Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Gardening Task #3: Move and Thin Perennial Seedlings

Oh, what a wonderful sight!
Columbine (Aquilegia) seedlings around the Circle Lawn
Baby flowers everywhere. But we want them all to thrive, instead of smothering each other.  And there are some areas in the garden that are void of these Columbine (Aquilegia) beauties. The solution is simple: pluck them out with a japanese knife (my favorite tool) or a trowel and set them to growing in the bare areas.

This is my favorite kind of gardening. Leisurely.
Here, there and everywhere amongst the geraniums, sedums and turf.
Firstly, it is always better to transplant little babies like these on cloudy or rainy days in spring or fall. 

Do not be afraid to pop them out, even large sections of seedlings. I usually put them in a large pot (steer clear the holes or use a box instead!), divide them apart from each other and then walk around the rest of the garden thinking about where a nice patch of columbine would add some color at the end of May. 

Be sure the soil in their new home is loose, not compacted. Dig tiny holes and be sure that, when you put them in, they are not planted too deeply.  Their tiny crowns need to be just at soil level. If you do not have the advantage of rain after planting, then give them a gentle, tiny sprinkle for their new tiny hole.  I prefer swaths of flowers, so I often plant several seedlings in the same area... some times dozens in a larger area.

Columbine, forget-me-nots and foxglove foliage in May this year.
In the fall, I thin my columbine (Aquilegia), forget-me-nots (Myosotis) and foxgloves (Digitalis). I might also find other little babies that I would like to have more of around the base of their parent plants. Large sections of my garden were covered in just a few years with the extra care in moving these seedling babies around.

You will be richly rewarded for your cold, rainy work come next year!

Read more from the Fall Gardening Tasks series:
#1 Planting Lavender in wet climates
#2 New perennials for fall planting


  1. Such an informative post. Thank you!

  2. You sure had success with the columbine seeds. They will be so beautiful when they bloom in the spring.

  3. Columbine are awesome spring plants. Nice that they multiply so readily.

  4. Just what I was doing in the this time of year.

  5. I agree totally, this is my favourite kind of gardening too. I have had aquilegia in the garden since the very first year but they have never seeded, I have no idea why not, so I am not a little envious of your bounty – but I can see you will make good use of the babies, it will be lovely to see them in flower next spring Christina


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