OUTDOORS: Some plants are just meant to be shared with others

Photo by author: These peonies have been a part of Beverley Clung’s life since she was six years old. Everywhere she goes, they go. (Courtesy photo/Linda Corwine McIntosh)

Some plants are just meant to be shared with others

If you have spring or summer blooming perennials that aren’t blooming quite as well as they once did, are out-growing their area, or if you would like to move or share them, this is the time to do so. Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to moving or transplanting your plant, or even saving the seeds from a plant, but I’d like to share a couple stories about some very special plants. Maybe you’ll be inspired.

I recently did some work for a remarkable lady, Beverly Clung. She was raised by her grandparents in Kansas and when she was six years old, she helped her grandmother plant the most gorgeous peonies. She has fond memories of her grandparents and her taking beautiful bouquets of peonies in canning jars to place on the graves of loved ones on Memorial Day.

She lived in Kansas until her husband graduated from college in 1962. From there she moved to Illinois where she lived for 25 years. While in Illinois her grandmother died at age 86 but the peonies continued to thrive. One day her grandfather dug up some of the peonies, placed them in a large cigar box, and boarded a plane. He carried those plants on his lap all the way to Matamoras, Illinois (you could do that in those days!), to surprise Beverly and give them to her. She planted those plants with her grandfather and according to Beverly, they grew into an outstanding display of color. She divided them over the years and shared them with friends and neighbors.

She later moved to Indiana, and as you probably guessed, the beloved peonies once again moved with her. She lived there enjoying the peonies and sharing them with friends until 2020 when her husband retired and they moved to Ridgway where she once again planted her treasured plants. She was anxious to show me the plants and tell me the story of the cranberry-colored plants with gorgeous yellow centers and a hint of orange that were blooming in her flowerbed.

In the fall, about the first or second week of October, you can find her cutting off the summer growth. She will divide them again when it becomes necessary. (She says to make sure the peonies have been watered well before you attempt to transplant and separate them.)

The way Beverly puts it, she “spread her grandmother’s plants all over the country, sharing them with people.” I think of her as the Johnny Appleseed of peonies. Beverly will turn 83 in November and the plants have always been a part of her life. What a fantastic legacy for her and her grandmother!

My daughter also has some very special plants that her mother-in-law gave her.

Her mother-in-law’s grandmother moved from Germany to Russia, and took what they refer to as “German berries” with her. In 1906, they fled Russia because of the revolution. When they left Russia they took along the berries and some marigold seeds.

It was a long, arduous journey to get into the U.S. before finally settling in the Delta area. They said those berries helped sustain them during that time. I’m told, to this day, many people in the Delta area know about the berries, and have some of those “German berries.” I’m lucky enough to be a recipient of some of those special marigold seeds.

I’m sure many of us have iris or canna lily plants that tell a story of moving from a home location to another and taking the plants with us. I’m even betting you might also have some interesting stories and memories of your special plants. Anyway, I hope so!

I think some of our plants become like old friends, or almost family over the years. But even if you don’t have a special plant, this is a great time to divide your spring and summer blooming perennials or save some seeds from your favorite annual plants. Just be sure the plants you’re moving or the seeds that you’re saving are not invasive species plants!

If you need information on how to divide your perennials, just do a web search and type in Colorado State University how to divide perennials. Or do the same with how to save seeds. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of information to help you out.

This reminds me. The Tri-River Area Master Gardeners are having their annual plant sale Saturday, Oct. 9, from 9 a.m. — 1p.m. at the Mesa County Extension Office. Some of the plants and trees are donated by garden centers, but some are plants that master gardeners have dug from their own gardens and are just waiting for you to plant them in your garden.

So if you have perennial plants that are no longer producing great flowers, or ornamental grasses that are growing in a ring around a dead center, it’s probably time to divide them. But don’t throw away the portion you don’t want! Share the plants with someone! Who knows, you may be starting your own legacy.

Linda Corwine McIntosh is a licensed pesticide applicator, certified ISA arborist and CSU advanced master gardener.

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