Hello and Happy New Year! I'm wondering should I retitle my blog 'The Absent Blogger'? I've not been around much recently! My 2016 stats show that I started twice the number of posts as were finished and published, leaving lots of good ideas and lovely experiences still sitting in my intray. Hmmm, not good. Writing went on the back burner for a number of reasons, the most recent of which was making the time to clear my parents' home before it was sold just before Christmas. So why 'digging up the past'? Because I was allowed to dig up several plants to bring back to London as a living reminder of the garden that my mum loved.
My mother now lives in a care home since Dad died last year and, although it was fab having the use of their seaside home for visits, the house wasn't being used enough to warrant keeping it on. And so I spent quite a few weekends driving to Hampshire to reallocate a lifetime of their possessions. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Sounds better than clearing the house, doesn't it, but it's still sweeping away the past however you call it. It's an emotional process that the majority of us will go through at some stage in our lives; in this case, it was good to have the time to properly acknowledge the past before letting go without being too overwhelmed.
Of course, every cloud has a silver lining; each of my siblings took away things that held treasured memories for them. For me, that included my mum's garden tools, naturally :o) She'd been a very keen gardener and, in recent years when she was less able to maintain the garden, I planted perennials and bulbs to bring colour to the garden in place of the annuals that she loved. We'd take a gentle stroll around the garden to name and admire all the flowers, interspersed with her directing me how to prune her shrubs! One of her favourite plants was the agapanthus that I put in about five years ago. She'd always admired them since visiting my sister in South Africa many years ago. I found a retailer at one of the RHS shows and planted three with fingers crossed that she would live to see them flower. She did, and loved it. Those plants now hold huge sentimental value for me and, luckily, the buyer of the house was a friend who was happy for me to dig up anything I wanted. (Within reason, of course.)
So, silver lining number two. Winter is the perfect time for moving shrubs and perennials. Most of them are dormant or resting and the weather on the south coast was mild enough to be out in the garden digging. I took a couple of bags of John Innes no 2 so I could pot up the plants as I went. They had to survive a long drive and possibly a week before being replanted so it was important that the roots didn't dry out. There were several night-time gardening sessions back in London as some plants were too big for pots and had to be transported in sturdy garden waste bags; I needed to get those settled into the soil asap.
Was I like a kid in a sweet shop? Ooh, yes. I'm planning the planting for the middle garden (another casualty of 2016's time restraints) and can now add a Pieris japonica, Agapanthus, Eucomis (pineapple lilies), Leucanthemum daisies, Heuchera, Geums, a Cyclamen, an Iris, some Stachys and what I hope will be Lily of the Valley judging by the dried leaf shape. My car was rammed but, strangely, the garden didn't look depleted (apart from the large agapanthus).
It's a fabulous idea to bring treasured plants from one garden to another - although it would be philanthropic to leave most plants and mature shrubs behind (some buyers insist on it), our buyer has plans for the garden which include digging over several beds to plant her roses (dug up from her previous garden!). So it was a winning situation for all with no guilt involved and I'll have some wonderful plants to look forward to in the months ahead.
|This fern is growing too close to the fence for my spade to get at the rootball so I had to leave it. Pity as I need a huge mature fern in my shady corner!|
A few tips for digging up plants before moving:
State the plants you want in the contract or, less formally, ensure the new property owner is happy for specified plants to be removed. (Best to get this in writing if you don't know the buyer well.)
Don't leave a big hole in the garden! Replenish the soil ready for new plants to go in.
If you know in advance that plants will need to be moved, root prune in preparation.
Established plants will have quite a large rootball. Dig wide and deep to minimise damage to the roots. Plants will quickly heal if you have to lose a few of the deeper roots.
Plants are heavy! Get help with lifting if you can.
Have a container/soil, hessian sacking or sheet of plastic ready to lift the plant onto - and, if possible, prepare the new site for the plant beforehand. (Even if that's a large pot in the interim.) The aim is to minimise stress to the plant.
Most important is to try and do it while the plant is dormant, between October and mid-March. Evergreens will need to have their roots resettled as quickly as possible so these should be moved while the soil is warmer, in either October or March if possible. In a harsh winter, move the plant to a large pot and wrap with horticultural fleece until it can be replanted.