Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Save Seeds, Divide Perennials

Some city gardeners are busy at this time of year, collecting seeds for next year and dividing perennials.

I don’t buy a lot of plants, relying instead on what I can do for free. I also like to give away seeds and plants, something I expect to do at least on a small scale when I take a turn at the Shade Tree Commission’s table at the PMUA’s environmental fair Sept. 15 in Library Park.

Here are before-and-after pictures of irises, which need to be divided every three to five years. I donated a bunch of trimmed plants to the Ward 2 Challenge for National Night Out. Once you dig up, separate and trim these plants, you have enough to cover a lot more territory or to share with neighbors.

Daylilies are very easy to divide, if you don’t mind getting a little muddy. Dig up clumps and shake or wash off the dirt. Clip the tops and roots and create new borders in the yard or in the strip between the sidewalk and curb.

Seed collecting is fun and instructive, as you figure out how each plant produces seeds. Let them dry out in lunch bags or other containers. You can either just toss seed heads of perennials where you want them to grow next year, or you can while away some time sorting the seeds from the plant material enclosing them. So far this year, I have gathered seeds from lychnis, columbines, black-eyed susans, portulaca, cosmos and forget-me-nots. The portulaca seeds are especially fascinating, being an iridescent black and barely bigger than grains of salt, but starting in July they produce flowers in a range of brilliant shades.

Stop by the Shade Tree Commission table on Sept. 15, learn more about what the commission does and maybe pick up a seed packet or some plants to take home.

--Bernice Paglia


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