Divide and Conquer

Another season is about to begin.   Fall with its beautiful and intense colors, will be igniting our trees and landscapes with brilliant hues of red, orange, gold and yellow.

It’s also a great time to get outdoors and do some gardening “now” to prepare for next year.  And depending on where you live, it can be a great time to divide your plants.  Check your zone to see if you reside in an area where it’s a good idea to split plants in the fall, and also what plants in your area are the best candidates.

I split my ferns in fall.  They are terrific in shady or wooded areas. Deer don’t bother them, they are low maintenance and once established, they are drought hardy.  They also make lovely cuttings for fresh flower arrangements and bud vases.  Here in northern Virginia, there are plenty types to choose from.

Dividing ferns can be tricky.  You must get part of the crown when you divide them in order for the new cutting to survive. While adult ferns are hardy, the new piece you break off to divide your fern becomes very sensitive.  I’ve found I have a better success rate if I put the newly divided ferns into containers and nurture them until well established before planting them directly into the ground.

Some ferns require partial shade, while others want full shade.  Some ferns stay compact and bushy, some grow tall, while others become large plumes.  Read the tags or research them online to be sure you’re planting them in the best spot.

Once the fern has grown substantially in the pot and has its own solid roots, transplant it outside.  I’ve had twice as many successes as failures, but given the prices of ferns, it is well worth the effort to split your own.  I’ve also noticed some fern species split and survive better than others.

Some of my favorite ferns in the northeast:  Autumn, Maidenhair, Lady, Ostrich, Cinnamon, Royal and Christmas Ferns – all add their own special textured beauty to shady settings.  Mixing several types of ferns together can add even more interest to your garden since they vary so much in size, shape and even color.

Now is also a good time to start checking your local nurseries to see what plants are on sale.  Many leftover plants are reduced for the end of the summer season.  Watch for competitive prices for new hardy fall plants like mums.  Grabbing plants now, at a good price, will be easy on your pocketbook and gives you a jumpstart for next spring.

Fall is also a great time to start gathering up pine cones, acorns, dry seed heads, dried stalks, etc.  Save them for autumn wreaths, centerpieces and napkin rings.  Watch Wonder Women Sixty for upcoming easy DIY projects and decorating ideas for the fall and holiday season.

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