Still not ready to face the empty space in my backyard, even though there’s a small assembly of shrubs and groundcovers standing in line and waiting to be planted, I put the gloves and the old shoes on yesterday and headed out anyway. There is (now, was) a clump of irises in the front that could stand dividing.
I have more been a planter and tender than propagator, and aside from splitting up some hostas, my experience making two or more plants from one is slim indeed. I turned to the web for guidance, and I found instructions, with pictures (even better), by Todd Meier at Fine Gardening magazine.
After about an hour of loosening and then prying the clump from the ground, slicing the rhizomes, untangling the hairy roots, and clipping back the greenery to a third so that each cluster of leaves had rhizomes and roots, I found myself with 26 “new” irises to plant. I counted and photographed them, then stacked them on the board I cut them on. A neighbor walked by with her dog. “What are those, onions?”
“Nope. Irises. I just dug them up and divided them.”
She has seen me work in the yard many times before; I wonder if dog walkers hold all the lore in the neighborhood. “You seem so knowledgeable.”
“Not really. I had to go on the web and find instructions how to do this, and it was pretty easy.” Besides, she’s a doctor and high up in the commonwealth’s public health department, keeping us all immunized, responding to epidemics and other threats. That seems like knowledge, to me. What I’m doing seems like the careful following of instructions.
“Oh, still,” she says. The dog leads her away. I go back to the task.
At least 15 years ago, I consulted with a counselor at Radcliffe Career Services. Before the appointment, I had filled out a bunch of questionnaires and completed the Myers-Briggs. One exercise was to make, simply, a list of 20 activities I enjoyed. High up on my list was “cutting things,” along with, of course, writing, drinking coffee, and knitting. The counselor was perplexed: “What are we supposed to do with this, ‘cutting things’?” I replied that I didn’t know; it was her exercise, not mine. She had a good nature and laughed. And, even though I have failed, since then, to find a job involving all of the top 10 items on that list, it remains true that any activity involving a knife or sharp scissors is a good one, according to me.