April 23, 2012

Propagating Ephemerals by Division or Seed

Uvularia divides easily, but use care while in bloom. The  divisions must be replanted immediately, best done on a rainy day, ensuring damp soil. Today in our garden, 3 inches of rain is expected overnight, so this was the perfect time to divide some of the more 'dividable' wild flowers in the ephemeral garden.

It's been such a dry spring, that the soil is like powder here in New England, but with 3 or 4 inches of well needed rain expected, this may be the only time to divide some garden perennials. Early spring is typically the best time to divide some perennials such as hosta, daylilly, aster and phlox, the general rule  being simply that to divide while to foliage is still very young, still tight buds if possible. Not all perennials can be divided now, for peony, oriental poppy insist on an autumnal division, and others are best never divided, leaving gardeners opting for more creative ways to propagate using root cuttings or seed, but when it comes to the tender and precious wild flowers, many people believe that leaving them alone to spread naturally, is the only way to achieve those sweeping drifts seen only in photos, or at botanic gardens.

It's true, many ephemeral wild flowers dislike being divided, but a few transplant well, especially if the clumps are large. Care must be taken if one wants to divide in spring, for truth be told, just as the plant begins to fade for the summer, or autumn, when the plants are semi-dormant, remains the best time to dig and divide such plants, but few of us have the memory to find the rhizomes under the soil in October. Some of these plants such as uvularia and even Trillium, if they are of a clumping strain, can be divided while in growth, and even, while in bloom. With the heavy rain and a week or two of cold weather expected, I am taking advantage of this break, to quickly divide a few plants, including a perennial hellebore ( remember - a wildflower in Europe!), though not technically an ephemeral, they too can be divided if the foliage has matured enough.

Uvularia grandiflora does indeed, have the grandest flora of the genus. It divides easily, from plants dug either while in bloom ( but you will forfeit a years' bloom) or dug and divided just after blooming. I time division based on environmental conditions, and since it has been unseasonably dry this year, our week of forested rain, is forcing me to divide plants now. Next year, I will have dozens of plants, as long as I keep 5 or 6 stems to each division.

Not truly ephemerals, as they stay green year round, hellebores can be divide carefully if the weather conditions are perfectly damp and cool, so with a week of rain expected, and an early growing season,  I am jumping in and digging and dividing ' a few of my larger plants in the green' as they are done blooming. This is not ideal for the plant, and risky as a swing to hot, dry weather can prove deadly, sometimes it's worth the danger to get more plants. but with some faster growing strains, (which seem to be the muddier colors) it works quite well. Simply dig plants up, rinse off the soil, and separate by hand, or with a skillful slice of the knife ( avoiding and drastic cuts to reduce stress and fungus), divisions of 3-5 plants can survive often blooming again the following spring.

With Hellebores, try to keep divisions large enough to reduce the stress of transplanting. Here in New England, this sort of division is best done just as the foliage matures, to reduce wilting,  and just as seed pods are forming.

Uvularia grandiflora palida, in the rear, and U. grandiflora  grow together in the ephemeral garden. If you have a woodland garden, try to grow these delightful plants, but be certain to source form  responsible nurseries and never purchase wild-collected plants, nor collect yourself from the wild. Native populations are all at risk and it doesn't matter where you live. Uvularia grandiflora is the reigning king of Uvularia. It has the largest blossoms, and, it transplants easily from divisions while plants are blooming, or just before they go dormant for the season..
I have a fondness for uvularia,it was my dad who first would point out that 'the wild oats' are in bloom". He taught me my first Latin name of a plant  Uvularia perfoliata, which we kids would repeat and giggle, believing that it was a dirty name. His  Uvularia perfoliata, I later discovered  was actually our native U. sessilifolia  or U. grandiflora ( they both have clasped leaves giving the illusion of a peforation in the leaf allowing the stem to appear to pass through it) but I never let him know that he was incorrect. It continues to grow in what is left of our woodland, if you can call it that, even though we are smack dab in the middle of a rather run-down city now. 
Anemone nemorosa ' Lychette', vegetative division is the only way to keep these named strains pure. The trick is finding the perfect location, for once you do, it will spread nicely into a colony.I have yet to find that spot, but I have friends who have this growing in their lawn.

Anemone nemorosa, a European wild wood anemone, are all part of a section of woodland anemone that prefer rich, edaphic environments, those with spring moisture, like that found in the eastern US deciduous forests, areas that go dry in high summer, as the canopy above blocks out light and moisture. These collectible wood anemone can be divided or moved in the spring, even though they dislike it, but if you try to wait any longer, they will disappear, as they are true ephemerals. One must site them carefully, for in ideas locations, with leaf mould, no mulch they can self seed or even spread naturally. Many times, they just divide slowly, so look for seed pods ( which are only viable and ripe for a couple of days),and plant the seed in pots set into a cool corner of a cold frame or greenhouse.

Anemone nemorosa 'double form"

Some wildflowers, such as these rare Columbine (Aquilegia fragrans) which were collected on an  Chadwell expedition to the Himalaya require a pre-chilling period to stratify the seed so that they will germinate properly. Seed raised rarities are not always easy, nor timely, but for some rarer wild flowers and ephemerals, one  cannot simply divided the mother plant.  Propagation from seed provides you with more plants that you will ever need. Extras of rarites like these, will be auctioned off at botanic gardens and plant specialist societies.

 Seedling columbine ( aquilegia fragrans) are transplanted just after they start to show their true leaves, to minimize shock. Kept in the greenhouse until mid summer when they will be planted out in a nursery bed. In the following spring, they can be relocated to their final growing location.

Sanguinaria, or Blood Root ( here, a double one) will divide slowly, but if one cuts the rhizome carefully early in the year, dormant eye buds may emerge.

1 comment :

  1. I think the Anemone nemorosa 'double form" also goes by the name 'Vestal'.

    It's a splendid plant! In bloom now.


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