November- Lifting, dividing and propagating

Published: 25 November 2020

Last update: 25 November 2020

Blog post
This blog post is written by Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener
The herbaceous border in winter

If we’re making hay when the sun shines, then as soon as the rain sets in for autumn it’s time to make more plants. It is certainly one of my favourite things about late autumn. After watching the borders develop through the season and picking your favourites for the year, it’s a great time to lift and divide.

Usually we leave our borders standing to provide winter interest and a refuge for the amphibians and insects that call the borders home, but there will always be a few candidates for division. Some of my top picks for propagation from our borders at the moment are Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, Leucanthamella serotina and the White Form of Bidens aurea. These three are all relatively tall late season Asteraceae, prolific flowerers and very generous with the amount of material that they provide for divisions. Many of the plants in the herbaceous borders don’t take long to bulk up so after only a few seasons it’s easy enough to spread about your new favourites. Just don’t be tempted to divide too soon, all good things etc. etc.

The nursery is definitely the place to be at the moment. If you’re not in there, then you certainly run the risk of being swept up by hedge cutting! It’s always a hive of activity in the nursery, but this time of year is always just that little bit busier. Plants that need to be overwintered are being cleaned up, with some getting a little extra attention to make sure they’re free of mealy bug interlopers. Late season cuttings of things like salvias and other tender perennials have been taken (it is a bit late, but it’s still so mild here that most things are in active growth). Next season’s sweet peas are bursting through after being sown a few weeks back and will be preparing themselves to run the winter gauntlet of potential mouse damage, good luck little seedlings. Bare root herbaceous plants are being divided and potted to go back into the garden or pot displays with a few left over for plant sales next year. And then of course there’s everything else that the nursery team are up to as well.

As the propagules of some of our larger plants become ready, they’ll be off to find their new place in the Arboretum. After several years of brush cutting, removals and remedial tree work, this will be the first year that there has been any significant planting in the Arboretum itself. It’s important to take time to appreciate the space that is left after removals of damaged and diseased trees. There’s no great rush to get something new in the ground straight away, we’re highly unlikely to see many of them through to fruition, so take the time and pick the right plant for the right place. Future generations will thank you for it.

As these trees start to settle in over the next few years, we’ll be able to instigate more layers of planting to complement the newly forming canopy as well as helping to further characterise the different parts of the Arboretum. In time our choices will create bursts of spring colour, long tree lined vistas, secluded glades full of scent and a sense of journey within the twenty two acres that make up this part of the garden. It will keep visitors enthralled for hours.

Of course, whilst all of this is happening, we get all the big toys out and have a grand old time climbing, chain sawing and log splitting. If you hear us out and about it’s always worth coming to have a look, not too close mind you! Whilst it’s always a shame to see any tree go it’s always worth having a chat with the guys to find out what’s going on and what’s coming next, there’s always a plan.

As with most planning at the moment it has to be pretty fluid, but like I said, it’s worth taking the time to appreciate the space whilst it’s there….and then fill it with more exciting plants!