Sally Mullins

We are experiencing unusual summer weather, but that is nothing new. The weather has not been normal for some time now.

Although at this point in time, what qualifies as normal is anybody’s guess. But that’s the fun of life, is it not? Never a dull moment.

I want to begin with a comment about copperhead snakes. August is when they have their young and although their venom is not more potent than that of an adult, the youngsters are excitable and tend to continue striking after the initial bite, getting more venom into their prey.

They have bright yellow ends on their tails, so copperhead babies are very different looking snakes. Show your children pictures on the Internet so they know what the small snakes look like and stress that they are poisonous and to be avoided at all costs. Seeing a picture always makes a longer lasting impression than just talking about it.

Personally, I stay away from any and all snakes and that might be a good thing to teach your kids.

There is no time like the present to divide and move bearded iris. We are having some cooler days and mid- to late August is the best time to be doing that. And even if you aren’t moving them, except for the reblooming varieties, they can all be cut back to about 6 inches.

When dividing, use only the vigorous healthy ends of the rhizomes, making a sharp cut to remove the old center portion and any soft areas. Once they’re separated and cleaned, put them in their new bed, roots first, making sure to cover only about three quarters of the rhizome with soil. They are sunbathers and need to bake out in the sun to perform well.

This is also the time to divide and clean out all your Asiatic, Oriental and tiger lilies that have finished blooming and have turned brown and ugly while still allowing any that are still green to stand until they tum brown.

Even if they look dead, never pull the stalks out of the ground as you might accidentally pull up the whole bulb. Always cut them to the ground with a knife or pruners. If you are dividing your lilies, bear in mind they have no dormant period and need replanted as soon as possible. That means you should only dig out as many as you can transplant on the same day.

I have found the best way to do any transplanting is to dig the new holes and get the soil ready before we dig anything out. If you have a lot of bulbs that will need new homes, it might be a good idea to get the new area ready the day before. Carefully dig the bulbs out with a garden fork, wipe off the soil and discard any that are soft or look diseased, and then replant them at the same depth they were.

Water well and since lilies like cool roots, give them some mulch. Continue to water them sparingly in the fall.

Lilies of the valley are one of my favorite flowers and we try to thin them out every 3 or 4 years. Since they can get out of control quickly, you may need to do it more frequently.

Get a large shaded bed ready with soil and any additives before you dig them out. Separate and replant the pips about 3” apart. There are always more pips than I thought and we had to make a new bed down at the bottom of the garden. It’s nice and shady down there and since I grow them to cut, it’s a perfect place for them.

Yellow and brown daylilies that have finished blooming can be cut down and divided now also. Just as you did with the iris, don’t bother the rebloomers.

After several years of no flowers (and very little green foliage, truth be told) on our cardinal plants (Lobelia), this year we had well over a dozen plants with gorgeous red flowers. I have no idea why they were doing so poor1y, and nothing changed, but for whatever reason, after 4 years, they decided to provide us with a spectacular display this summer.

The naked ladies (lycoris squamigera) are not blooming as I had hoped, but some flowers appeared in a bed we had thought was long gone. Who knows? Apparently, not me. And, don’t even get me started on the groundhog. But, thank you Erik for the advice.

Now a word about all this dividing and transplanting. I have always done my transplanting when I had the time to do it, and that was not necessarily by any date on the calendar. My main rule is to never do any major moving or planting on hot sunny days. Other than that, anything goes. So, if you have daylilies that need a new home in the spring, move them then. I’m sure there are many exceptions, peonies being the main one, but gardening can be done on your schedule. Just be sure to follow the basic rules and you should be fine.

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