the agreementare so excited to share with you that we have signed a memo of understanding with the Center for Urban Horticulture to establish our first Public Garden on the grounds at CUH.  We will be renovating the beds around the entrance to the north parking lot, and those surrounding the grassy area to the north, adjacent to the Seattle Youth Garden Works Farm. Our first tasks involve deconstructing an existing structure and erecting a new garden shed, renovating the entrance beds with new dirt and adding bulbs, and developing a long term plan for the beds.

We look forward to sharing more news with you in the coming weeks, and hope you can help us at our work parties.  As always, you are welcome to attend our monthly meetings to hear about our progress, and join the Public Garden Committee.

JULY – Summer Picnic – TBD

Summer picnic at location and time to be determined