Gifts of the Garden
Many of you have received plants out of someone else’s garden to transplant in your own. These little gifts can also be a big learning experience. Below are some of the most common fall transplants and how to care for them.
Mint: Mint is one of the most common plants to give as a gift, but it has an aggressive habit of spreading underground. It can be so aggressive that you too might have to start giving it away. The good news is that the spreading of mint can be controlled by cutting off the bottom of a 6-inch pot to plant the mint in, so that they hang out the bottom. Use the leaves for a nice tea or as a garnish on pork.
Horseradish: Use the young roots to make a grated mash. Use them immediately or preserve in vinegar for the best flavor. A word of caution: Intact horseradish root hardly has any aroma, but the minute you grate it, a mustard oil is released that irritates the mucous membranes. Use the blender outside where there is plenty of air to avoid irritation. You’ll probably still shed a few tears, but the flavor is worth it.
Peony: My generous Pennsylvania friend gave me starts of white and pink peonies she had received from a lady who brought them from Ireland. Peonies never need dividing, and pink peony flowers are the most fragrant. They like to be left alone in a sunny, well-drained bed. If you need to move them, transplant in the fall. Cover the eyes with no more than 2 inches of soil or they will not bloom well. In the first year of growing peonies, use a light mulch to protect the eyes from winter. Remove mulch in March. Peonies are great for beautiful May flowers, and lovely, green 3-foot shrubs the rest of the year.
Primrose: Another Pennsylvania garden gift is my spring-blooming red primrose with yellow centers. They are the center of attention in my April gardens. Hardy winter primrose clumps may be divided every three years. The foliage remains lovely until fall when it starts to look worn out. At that point, I cut off the old leaves and new leaves emerge that stay green for the following year. Extensive research has not told me what Primula vulgaris cultivar it is. When Brett of Brett and Becky’s Bulbs toured my gardens, I asked him to identify it. “Oh, that’s a ‘pass-along plant,’ ” he said.
A lot of us have “pass-along plants” that we have been gifted with. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know the correct name. We love the plant anyway and are thankful to the person who shared with us.