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divide perennials

On 28, Sep 2010 | No Comments | In propagation | By All Year Garden

The picture is showing a clump of daisies, but the method will work with most perennials. Fall blooming perennials should be divided in spring, and spring blooming in the fall.

Choose a cool cloudy day, humid if possible, to divide your plants. This will put the least stress on them.

division1-cropLift the clump by digging under it with a long spade. Some plants will be hard to lift if they have been established in the location. division2-cropYou can lift the whole clump, or cut through it with the spade and lift a portion of it.  Break out the clump into smaller pieces by pulling it apart with your hands or with a pitch fork if it’s too hard.
division3-cropSelect a good location for the new planting, place the plants in the hole and water. division4-cropCover the roots with dirt and you are done.

There are no rules about how many plants you can get out of a clump, use your best judgment. Typically, if it looks like there are enough roots and enough leaves, the process should work.

Also, if you have some spring perennials that you would like to relocate, mid fall is the best time to do it.

take rose cuttings

Rose propagation is a really simple process, however the success rate is by no means 100%, so make sure to take lots of cuttings from your favorite roses; you can always move your new plants in spring if the location is not perfect. Also keep in mind that many nursery roses are patented and their asexual reproduction even for personal use is illegal. Those roses usually come with tags asserting the patent. If you are not sure, check your rose name online to see if it is listed as “under patent”. Patents usually expire after 20 years, so most of the old world roses are patent free. People swear by different methods of propagating roses from cuttings: the little plastic baggies, the cut-up soda pop bottle, the misting. I tried all methods and only found success with this one, so I’m going to recommend it. You might be wondering why the glass jar will work and the plastic bottle won’t? The answer is “I don’t know”.

Cut a healthy stem, still green but stiff at a 45 degree angle. If the cut is far from the next growth bud, cut the remainder of the stem back about a quarter inch above an outward facing bud. If you don’t the rose will do the job for you and kill the useless piece of stem.

The stem you choose should have at least one branch with 5 leaflets, this detail is important. The stem shouldn’t be longer than 6 inches. Remove any leaves and some people advise all thorns from the bottom part that will be stuck in the ground. Make sure the stem is healthy and free of any pest or damage.

“Bruise” the end that will be in the ground; this will encourage the plant to produce more hormones for rooting. You can bruise it by cutting it lengthwise or smashing it.

If you have rooting hormone, I strongly recommend it: you need to give the young plant all the help you can. Dip the stem in rooting hormone. If you don’t, it will work without it too.

Stick the stem firmly in the ground, it should not be easy to pull out. If the soil is really dry, water it. There is usually enough rain later in the fall to provide sufficient moisture for it. It is best to plant it during or after a rainy, cloudy day, because these conditions put the least stress on the new plant.

Cover the plant with a glass jar. Push the jar into the ground so that it forms a tight seal at the bottom. The jar must remain undisturbed from fall (this is the best time to take rose cuttings) until the next spring. Don’t lift the jar to see how the rose is doing. Remove the jar in spring after all danger of frost is gone.

Different roses take different times to sprout roots, don’t be impatient. You can’t tell whether a rose took  just by looking at it. Some will stay green for the longest time and not take root, some will wither immediately but turn into beautiful healthy little rose bushes in spring. The only sure sign that the stem has roots is if you see new growth at the root level, but that is unlikely to happen during the cold season. Again I have to emphasize the fact that the jar needs to stay undisturbed.

layer raspberries

On 22, Sep 2010 | No Comments | In propagation | By All Year Garden

Raspberries will do this all by themselves if you let them. They’ll arch gracefully until they touch the ground, and where they do, they will sprout roots. I actually had to pull these and replant them to document the process. If they don’t do it by themselves, you can help them along and get more raspberry canes and therefore, more yummy berries. The best time to do it is at the beginning of fall, when temperatures are not extreme any more but there is still a long way till freezing. The process is as follows:

layering1-cropDig a shallow hole and water it generously. layering2-crop_0Bend the cane into the hole and cover with dirt. Water again. layering3-cropCover with a rock to prevent it from popping back up. layering4-cropIn spring cut the offspring from the mother plant.

Garden care for the fall

At this time your garden is probably expressing the melancholy state of the growing season’s end, when fruit is ripening, perennials go dormant, and the rich abundance of summer starts to fade. Fortunately there are still plenty of faithful fall favorites to brighten up the day, such as mums and stone crops, and this blue ground cover beauty. In order to keep a bright outlook on gardening, there will be much work to be done at the beginning of fall. Here’s the list:

– clean, deadhead, weed (again!). Get rid of all the spent plants and anything that already turned brown.

– don’t forget to water, the garden is tired already, you don’t want it wasting

– gather seeds and fruit, there will be plenty of them

– don’t feed! the garden needs to ease its way into the winter dormancy

– plant cheerful fall annuals to keep the garden bright

– some of your favorite roses will start to bloom again, make sure they are healthy (we can make an exception about feeding roses, they might not bloom again otherwise). Roses are such wonderful plants that they will bloom through the first frost, long after other perennials have already gone dormant.

– if you don’t already have them, plan on getting some reliable late blooming perennials.

Crabapple fruit

On 12, Sep 2010 | 7 Comments | In preserves, wintergarden | By All Year Garden

This wonderful little tree is literally weighed down with fruit. Speaking of garden interest for the cold months, these pretty berries will attract many birds through the fall and will create beautiful contrast when set against snow and ice.

Crab apple trees are some of the most popular decorative trees, and for good reasons: in spring they put up a stunning display of rose-white flowers with a wonderfully delicate fragrance that lingers on the wind and follows you around, not strong enough to indicate its source, not faint enough to make it possible to ignore.

In the fall, the branches are weighed down by these pretty, abundant and very much edible berries. If the birds leave some, please see crab apple jelly recipe below.

In winter the remaining berries will look splendid against the white background of snow.

If you have an apple tree that is not self-pollinating, a crab apple that blooms at the same time somewhere in its proximity will solve the problem for you.

So here goes the Crab apple Jelly recipe:

3-4 pounds of crab apples

3 cups of sugar

Put the crab apples into a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain the mixture, add sugar and bring it to a boil again, stirring constantly. Skim the foam off the top and let the jelly thicken until one droplet falling on a plate keeps its shape. Pour into jars and seal with lid.

Crab apple jelly has a beautiful bright red color that makes it excellent for adding color to creams, pastries and other deserts.

snapdragon seedpods

On 12, Sep 2010 | No Comments | In propagation | By All Year Garden

These seedpods are not ripe yet, but I wanted to share this diaphanous image of exactly how amazing the beauty of nature is. Ah, the details! Anyway, the point is that these flowers were grown from seed kept from year to year and they are thriving. Who said only flowers were supposed to be beautiful?

On a practical note, when these pods turn dark brown and bone dry, gently cut the stems with scissors and place them in a bag. The little dry pods are like pepper shakers and all the seeds will scatter on the ground if you shake them too much. Snapdragon seeds look exactly like poppy seeds; to get them out of the pods shake and tap the stems on a white piece of paper and pass them through a tea strainer to get all the residue out.

Stock seeds

On 28, Jul 2010 | No Comments | In propagation | By All Year Garden

These are fragrant Stock seed pods. I started the plants from seeds collected last year, and they have done fairly well this year.

If you start them indoors in a little greenhouse box (the type with transparent plastic cover – I strongly recommend it, it accelerates the growth of plants in a manner that is nothing short of miraculous) you should have big and strong seedlings to plant in your garden after the last frost.

The flowers came true from seed, exactly like their parent plants, including the color.

Keep seeds in paper bags, in a dry, cool place.

This is what the flowers look like:


harvesting seeds

On 21, Jul 2010 | No Comments | In propagation | By All Year Garden

These colorful Four O’Clocks (second year plants, produced from last year’s seeds) are thriving in my garden and they are very prolific in generating seeds.  The seeds themselves are quite intriguing, like dark and shiny peppercorns ready to fall out of their green casing at the slightest touch.

Enjoying the flowers is quite a different matter, though. I had to watch the plants for days in order to get the picture above. They seem to open at random times of day, if they feel like it, and they stay open for a few minutes. I don’t understand how they manage to produce seed, but they do.


Four O’Clocks require little care and will quickly cover a patch of dirt if they have enough sunlight (4 to 6 hours a day). The blooms are not fragrant; they sport every hue in the fuchsia, pink, magenta and white range, or combination thereof, and create a bright and cheerful display when open.

If you like the blooms, make sure you take photos: they are not the kind of plants you can proudly present to your fellow gardeners during a stroll through the garden.

I thought I would show them off, so I took my own advice and photographed the4oclock1m.

Pretty, yes?

package seeds

On 21, Jul 2010 | No Comments | In advice | By All Year Garden

Refine the task of collecting seeds, especially if you are planning on giving them away to friends and family or participating in seed exchange programs. Making packaging an integral part of seed collection encourages you to be more organized and makes it easier to find what you need in spring.

This is a nice task to give kids, since they are excited about creating little projects. Here are a few photos of packets that my daughter made for seeds harvested this year. The seeds are organized by annuals, biennials and perennials and the packets are easy to open to add some more seeds as they become available.packets

Make sure to label the packets with the family, species and color of the plant, whether it is annual or perennial, and what color it is, as well as the date the seeds were harvested. This may seem like overkill to some, but everyone who harvested seed heads from purple and pink bee balms, for instance, knows that there is no way to tell the color after the petals fell off. So if you are excited about planting white zinnias, you will not get the “mixed color border of the wrong height” next year.

Besides the advantage of knowing what seeds you have and where they are, the packets make for a nice conversation piece when you give them away, and the kids can turn the seed box into a mini science project to show off at school.

boxAs you get more packets and more plant seeds the information on the labels can be expanded to include the botanical names (which give great insight into what plants are from the same family and therefore have similar needs and qualities), spacing and care requirements, whether the plants like the sun or the shade, and how they performed in your garden the previous years.

Packets with detailed information are especially useful if you like crossing different cultivars to get new plant varieties.

leaf cuttings

On 08, Jul 2010 | No Comments | In propagation | By All Year Garden

African Violets are extremely easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. I don’t know how I can fill a whole post with details of the process, but all there is to it is cut a leaf and stick it in the ground: it will take care of itself from here.

Of course, it helps if you dip the stem in rooting hormone and keep the dirt moist. For a couple of weeks it looks like it is not doing anything, and then the miracle happens.

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