No need to buy new shrubs if you can turn an existing
one into many
I have a HUGE lavender bush that is getting too big. Is
there any hope for dividing this guy? The branches are like tough
sticks, so I'm not sure how to even go about it, since I don't
think I can do it the same way I would a hosta or
We think of lavender as a perennial herb, but it's a woody
"sub-shrub." Divide it as you would any shrub including spirea,
forsythia, potentilla, viburnum, lilac and rhododendron.
If it has more than one cane emerging from the soil, you will
almost certainly be able to divide it immediately. Dig it up, find
a stem that has grown its own separate roots, then cut or saw that
part away from the main plant and replant both.
If the shrub has only one cane, you can still produce additional
bushes through a process called layering, provided you can wait a
year. To make a layer, choose a flexible branch that
can be bent down to touch the soil. Scrape a little of the bark
from the portion of the limb that will rest on the ground. Then
press that branch to the earth and weight it to hold it firmly in
contact with the soil. You can layer just one branch or
Keep the layer(s) well watered. If possible, bend the tip of
each layered branch and use soft rope to tie it to a stake so the
tip points up. This speeds the rooting process. A layered branch
will grow roots from the point of injury, usually within a year.
You can then cut the rooted branch away from the parent plant and
move it to a new location.
After removing four ash trees we have an area with some,
not much, sun. This area is on the side of the driveway and we
would like it to be maintenance free. What ground covers would work
in this condition?
The Big Three groundcovers are myrtle (Vinca minor),
pachysandra (P. terminalis) and English ivy (Hedera
helix). They deserve their status. They are evergreen so they
suppress weed seed germination all year. They are aggressive,
filling space quickly. They grow well in shade and in a wide
variety of soils.
There are other groundcovers, however. Some offer more
interesting leaf color, more flower power or are more friendly to
small shrubs growing in their midst, shrubs like azalea or dwarf
conifers that the Big Three would choke or smother over time. You
might look into big root perennial geranium (G.
macrorrhizum), big leaf forget me not (Brunnera
macrophylla), lamium (L. maculatum) or pachysandra's
North American cousin, Allegheny spurge (P. procumbens).
Michigan's own David MacKenzie covers this topic very well in his
book "Perennial Ground Covers" (Timber Press) and on his plant
selection website, www.premiumplants.net.
There are no free lunches and no maintenance free gardens.
Groundcover beds that seem carefree now got that way through a good
start. They were weeded and watered well for two or three years at
"Silk flowers and sculpture" continues!
S.G. wrote to say, "Now, Janet, I agree that there's no such
thing as a no-maintenance plant but really there is no such thing
as no maintenance, period. After all, even silk flowers require
rinsing off now and then and sculpture may need cleaning."
J.J. adds, " I agree with you that plants aren't always
the answer. I helped a friend with a privacy issue that involved
blocking out a swingset and a chain link fence and keeping
neighbors from looking directly into each other's back doors. It
wasn't that the neighbors didn't like each other, just that seeing
each other in their jammies, as they let their dogs out each
morning, was not their thing."
"We didn't have much money, but even if we had unlimited funds,
there was the problem of power and telephone lines directly above
the place where anything large might logically be planted."
"Luckily my friend had in her basement a bunch of
floor-to-ceiling shutters she'd taken off the house in a
remodeling. Voila! We mounted 2X2 stakes on the
shutters then staked them into the ground with the shutters sitting
up off the soil on small patio bricks to keep them from rotting out
too soon. We placed the shutters to block the problem spots and
'instant privacy' was in place. With that problem solved, the
'plant' part of the garden should now be really fun to do."
Green thumbs up to
"knuckle walking" gardeners. If you garden on your knees and
often work with one hand palm down on the ground as a prop, you're
not knuckle walking and that's bad. A palm-down posture bends the
wrist in a way that invites or aggravates hand and wrist problems
including carpal tunnel syndrome. Knuckle walkers avoid that by
making a loose fist of their free hand and then resting on those
Green thumbs down
to walking in the garden when the soil is super saturated from
all the recent rain. No weeding or tidying up is so important that
it would justify the compaction your foot will cause.
Originally published 5/29/04