Division Is Equal To Multiplication

70809thumbMathematically, division is the opposite of multiplication. Horticulturally, they are the same. Digging and splitting overgrown perennials to propagate them is known as ‘division’ because it divides many rooted stems or rhizomes of one plant into many new plants. Division is a form of propagation; and propagation is commonly known as multiplication. So, we divide plants to multiply them.

Autumn is generally the best time for panting. It is after most of the warmest and driest weather, and just before the cool and rainy weather that keeps newly planted plants from getting too dry. It seems obvious that autumn would also be the best time for division. However, a few perennials that are dormant or mostly dormant by the middle of summer can be divided now for an early start.

Bearded iris may not look dormant with their leaves still green, but they are about as dormant now as they will get. If divided now and allowed to slowly disperse roots through the remainder of summer, they can prioritize the production of new foliage when they come out of dormancy in autumn, like they would do naturally. Like many perennials in mild climates, they grow through winter.

Once dug, the plump rhizomes need to be separated from the old shriveled rhizomes that they grew from. For most, the best segments of rhizome are between the leafy tips and the stalks of the flowers that bloomed earlier this year, although it may not be easy to see where floral stalks were attached. The older sections of rhizome behind the flower stems are probably shriveled already.

The freshly divided segments of rhizome should then be groomed of deteriorating old leaves. Remaining green leaves can be cut in half to remove drying tips. Rhizomes then get replanted just below the surface, with the perpendicular fans of foliage standing upright. The main difficulty with dividing iris now is that they will need to be watered until the rain starts late in autumn. Bergenia, lily-of-the-Nile and a variety of perennials with big rhizomes get divided in a similar manner.



P80609KNurseries are full of plants for sale. That is their business. They sell plants, and whatever plants need. With a bit of money, it is easy to purchase plants to compose an exquisite landscape. That is important to landscape professionals who make a business of composing landscapes to beautify the environments in which they work.

Those of us who enjoy home gardening might also purchase plants that we want for our garden. Yet, our home gardens are more than mere landscapes that are designed to simply beautify. The might also produce flowers for cutting, fruits and vegetables. Some might produce firewood. Gardens are usable spaces for active lifestyles. They are spaces for us to grow whatever we want to grow.

I buy almost nothing for my garden. The last item I purchased was a ‘John F. Kennedy’ rose, and I only did so because it was easier than growing one from scratch, and it is my favorite hybrid tea rose. Almost everything else was grown from seed, cutting, division or even as entire plants taken from somewhere else. They all have stories. My figs and quince are from trees that have been producing fruit in the Santa Clara Valley for generations. My great grandfather gave me my first rhubarb before I was in kindergarten. I found one of my pelargoniums in a neighbor’s trash heap when I was in junior high school. I found another in a creek where I grew citrus in Gilroy in the early 1990s.

My iris are from all over. My favorite are still those from the garden of my great grandmother https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/roots/. Two others came from and ‘incident’ back in college https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/the-colors-of-karma/ . I may grow as many a four white iris, not only because they are my favorite color, but because they came from important origins. The short white iris that I do not like much must stay because it came from my grandmother’s garden in Saint Helens. There is another tall iris that is not a pure white, but seems to be somewhat grayish, but it must stay too because it is the only iris I got from the historic home of a friend’s mother in Monterey. One of my favorite whites was supposed to be red, but must stay because it came from a friend’s home in Lompico . . . and because it is one of the prettiest. I have a purplish burgundy iris that I only recently learned was brought from the garden of a colleague’s grandmother in Placentia, a town in Orange County that really should change it’s name. It proliferated and was shared with the Felton Presbyterian Church, where it proliferated again, which is how I found some on a trash heap. They are a keeper now.

When they were all together in the same garden, I grew as many as fourteen bearded iris, with a few other types. Some of the redundant white bearded iris have been relocated to the garden parcel in Brookdale, just to keep the separate from similar cultivars. Not many have been added, although there does happen to be a group of mixed iris from the garden of a former client in Ben Lomond. I think I will keep them mixed because they are easier to keep track of as a single mixed group rahter than as several separate cultivars.

These pictures are a few weeks old, from when the iris were still blooming. The iris in the picture above came from the garden of a friend in the East Hills above San Jose. The flowers are the biggest of all the iris I grow. You can see how distinctive they are. The iris in the picture below, which is not a good picture, is ‘Blueberry Ice’. It was a gift from the Clara B. Rees Iris Society. It has stout stems to support the very wide flowers that are mostly white with a variable blue edge.P80609K+


P80506Not just any sport; a witch’s broom sport! Remember the quidditch tournament of the first Harry Potter Movie? Well, it has nothing to do with that. You should not be watching such movies anyway.

This sort of ‘sport’ is merely a genetic variant growth. This particular sport happens to be known as a ‘witch’s broom’.

There is quite a variety of other sports.

Sometimes, a plant is going along minding its own business, when all of a sudden, it produces a stem with variegated leaves. Unlike the plain green leaves on the rest of the plant, the leaves on the sport are outfitted with white margins. In the wild, such a sport would probably not last long. Since it has less chlorophyll than the unvariegated foliage, it would grow slower, so would eventually be overwhelmed and shaded out by the more vigorous greener foliage. However, if someone happens to find this variegated sport, and determines that the variegation might be an attribute, it can be propagated as a new variegated cultivar of the species.

Sometimes, a plant is going along minding its own business, when all of a sudden, it produces a stem with bronzed foliage, or gold foliage, or leaves that are shaped differently from those on the rest of the plant. Perhaps new stems are more pendulous than they normally are. Sometimes, growth is more compact. It might even be rather stunted and disfigured, branching into a tuft of densely arranged twiggy stems known as a ‘witch’s broom’.

Such growth does not look like a witch’s broom for very long. As it grows, it develops into a densely shrubby mass that eventually gets too heavy to be supported. If the dense growth is appealing, it can be propagated as a new cultivar, like the dwarf Alberta spruce was reproduced from a witch’s broom sport of the common white spruce, or the pencil point juniper was reproduced from a witch’s broom sport of the common juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’).

This massive witch’s broom happens to be on a Douglas fir. It has been here for decades. It sure is ugly, but also interesting. It could be interesting enough to be reproduced.

Six on Saturday: Infirmary


Some of the plants that get recycled at work go to a small nursery next door to the shop until they find a new home. Many are out of season annuals that are really perennials. Some were not performing adequately, so got replaced. Some just needed to get out of the way for something else. Because most plants must recover from transplant, or whatever happened to them out in the landscape, the nursery is more of an infirmary. Only a few plants were recently purchased at a nursery for installation into a new project.

1. Primrose blooms in many colors besides white – the sequel to the sequel – https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/03/03/six-on-saturday-my-favorite-color-ii-the-sequel/P80317
2. African daisy works well in the sunnier parts of our unrefined landscapes.P80317+
3. ‘Sunset Gold’ breath of Heaven is a new acquisition for a newly landscaped area; but was not my choice. This picture makes it look even worse than it really is.P80317++
4. Wallflower will go with the ‘Sunset Gold’ breath of Heaven.P80317+++
5. Forsythia is rare here. Besides this one, there is only one other in the landscape. This picture was taken earlier, while the forsythia were still blooming.P80317++++
6. ‘Black Lace’ elderberry is starting to foliate. I really want to try the berries from this ornamental cultivar, if it fruits, to see how they compare to the native blue elderberry.P80317+++++
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Perennials Can Divide And Conquer

10810Along with all the bare root fruit trees, roses and cane berries, nurseries also stock bare root perennials like strawberries, asparagus, horseradish and rhubarb. They are so easy to plant while dormant. They recover from transplant through spring, and by summer, should be growing as if they had always been there. Although, if they had always been there, they might be crowded by now.

Yes, many but not all perennials eventually get crowded. Strawberries spread by runners, so are easily plucked and transplanted to avoid overcrowding, as well as to propagate more productive plants. Asparagus are variable, so may not get crowded for decades. Horseradish and rhubarb may not mind getting crowded, but could be more productive if individual plants have their space.

For example, crowded horseradish plants produce many small roots. If dug, split apart, and replanted with more space between individual plants, the individual roots get much larger. Separating the roots, which is known as ‘division’, also produces many more new plants. Mature rhubarb plants may not mind being crowded, but are often divided simply to propagate new productive plants.

Division of these sorts of perennials is typically done while they are dormant through winter. If that sounds familiar, it because it is the same reason why these sorts of perennials are available as bare root stock. They get processed while they are unaware of what is happening, and wake up in their new and better situations. Many defoliate while dormant. However, most are evergreen.

Ornamental perennials like lily-of-the-Nile, African iris, New Zealand flax, society garlic, torch lily, lily turf and acorus grass are all good candidates for division if and when they become overgrown. So are most aloes, some terrestrial yuccas, several ferns and some of the more resilient clumping grasses. Agave pups can be dangerous, but really should not be allowed to get too crowded.

Division might be as simple as taking a few pups or sideshoots from a large clumping plant, or as involved as digging an entire large plant to divide each individual shoot. More often, large plants get dug and split into a few smaller clumps of many shoots. New plants should be groomed of deteriorating foliage. The long leaves of New Zealand flax should be cut in half to avoid desiccation.

Felony Garden

blog11Brent and I met in college, when we were assigned to the same dorm room in Fremont Hall at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Our similarities were remarkable. He came two hundred miles north from west of Los Angeles. I came two hundred miles south from west of San Jose. We were both the middle of three children, although I had just acquired an extra younger sister the year before. While the other boys we grew up with were playing with Hot Wheels, Brent and I were busy planting miniature trees around the miniature roadways. His childhood dog was Speckles. Mine was Freckles. We were weirdly similar prior to September of 1986, but have been perfecting our differences since then.

Brent is now a famous landscape designer in West Hollywood. He has landscaped some of the most prominent homes in the region, including the Osbourne Residence of formerly popular realty show, ‘the Osbournes’. Many of the streets of Los Angeles are now outfitted with street trees that Brent installed. He regularly installs mature plants and large boxed trees, without giving much thought about where they came from.

I just grow things. Back in the early 1990s, I grew citrus trees. By 1995, I was involved with the production of mostly rhododendrons, as well as azaleas, camellias, pieris, and a few other minor crops of similar cultural requirements. I provide the plant material for landscapers like Brent, but do not give much thought about what they do with it.

While we were in school, Brent and I would often see plants around town that we wanted to grow in our own gardens. Sometimes they were old fashioned plants that we could not find in nurseries. Sometimes they were plants from other regions that we did not have access too. Usually though, they were just plants that we wanted but could not afford as starving students.

Being the grower that I am, it was up to me to procure pieces or seeds of these desired plants to propagate. Sometimes, we got entire plants. I did all the work; but usually by the time the copies were produced, Brent would take them back to Los Angeles, where many died because he did not care for them properly. However, in the Miracle Mile neighborhood, there is still a coastal redwood that Brent and I procured on one of our adventures. It does not like the climate much there, but it is surviving.

Our techniques were not as bad as stealing the un-pink bearded iris. (see The Colors Of Karma, https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/the-colors-of-karma/.) We merely took pieces that no one would miss. We got several types of succulents and geraniums. (I had actually acquired my favorite geranium years before I ever met Brent, so I knew how easy they were.) We sometimes took plants from compost piles and trash bins, and plants that were to be discarded from a nursery where Brent worked. You can imagine my delight when San Jose started curbside greenwaste recycling! I got piles of bearded iris; and I did not care what color they were. I got yuccas, New Zealand flax, African iris, banana trees, cannas, calas, bergenias and really too many cool plants to list.

Well, as tradition dictates, Brent had to come up with something derogatory to say about my gardening style. After all, even though he benefited more from out techniques of acquiring plants, more of mine survived. His garden was lavishly landscaped with plants that he purchased from nurseries, while most of what he got from me got shaded out. My garden was meagerly landscaped almost exclusively with plants I had propagated and grown. Well, making the observation that very few plants in my garden were acquired ‘legally’, he named the main part off my garden the Felony Garden. Yes, and to the south of that was the White Supremacy Garden. (See White Supremacy, https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/white-supremacy/.) Out back, we kept the Fruits and Nuts. Oh, the joy of gardening!