Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Pacific Northwest

March, 2008
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Ornamental Pear
If space is limited but you want a decorative and well-behaved tree, I recommend ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana). People may know this tree as 'Bradford' pear, but there are many cultivated varieties from which to choose. Among my favorites is 'Chanticleer'. It doesn't grow as large as 'Bradford', but this tree has the characteristic white flowers in early spring, glossy green leaves in summer, and handsome fall foliage.

Clever Gardening Technique

Unconventional Perennial Division
Dividing perennials doesn't have to be labor intensive. If you're careful, you can divide many of your clumping, fibrous-rooted perennials, such as daylilies, ornamental grasses, astilbes, and hostas, while they're still in the ground. I use a sharp, flat-bladed spade and cut or separate the crown in half by digging straight down. If the plant is vigorous and large, I cut it into pie-shaped wedges rather than just in half. Once you've made your cuts, dig under each division to loosen the attached roots, and pull it from the soil. I then fill the hole with compost or topsoil and water thoroughly.

I think this method has a couple of advantages over digging up the entire plant. To begin with, it's easier. If you're working on a sizable specimen, this can save your back a lot of strain. In-ground division also spares the half that's left in place from much of the shock of being unearthed and divided. While the piece you carry away for relocation may wilt and require cutting back, the piece left in the ground rarely shows any signs of having undergone major surgery.

I've even been known to divide on-the-run. If, on their way out, a visitor especially praises one of my special daylily hybrids, I grab my spade, slice into the crown, pull up a part of the plant, and hand it over, all in one fell swoop. After recovering from the initial surprise, the friend usually cradles the new division and rushes home to transplant it into the garden. My parent plant is usually none the worse for wear, and my guests love their new acquisition and the spontaneity with which it was given.


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