Weekend work: Time to divide bearded irises


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The Independent Online

What to do

* There is still time to divide bearded irises. Lift congested clumps and pull the healthiest new growths away from the old exhausted rhizomes in the centre of the clump. Make sure that each new plant has plenty of roots. Trim the leaves back to no more than 30cm and replant the rhizomes firmly, leaving the top half of each one uncovered above the soil.

* Layer border carnations by choosing vigorous side growths and nicking the underside of each stem that you want to layer. Fork up and loosen the soil round the parent plant. Remove the lower leaves from each stem and bend them separately into the earth, pushing them at least 2cm deep. Keep them in place with hairpins. Water the layers thoroughly and keep the earth damp for the next month while they root. When they seem well anchored, cut the stem between layer and parent plant and leave them for another two weeks to recover from the shock. Then replant them.

* The first hyacinth bulbs for forcing are already in shops and garden centres. If you want these extra-early bulbs to flower by Christmas, they need to be planted before the middle of September. Choose a bowl at least 10cm deep and, if it has no drainage holes, use bulb fibre rather than compost for the planting. Set the bulbs with their noses above the surface of the compost and water well. Store the bowl in a cool place (not more than 48F) for 8-11 weeks. Bring the bowl into the warm when the flower buds are pushing out from the bulbs. Flowering should be in full swing three weeks after the bulbs come into the light.

What to recycle

* Used plastic plant pots build up in terrifying proportions in sheds and greenhouses. You always have more than you'll ever need yourself. You can now take them to any nursery belonging to The Garden Centre Group (which includes the Andover Garden Centre, Hants SP11 7DN, the Beaconsfield Garden Centre, Bucks HP9 1SH and the Bicester Avenue Garden Centre, Oxon OX25 2NY) where they will be collected by design company A Short Walk to be recycled into labels, clocks and garden chalk boards. For a full list of participating nurseries go to thegardencentregroup.co.uk  or the design company's website ashortwalk.com