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Dividing perennials is a simple process

By Aaron Mesimheimer
For The Salisbury Post
In difficult economic times, non-essentials are often the first thing to go. But before you decide to cancel your spring landscaping projects consider this: You can probably redesign your landscape for free.
How? By dividing perennials and grasses.
Perennials and ornamental grasses produce in abundance in the home landscape. Some of the most popular perennials are: coneflowers, yarrow, sedum, ferns, hellebores, hostas, coreopsis, Shasta daisies, daylilies, peonies, phlox, astilbe and coralbells.
Many others such as black-eyed Susan and gaillardia (blanket flower) have perennial varieties.
The following ornamental grasses are also perennial in our area: blue clump fescue, feather reed (Karl Foerster), fountain (the purple type is not), maiden, pampas, purple muhly and blue stem.
Many of the most popular groundcovers ó ajuga, iceplant, pachysandra, vinca, mondo grass and liriope ó can also be divided.
Dividing perennials is a simple process.
Water the plant a day or so before so that it is well hydrated. Then cut it back to about 6 inches above the ground, being careful not to cut off new growth.Dig a circle around the perimeter of the plant and lift it with your shovel. After removing the clump, divide.
With perennial flowers, use two pitchforks to pry the clump apart or simply cut the clump in half with a shovel. Larger clumps may be divided into several divisions as long as each has roots and green.
Don’t get greedy. Next year you can divide again if you need more. With tough grasses, a handsaw or hatchet may be used. With grasses that died out in the middle, use a reciprocating saw to cut out the dead. Then lift the middle out with a shovel and throw some garden soil in the hole. The plant will fill in or you can replant a division in the middle.
Most perennials are divided February through early April or in the fall. If you have any of these plants, they could probably be successfully divided right now. If you don’t have any, call a few friends or neighbors. They need to divide their plants to keep them healthy so offer to take some of the leftovers off their hands.
If you get one or two good starts, in a few years, you’ll fill a flower bed. You may also wish to consider plant swaps which can be found online or by calling the county extension office.
Aaron Misenheimer is a Master Gardener student in the 2009 Master Gardener program.

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