Some years ago, Aldi had a shelf full of herbs for sale, and among them were pots housing three diminutive sprigs of rosemary. I had recently lost an epic rosemary shrub to a particularly cold winter, and I figured this little pot would get me through the season’s needs. The years since have been somewhat mild, and the plants continued to grow. The sprigs were transplanted into a series of increasingly larger pots and were eventually set into the ground as foundation shrubs in the front flower beds where they thrived in the abundant sunshine. The recent rainy spring seasons, however, sent the adjacent flowering cherry tree into overdrive casting the formerly sunny area into shade for much of the day. Here is one of the three shrubs looking rather spindly, reaching towards the afternoon sun to the west. It’s time for a move.
A neighbor had a large, old, declining maple removed a few days ago, and the east side of the yard will now be getting a lot more light in the morning, so the plants are taking a short trip in that direction on a day that rain is expected all afternoon. In addition to being a wonderful culinary herb and excellent skewer for grilling, rosemary makes a lovely hedge and is a good xeriscaping plant. Apart from regular pruning, I do nothing to these plants other than provide an annual application of compost and mulch, and they thrive. It is clear from how the weeds grow in this area that, at one time, the flower bed extended far beyond where it is now, so I made a plan to extend things once again and began clearing weeds.
The weedy ground cover here is a mixture of speedwell (Veronica spp.), which is fairly easy to pull, and mock strawberry (Potentilla indica), which is not. This area gets a fair amount of foot traffic and has been mowed for a few years, so the roots and stolons of the strawberries are thickly clumped, and it had been a few days since it rained. It took the mattock to really get things out. Normally, I am not quite such a glutton for punishment, but the unseasonably warm weather has me moving a little more quickly to get things pruned and transplanted before they are fully awake. There’s nothing like a little climate change to up one’s level of fitness.
To move a perennial like rosemary, cut back the foliage and stems to where you can see either a node or fresh growth beginning, then take a shovel and drive it into the ground all around the plant, aiming toward the center about a foot or so underneath the surface of the soil. If at all possible, lift the plant out of the ground with the vast majority of the roots still attached and contained within the cone-shaped clump of soil that you cut with the shovel. I admit this task is much easier if you have clay in the soil and not sand, which will often just slide right off the roots. Once the plant is removed from the ground, a wheel barrow does a nice job of gently transporting the heavy plant/soil agglomeration to the new location while keeping the soil intact. If you are lucky, the plant won’t even realize it’s been moved.
I prepared the new planting area by digging holes then filling them with water to make certain any disturbed roots got a good drink. Because the flower beds tend to get taller every year as compost, leaves, and wood mulch get added, I didn’t replace the soil I removed with the rosemary plants with what I dug from the new planting area. The surplus soil was moved over to the vegetable garden where I will use it to raise up some of the bricked walkways that have been sinking into the ground as those beds also build up with compost and mulch. Each plant went into its new place with a nice, intact root ball, but it will be a few weeks until I know how well the rosemary took to the move.
In the meantime, here is a peek inside the cold frame. The leafiest plants are six packs of petunias I picked up for the window boxes. The entire suite of plants was moved into the basement for four days when Mother Nature decided a few late freezes were in order, so they are all looking a tad anemic. They should green up again pretty quickly out here in the sunshine, and soon I will be transplanting these seedlings into larger pots or placing them in the beds. Best go check the weather report and make a plan.