Saturday, December 22, 2012

Transplanting Plants and People -- Don't Forget to Pack the Garden!

Gardeners are experts on transition, on the cycles of nature.  Each season is a show in itself. From the icy fronds on winter browned stalks to the tiny shoots of leaves poking from the frozen black earth, gardeners wait in anticipation for each nuance, each rotation of growth.
Life's never the same place twice--nor is the garden.

The yard is never planted for one season, nor one "look" for that matter.  The desire for a rolling backdrop is the difference between a landscaper and gardener.  It's a play with several acts, from the flamboyant spring to the purist winter.

Thus the anticipation of a far away springtime in a northern village had us planting chilly bushels of bulbs while the winds of December blew the last leaves off our new hill.   My kind and patient Bill, self dubbed the "garden slave" stood by, shovel in hand, ready to employ his patented "wedge" planting method.

In March, the daffodils at the end of the drive will be a welcome sight.  It'll remind us of hard work done on a frigid afternoon as well as a cherished neighborhood left behind.

The plants were the first to move northward.  The day after closing, it wasn't lamps loaded into the back of the Jeep, but Lysimachia.  Mother Mary came along for the ride, of course.  Within days of offer acceptance, the garden was readied for movement.

Many plants are readily available for purchase at the nursery, but it took years for the thick carpet of Shasta Daisies to proliferate at the south end of the patio.  A carefully planned transplant can duplicate the look with less time and fewer pennies:

1.  Root ball cut in advance:  A few weeks before the move, do a root ball cut around your favorite hydrangea, shrub or large plant.  At least three inches outside the drip line, make a deep circular cut but do not remove the plant.

2.  Move en masse:  Carve out a large mass of plants, particularly in those areas that require thinning.

3.  Prepare the container:  Use plastic or waxed grocery boxes or pots, the lighter the better.  Line with newspaper for easy lifting.  Fill the bottom with some free mulch.  Carefully loosen the plant and pop it into the container.  Water frequently.  Cardboard containers will disintegrate unless the move is imminent.

4.  Prepare the new area:  Loosen the entire bed.  Work in some bone meal or organic material. 

5.  Transport:  Use a tarp or drop cloth. The plants will retain water, so tip them up a bit to drain if it's rained.   Otherwise bring a spare pair of boots. 

6.  Transplant:  Dig to the appropriate depth.  Fill the hole with water.  Try to include as much as the original soil as possible to preserve tiny yet critical microbes. 

7.  Protect:  Mine were transplanted in late fall, so some of the early bloomers like Hellebores got small boulders tucked up against the base to give them some shelter and warmth.  Even on a cold winter day, stony surfaces retain the warmth of the sun.  Hosta and Turtlehead got an extra layer of leaves.

It's a new, but familiar zone.  Ralph's a little miffed, but adaptation is the key to a successful transplant.

The snow's starting to clear.

Might we still have time to get some grape hyacinths in the ground?

More Articles of Interest:

Planting Bulbs -- Paying It Forward

Layered Plantings -- Should I Cut Back Faded Bulbs?

Turtlehead and Other Fall Bloomers