Giving It Up for Sharing
Written by: Patricia Stern
October 1, 2021

While the people of Buckhead debate amongst themselves whether to divide or “stand united”, this person of Carmain Drive has come out unequivocally on the side of divide.  Paradoxically, there is a way we can use division to come together right now (heh), at least in the garden.  Now that’s a nice thought.

It's time to divide the perennial plants that is!  I will abstain from commentary on political boundaries (at least for now), but, philosophically, I believe what the world needs now is love, sweet love, (extra points if you can name the band that sang that line).  Sharing plants is a great way to show love and, hopefully, we can all agree that sharing love is a worthwhile endeavor regardless of which direction we lean.  And, free plants are never a bad thing either.  So let’s get started.

First, look around your yard and see what you have a lot of (no garden thugs though, only well-behaved plants should be propagated.)  It’s also good to look around your neighbor’s yard and think about what you wish you had more of.  (Note: this works better if you have met your neighbors.  If not, what are you waiting for?).  In my case, good candidates for division are the blue hostas that are now growing in too much sun, black-eyed susans (rudbeckias), and hellebores aka Lenten rose.  

Now, take a look at your calendar and at the weather forecast.  Late September through October is the ideal time to divide and move plants, and also, if you have the space, you can repot perennials in gallon size pots to “grow on” and give away as nifty gifts in the spring.  If your schedule permits and the weather cooperates, a great time to dig is a day or two after a good rain, although truthfully any time is fine, I just find it easier to work in moister softer soil.  Grab a good sized shovel and working a couple inches out from the plant dig up the whole clump, keeping the root ball intact.  Okay, now the cool part.  Take two garden forks and insert them back-to-back in the clump.  (Borrow an extra fork from your neighbor if needed.  Even better, borrow your neighbor too, this is easier with two people.)  Lever the forks to the ground oppositionally (!) until the plant breaks apart.  Repeat as needed to make smaller divisions.  You can also just hack the plant into sections with a flat shovel or hand hoe, but the fork methodology is far more elegant and will preserve more of the roots.  Now you have a bunch of new plants!  Total magic, right?

Replant or pot up your bounty as desired.  Make sure and give at least a couple starts away.  In addition to building your karma, sharing plants is a great idea because you might need a few back one day (because things happen); this allows you to be both altruistic and pragmatic concurrently. Winning!!  Next spring as your new plants emerge from winter dormancy, you can marvel at your cleverness and the wonder of nature.  And don’t forget to wander over to your neighbor’s and see how their garden is coming along (while secretively inventorying which plants to ask for a start from).

Sharing is caring.   Let’s keep those good vibrations a-happening.