Your monthly guide to life in the garden is more pertinent than ever right now
Job for the season
One of the most popular plants to grow in shady parts of the garden are hostas. They fit well in most gardens and are relatively low-maintenance, but they do have a clump-forming habit and do need dividing every few years.
This is not only so they don’t dominate the border but also to keep the plant healthy. If you’re not sure if your hosta needs dividing, let it grow this year, then take note of its size and especially check if the centre of the plant is alive or has died out.
If it hasn’t grown in the centre, then next spring is defi nitely the time to divide the plant. As a general rule of thumb, you should expect to divide your hosta plants every four years or so, to keep them at their healthiest, and the month of April is a good time as the plant will not have fully developed, with their leaves just starting to emerge.
If your hostas aren’t too large, dig around the hosta clump in a circle, then use your shovel as a lever to lift the clump out of the ground onto an open compost sack or tarpaulin. Look closely and you should see that the clump is made of lots of individual plants. Carefully break apart the clumps into divisions made up of at least three sets of shoots coming out of a crown.
If your hostas are too large, use your shovel to cut the clump into divisions and then dig each section out. This can seem a little brutal at first but the plants seem to survive the surgery. Back-fill the holes left with a mix of soil and organic matter and this will give the remains of the clump a good boost.
In both cases, the resulting set of ‘new’ plants need planting elsewhere in a shady part of the garden. Choose a moist area with low levels of sunlight. Dig in some fresh organic matter, plant the clump and water it well. You should now have a fi ne selection of new hosta plants without having to pay a penny.
Tip of the Season
As soon as it’s finished flowering, prune forsythia back to strong, young shoots
Q: Can you recommend a low-maintenance, fastgrowing climber for a north-facing wall?
A: A good choice would be Virginia creeper, which can grow in almost any soil conditions and almost any aspect. It’s a vigorous climber with a self-clinging habit and can grow two to three metres in a year. It’s also virtually indestructible, which means that hard pruning, should it become too unruly, won’t be a problem. The flower is fairly insignificant, so it’s mainly grown for its foliage which is a beautiful crimson or burgundy colour in the autumn.
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