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It’s time to divide and conquer. Flowering bulbs and perennial shrubs are going to sleep for winter – the perfect time to split them apart and replant. With a couple sunny fall days this past weekend, I managed to divide and replant the entire front yard.

Front yard circa summer 2011

Our front yard has always been the forgotten garden corner. My attention, and pocketbook, have always prioritized the private retreat in our backyard. Unfortunately that means the curb appeal at our place is based almost exclusively on free plants: cuttings from ones in the backyard, excess bulbs and tubers from friends and family, clearance rack starts.

New plant starts: Euphorbia and artichokes

One general rule of thumb with planting design is to arrange the plants like a kindergarten photo: tallest in back and shortest up front. Euphorbia and artichokes were the largest evergreens and semi-evergreens, so these became my foundation shrubs to place closer to the house. They will provide great contrasting hues of green and a mix of texture. Euphorbia is vigorous, almost invasive, so I merely plucked up offshoots and shoved them into place.

Artichoke starts dug up from existing plants

Artichokes are easy to divide for starting new plants, but they need a little help. I dug up small pieces from healthy plants in the backyard, trying to get ones with a little root already started. Then I dipped the ends in rooting hormone and carefully planted. They now have a few months of rain to grow more roots and get settled in.

Rooting hormone sprinkled on artichoke roots. A little goes a long way.

I kept my focus on the evergreens in the front garden design, as these are really the skeleton for the whole space. My mid-level evergreen plant is sage. It’s nothing fancy, but it is easy to cut and divide. The fuzzy grey-green leaves will add some nice year-round color to the garden, not to mention the culinary value.

Lamb’s ear is another plant that borders on invasive in our garden. It is so easy to cut and divide, so no rooting hormone was needed to help it along. I just cut out pieces that had a strand of root attached and tucked them into place. These are my low-level evergreen plants, along with some oregano for contrasting foliage.

Rudbeckia starts

With my evergreen structure in place, it is time to work in some color. I bought a couple Rudbeckia plants on clearance recently and managed to cut two plants with a sharp spade into six plants. I wove them toward the front of the garden for some late summer seasonal yellow flowers.

Separating tubers from daylilies and irises to replant

Finally, I dug up and divided heaps of bulbs and tubers. Some were small daylilies, but most were irises I received from my grandmother’s garden. There are smaller, purple ones and huge bearded irises. The large ones were positioned toward the back of the garden, but right in front of my taller evergreen shrubs. This ensures they have a green backdrop to show off their gorgeous blooms. The smaller irises were planted closer to the front. I imagined they were like little waterways snaking through the garden.

The garden looks only slightly changed since my day of planting. But as spring comes around the corner in a few months, a couple weeks of sunshine following months of rain will make these plants spring to life. I’ll plant lavender up and down the walkway at the end of winter. The front garden should look like a well-designed, beautiful space by springtime. But give it another year and it will be mature and bursting with life!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson