Spading Fork & Spade for Dividing Daylilies

spading fork & spade

spading fork & spade

Wondering how to spend November in the garden?
This is the perfect time to take up the easily neglected task of dividing daylilies, agapanthus, Shasta daisies, society garlic, fortnight lily and New Zealand flax, among the workhorses of the perennial bed. The tools of choice for this task are a spading fork and a spade. A spading fork is not a pitchfork. It has thicker, shorter tines, a shorter shaft and a D-shaped handle. The beauty of the spading fork is that it allows you to dig under a clump of vegetation and remove it with minimal disturbance to the roots, which dangle through the fork tines.
A spade, which looks like a flattened shovel, is ideal for making sharp cuts through perennial clumps, separations that create many plants from one.
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are plants that offer rewards way out of proportion to the effort required to grow and maintain them. Provided with full- to half-day sun, daylilies gleefully spread by means of fleshy, tuberous roots, virtually without regard to soil type or fertilizer.
Flowers come in waves throughout the year. When the leaves turn yellow and brown and your daylilies lose their luster, cut the plants down to the ground. Within days, you will see a fresh crop of leaves begin to grow.
This cutting-to-the-ground technique is often useful in rejuvenating clumping perennials. When society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) begins to look old and tired due to the accumulation of dead flower stems and yellowing leaves, it should also be cut to the ground. This is a plant that you either love because of its soft foliage and sprays of glowing, pinkish mauve flowers, or hate because of its garlic smell.
Society garlic only grows about 2 feet tall and begs to be used as an edging plant. However, it is wisest to use it for edging a driveway or in a planter deep in the yard, where its odor will not be an oppressive presence. Avoid planting it near entryways or patios.
Fortnight lily, also known as Dietes or Moraea, is the bane of many Valley gardeners. After a few years in the ground, it becomes a morass of chlorotic, burned and tattered leaves. These are meant to be neat, decorous spears but in their compromised condition are more comparable to the unmanageable snakes on Medusa’s head. The fortnight lily is planted because it produces masses of white or yellow butterfly flowers when it is young, and it requires a pittance of water. After it goes bad, the only way to salvage this plant is to dig it up and save sections that still show green color. Once a section has turned yellow, it will never become green again. Of course, you can always cut fortnight lily to the ground and make a fresh start. With this plant, however, there is a law of diminishing returns. The newly emerged clump will be less vigorous, turn yellow sooner and be less floriferous than its predecessor.
Another big disappointment in the Valley, all too frequently, is New Zealand flax. Since it is touted as a drought-tolerant plant, people make the mistake of planting it in full sun, where it burns and develops a washed-out look. New Zealand flax (Phormium) is more successful in our area when it receives either morning or afternoon sun, but not both.
Incidentally, many clumping succulent plants, such as aloes, which are similarly drought-tolerant, should also be kept out of full Valley sun.

Photo credit: erix! / / CC BY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.