When should I divide my hosta?

hosta talk pictures 2012 012A seasonal post from Rick….
While hostas don’t require dividing like some perennials, quite regularly we are asked: “when is the best time to divide hostas”? The answer will depend on who you ask, what they have been told, or what is easiest for them and their gardening schedule. Some say early spring when the new growth points emerge and you can easily see where to cut between each to make another division. Others say in the fall. While hostas are extremely tough and will survive just about any kind of harsh treatment, I would disagree with these time frames. With over 35 years of experience in propagating hostas, my answer is July and August, and here is my reasoning and observations. Hostas do not put on much in the way of root growth until sometime in June. So a plant division made in early spring is expected to support all of its new growth with last year’s roots and only those that are still attached after it was removed from the main clump. A hosta divided in the late fall may not have enough time to establish enough new roots and store the amount of energy needed to get it through the winter and then support new growth in the spring. While both will probably survive, they won’t be as robust as those divided in July and August. During these months the plant will have time to put on new roots, add new leaves to store more energy, and set new eyes on the crown for a larger plant in the spring. Some people are afraid to cut a clump apart and break off some of the existing leaves. When we divide them, we purposely remove leaves from the divisions, especially those that may not have that many roots. We also remove all flowers. Some we replant with only one leaf. It is important that leaves and roots be balanced. Best to have fewer leaves so that the roots can support the divided crown. If done this way, and kept watered for the rest of the season, a much stronger plant will emerge in the spring. So if you have the time, and have hostas that you would like to divide, now through August is the time to do it.

Comings And Goings

Saruma henryi

Saruma henryi

Our very dear WWOOF volunteer (Zoe) has gone to her next farm assignment over in the Maine western foothills and Dottie, our little bottle lamb, will be leaving this week to graze on grassy pastures over at our friend Sally’s. We’ll miss Zoe’s enthusiasm and positive energy (and her very good sense of humor!). We’ll also miss the pitter patter of our pampered lamb making herself comfortable inside the house. But she’s bigger now and ready to rejoin a flock of fleecy friends. Picture 2953
There are also some comings and goings in the gardens. Those wonderful azaleas are coming into bloom. Gorgeous… and some with a light sweet fragrance. One of our favorite plants, Saruma henryi, an upright and shade loving wild ginger, is also in bloom and quite lovely. Its soft yellow 3 petaled flowers and slightly fuzzy leaves are a beautiful addition to the woodland garden.
Azalea 'Roger Luce hybrid'

Azalea ‘Roger Luce hybrid’

Picture 2901
Picture 2897The month of June brings a new look to the gardens. Fuller now with the larger plants…hosta, rodgersia, ferns, polygonatums, and woodland peonies (to name a few) making an impressive statement.This being said, gems like Saruma henryi, anemonellas, and dodecatheons ( again, to name a few) are no less striking and appreciated. We, as usual, remain busy in the nursery continuing to pot up new additions and also to replenish the plants that have gone home with our customers. These comings and goings at Fernwood Nursery include people, plants, and….lambs.
'Dottie'

‘Dottie’

New Year’s Visitors

WGI_0020As you can see from the photo ( our game camera) we have had some unwelcome visitors to the nursery. These deer are feeding under an apple tree that is barely twenty feet from the back of our barn. The lack of snow has given deer the ability to travel freely in search of food. This years heavy apple crop has been enjoyed by the deer in lieu of acorns and beechnuts that were scarce. This particular tree drops its apples late in the season well after the other trees have. In past years we have not had the deer come this close, but now that we are without a good nursery dog, this was bound to happen. While we enjoy all wildlife, deer especially have no place in a plant nursery just as a fox doesn’t belong in the hen house. As many of you know, deer can do a lot of damage to your landscape in a very short time. We will have to take measures to curtail them this winter if the snows doesn’t come to keep them in the woods.We are fortunate to live in such a wooded and rural area and that we can enjoy (and see) the wildlife that wander not far from this very homestead. We just prefer that they respect their boundaries. A lot to ask, we know. This being said, it is not surprising that our worlds overlap from time to time. Deer in the nursery, fox in the hen house, coyote contemplating how to get around the sheep fence. Yes, a plan will be made to keep the deer away from the plants we grow, but we wouldn’t want to change living amongst our wild neighbors. We will just kindly remind them to dine elsewhere.WGI_0044

After A Giant Rain

Picture 1276Oh, the list of things to tackle today! We are grateful for the rain. No watering necessary in the nursery, nature did it for us. But now, some serious weeding. Didn’t we just go through that bed? Thank goodness for the leaf mulch we so carefully spread, it certainly helps with weed control ( and feeds the soil). We have a young friend coming today who loves gardening, loves to be here at the nursery, and loves weeding. How lucky we are!
So, the list? Weeding ( it always gets to be first!)
Harvest two of the large spinach beds, blanch, and freeze
Pot up the Epimedium, dwarf iris, and twin flower( Linnaea borealis)
Begin sorting through the stock area and selecting plants for the nursery
Move the sheep fence
Clean out the pig’s pen
Ready the greenhouse for the upcoming hypertufa class ( a couple of spots still open!)

Picture 1284These are just a few tasks I can think of at the moment. More will come to mind as soon as we step outside. Visitors here at the nursery have been enjoying the bed of mini hosta we planted a year ago. There is a huge selection of mini hosta on the market. We carry at least 30 different varieties. Mini hostas can range in size from 2 to 6 inches. If you have a small shady space and want to fill it, consider these miniatures. Besides, they have great names like Teeny- weeny Bikini, Mighty Mouse, Dragon Tails, Pure Heart, and Chartreuse Wiggles, to name a few.
Enjoy the day and happy gardening everyone!

Not Even Quite Summer ( Officially)

a delicious bouquet of lilacs from our friend George Holmes

a delicious bouquet of lilacs from our friend George Holmes

According to the calendar summer starts officially on June 21st. The kids at school are still waiting for that last bell to ring, for the doors to swing open, and to be let out for their long awaited summer vacation. Here at the nursery, we feel like we’re in the throes of summer. Even if the weather has been on the cool side. Even if it is still officially spring. Our season starts early ( well, not so early this year!), and by this time we have a substantial part of the growing season under our belt. Oh yes, lots more to come. The pace of summer will be with us for awhile. We love the activity, we love chatting with our customers who visit the nursery, we even love weeding! Here are a few photos from around the garden.
Hosta ' Aureomaginata'

Hosta ‘ Aureomaginata’

Peony ostii

Peony ostii

Primula japonica

Primula japonica

Tree Peony ( unnamed)

Tree Peony ( unnamed)

We are bustling along here. New varieties of hosta being potted up daily. The sales area stocked with great native and woodland plants. The vegetable gardens filling in. The studio building is coming along. Our friend Ron has begun building a small cabin on our property, we love having him as a neighbor. He has been excited with the concept of the “Tiny House” movement and is working on his own version. Always something new and happening here at Fernwood! Picture 1151

Golden Slippers

Fernwood's  " Golden Slippers'  Convallaria

Fernwood’s ” Golden Slippers’ Convallaria

Convallaria ‘Fernwood’s Golden Slippers’ is a Lily of the Valley that we introduced here at Fenrnwood Nursery a few years ago. It is a sport of ‘Cream da Mint’, another of our Convallaria introductions. Golden Slippers appears in the spring with very bright gold leaves that will eventually turn to a light chartreuse color later in the season. It has larger than normal flowers that are just as fragrant as the more common selections. These are followed by red berries that are quite showy against the yellow foliage. Unlike most other Convallarias, it does not aggressively spread and take over an area. The chartreuse leaves do not look as tired and worn out at the end of the season, especially if kept out of too much sun and the soil is not allowed to get too dry. The golden leaves make for a great combination with the blue or red shades of the foliage and flowers of other plants. In a shade garden, ‘Golden Slippers’ creates a bright accent among some of its more subdued neighbors. ‘Fernwood’s Golden Slippers’ gets its name from the footwear of a dear friend of mine, Mildred Seaver. Mildred was an inspiration and terrific mentor within the Hosta world, having spent many years breeding and introducing a number of wonderful Hosta’s into the market. ‘Golden Slippers’ is a bright addition to the shade garden, and a forever reminder of my friend, Mildred. As we continue to wait for the snow to melt, preparations for the upcoming season are underway. Fernwood will open on May 9th, we look forward to greeting customers and getting our hands back into the soil!

BFL Skeins Still Available

DSC04995DSC05001There are still plenty of hand dyed Blue Face Leicester skeins of yarn available. Visit the nursery while we’re still open ( the end of September and then by chance or appointment thru October) if you’d like some soft and lustrous wool to knit with. You can also contact us, if you are coming just to purchase yarn. I have been knitting almost daily and so glad to be back at it. Outdoor work continues. We love being in the nursery at this time of year. Of course some of the native plants are going dormant, or have already, but the cool autumn days are a delight to work in, and we enjoy tending to the plants that remain. The hostas still look great, and many late blooming natives continue to put on a show. The vegetable gardens are getting a dose of sheep manure and compost, the beds turned over for next year. But, in the hoop house, things are just at their early beginnings……a new crop of spinach is coming along, mixed greens and lettuces are close to the picking stage, and another bunch of radish are close to being harvested. At the other end of the hoop house, there are still a few tomatoe plants producing and peppers that are waiting to turn red. Still, more food! In the evenings, after the chores for the day are complete, knitting and some spinning become my ‘after hours’ activity.DSC05019

Some Late Fragrance

Hosta ' Cathedral Windows'

Hosta ‘ Cathedral Windows’


Starting in August, some cultivars of hosta start to display blooms that are overall larger than most and also quite fragrant. These plants not only add color to the garden, but are considered by some the only ones worth allowing to bloom (an opinion not shared by us). Like most hostas, the flowers range in color from white to shades of lavender and purple, but do tend to be somewhat larger and showier. The largest and showiest is all is H. plantaginea. With pure white flowers up to 6” long, strong fragrance, and being of fairly large size, it is a very impressive plant in the garden. Since it is the only species that is fragrant, all fragrant cultivars available today are sports of, or are hybridized, with the genes of H. plantaginea in them. Currently there are around 60 or so cultivars that are listed and registered as fragrant. The reality is that some of them are not great growers and some are certainly more fragrant than others. H. plantaginea is native to southern China and therefore is more tolerant of heat and sun. Here in the north it is a good idea to plant it and all of its derivatives in a warmer and sunnier spot in the garden than other cultivars. This promotes better growth and heavier flowering. Also keep in mind that pathways, decks, open windows, and patios are excellent choices to take advantage of the fragrance. The strongest fragrance is usually in the evening. With all of the work that has gone into hybridizing hostas, many of the fragrant ones combine exceptional foliage qualities as well and are very desirable even if not fragrant. Some of my favorites, besides H. plantaginea , are ’Fragrant Queen’, ‘Cathedral Windows’, ‘Stained Glass’, ‘Sweet Innocence’, ‘Austin Dickinson’, and ‘Royal Standard’.
Hosta' Cathedral Windows'

Hosta’ Cathedral Windows’

To The Coast

Picture 1179 Earlier this week we made a trip to the coast. While hiking along a trail in Pemaquid, we came across this sign. Yep, littering is just not nice, and the trail we were on was pretty darn clean. Good job, sign! We stopped on the way home at the Island Store in South Bristol. If you’re traveling that way and want some good eats…this is the place to go!

Island Store South Bristol

Island Store
South Bristol

Lots of homemade salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. The shelves are stocked with other goodies…fresh bread and produce, condiments, treats, and a terrific wine selection. It’s a nice store to be in. Picture 1172The space is lovely, and the owner, Beth Fisher, is very welcoming and friendly. Beth sells beautiful linen aprons in the store. She was wearing one that day ( which looked terrific), and yes, I did have to bring one of these home with me. Surely you’ll want to visit the Island Store! Picture 1177
Then, a nice leisurely ride back to the home place. The gardens here are lush right now. We are really enjoying two of my favorite plants…Cimicifuga racemosa and Veronicastrum virginicum. Both plants are loaded with pollinators and their blooms reach above most everything else in the garden. We’ll try and get a few photos of both plants and share them on the blog. In August, we become very busy dividing and propagating. This is an excellent time for both, and it’s also a good time to edit the garden. Some plants needing to be moved and others added to the garden. The work continues, as well as the absolute enjoyment of it all! Below a photo of two great hostas in the garden, it’s been a terrific summer for hostas. Just the right amount of rain and cool temperatures.

Hostas Brother Stefan and  Winter Snow

Hostas Brother Stefan and Winter Snow

In The Gardens

Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin

Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin

Finally some rain today and this is a blessing. June has been lovely…warm and dry, with a bit of wind, which keeps the black flies and mosquitoes at bay. No complaints really, but it does mean that we spend a good part of our day watering pots in the nursery. Of course, we set up the sprinker system, but often need to shut it off when customers are here. During the heat of August, they may be asking us to keep it on. Please?! Try and imagine our grown up Fernwood customers abandoning their intent to find the perfect hosta and running through the sprinklers instead. It could happen, and if it does we’ll get photos and be sure to write a blog post about it! Though for today, we will be relieved of this one chore of watering, and the plants will get a good natural soaking.
The ladyslippers are either opening or opened. The yellow ladyslippers always catch people’s eye. They are certainly a favorite and the small ‘slippers’ are unique among flowers. We like them the best in the early morning when the dew is still on them. Sweet. What else is blooming?
Azealea

Azealea

Azalea

Azalea

azalea

azalea

The azaleas are also blooming and gorgeous . Also the thalictrum and a large patch of senecio.
Thalictrum

Thalictrum

Senecio

Senecio

In the vegetable garden, the very last of the carrots were sown…just before the rain. Some winter squash and another planting of greens. The first crop of spinach will be harvested and frozen. Often we make several spanakopitas ( greek spinach pie made with feta cheese and phyllo dough) with the fresh spinach, save one for dinner, and freeze the rest. In mid winter it’s nice to reach into the deep freeze and pull out a greek pie all ready to bake. Picture 935
The broccoli is beginning to form heads and the tatsoi and pak choi need picking before they bolt. In some ways it has been a late spring and the coolness has prolonged the growth of some things….tomatoes and peppers would appreciate a little more heat and a little more sun.Picture 931 In the meantime, we are happy for the things that enjoy the cooler temperatures and we will have to wait for the rest.
One last photo of those wonderful primula that continue to be a showstopper in the bed along the drive. This one taken looking directly down onto the flower……such great patterns in nature!Picture 902Picture 903