Thoughts of Grandma Juanita return with the bright red hollyhocks rescued from behind the garage of the family home on Mead street. After seventy nine years it was time to pass the homestead on to another family, but not only sofas made it onto the moving truck. About a dozen pots of tiger lilies, a butterfly bush and various buttercups bounced along, tucked amongst the dining room table and chairs--equally as precious.
Real estate experts worry about furniture and fixtures being left behind, but never protect the spruce in the yard. If the home belonged to an avid gardener--perhaps they should?
Some of my divorce clients include in their agreements exactly which plants or trees they intend to move to a new abode. One couple fought fiercely over several gigantic Mackinac Island lilac bushes begun from saplings salvaged during their honeymoon twenty years hence. The irony was not lost--luckily a compromise ended with both retaining shrubs grown in a happier time. Just last week a client sighed "I gotta get that red maple out of the yard, it's followed me from our first house."
Transplanting not only saves money and reduces the carbon footprint, it perpetuates some of another's garden in your own. A master gardener's last will provided that one Saturday following his demise, all of his like minded friends could dig up any plant they wished from his yard. They did.
Given the cherished stakes, it takes only a few careful steps to increase the likelihood of transfer success:
2. Reduce Stress in Advance: Heavily water the chosen subject a few hours before surgery. Clip back any spent blooms or leggy growth. The plant should be lean and mean for movement.
free mulch or compost. Save pots from nursery purchases or cut the top third off of a milk or juice container, poking drainage holes in the bottom. These work well for moving if the handle is left intact.
5. Extraction: The most important part of a plant during transplant is the part you cannot see--the root system. The soil around plant roots contain microbes which are microscopic yet important to plant health. Preserving as much of the root ball as possible means more of the these desirable hitchhikers will come along, and that's good thing. No matter the quality of the soil, bring it along. Cut several inches outside the dripline of the plant. The dripline is the circular area around a plant which is defined by the farthest extending growth. Using a sharpened spade, cut all the way around with a downward tilt and push at the end to begin popping out the roots. It's easy to do only one side, but that can cause damage to the opposite side of the plant. Once the cut is all around, loosen from the bottom using the spade. NEVER grab the plant by the top and pull. Ouch.
6. Just Move It! Ready to transplant, carefully loosen the plant from its new pot, and set it in the hole. Check for depth--the top of the root ball should be just below the surface. Depth can be critical for afterblooms. Irises and peonies will not bloom fully unless their roots are inches from the surface. Step back and evaluate the location as well as the angle of the transplant. Before backfilling with soil, flood the hole with water. Once it subsides, fill in with soil, leaving a ring or moat around the dripline of the plant. Although tempting, don't seal the deal with a bootprint. That action causes soil compaction, stomping out water access to the root system.
Later, when touring the yard, a thriving transplant can momentarily pay tribute to a friend, loved one, or a happy memory.
Have a meaningful Memorial Day.
More Articles of Interest:
Moving Day -- Don't Forget to Pack the Garden!
To Hellebores and Back