Divide and transplant: October gardening

I went outside to pull a couple of weeds this morning and wound up in the garden until dark, cutting back milkweed and blackened echincea. The autumn debris pickup is this week, so I’m trying to get all finished-for-the-season stuff out to the curb.

I also cleaned up the herb garden. It was all wrong. There was no harmony of height, shape, or color, and I couldn’t handle the chaos anymore. Low herbs like the silver mound Artemisia and the lemon thyme had spread such that greenery ringed the old woody stems at the center like a donut: the plants were bare in the middle. The spacing of the plants within the bed was off as well, with random dense clumpings adjacent to bare swaths of dirt due to plant losses during the year (catnip, rosemary).

I ripped out all the creeping thyme — it was unattractive and taking up valuable real estate — then didn’t stop pulling things out of the ground until I’d moved every plant in the bed except the roses.

herb garden after replanting 2881
Reorganized herb bed. I hope everything survives. Or at least most of it does.
  • Moved goldenrod from herb bed to back of the big bed next to the other goldenrod, behind the bee balm.
  • Divided the two giant clumps of lemon thyme into four clumps each; spaced the new smaller clumps along the border by the driveway. Also put one down by the street and one in the mailbox bed.
  • Divided the silver mound Artemisia in four; place three around the edge of the mailbox bed, and one by the street in the herb garden. The mailbox placement is likely wrong. I’ll need to adjust next year if they survive.
  • Moved the baby rue cuttings to the back, by the lawn and between the three rose bushes.
  • Divided the marjoram in four; placed two alternating between thymes by driveway, placed one by redbud (ripped out lemonbalm — it was the wrong height for that space), and moved one down by the street.
  • Moved penstamon from street to house edge of herb bed so we can see it from the window
  • Moved all three lavenders: they were taller than the rose behind them, and their spacing was weird. Moved one to the back of the herb bed next to the black-eyed susans, moved one to the center of the fat part of the herb bed, and moved one over by my chair in the other bed (the guara I transplanted next to my chair died).
  • Moved the little yellow tickseeds to the edge of the herb bed, by the driveway and spaced between the roses.
  • Cut a couple of clumps off of the lemon balm and moved them over to the back of the big bed; ripped out the mums that were there and replaced them with the lemon balm.
  • Moved a Russian sage from down by the street to between the two roses closest to the house; this looks like it may not have survived the transplant.
  • Planted a rosemary between the two roses closest to the house.

herb garden above view 2884
Another view of the tidied herb garden. I wish we had mulch 
Everything has room to grow. They won’t fill in their allotted space next year, but maybe the year after that.

Now I need to study my gardening books to see when I’m supposed to prune the roses and other shrubs.

Oct 1: still hummingbird(s)

I was worried that all the gardening I did yesterday might be too late in the season, and that when I sit in my garden chair I may no longer see butterflies and hummingbirds.

At 5:30 this evening I did see a hummingbird, though — it’s not too late! It sniffed around the transplanted zinnias, but they are wilted from being moved yesterday. The hummingbird wasn’t impressed. It moved over to the bee balm instead. 

It’s about 66 F right now, and sunny with clear October skies. I didn’t get a photo of the hummingbird, but I’m glad some wildlife is still around. 


The garden is transitioning from summer to fall. The milkweed is mottled and scraggly, the sweet basil is yellowed and setting seeds. The parsley bolted, the Thai basil fell over under its own weight.

It’s time to do some cleanup.

Yesterday it rained all day. It was one of my favorite types of autumn Saturdays: chilly, grey, raw. We spent most of the day running errands. We bought new alarm clocks for the kids, harvest candles for the mantle, pumpkin-pie-scented wax melts to make the house smell autumny, and at the last-minute, mums for the garden.

Our daughter and I spent a good half hour inspecting the different colors of mums, gravitating repeatedly to particular ones (white for our daughter, burgundy for me), thinking about the colors in our garden, looking at pictures of the flower bed on my phone, and brainstorming what we needed to clear out and where we could put our favorite-colored specimens.

Today, the drizzle and pregnant grey are gone. The sun shines bright in a clear blue sky, and raindrops glisten on the green grass. The mums are out there waiting for me. I see our daughter’s white ones in a happy clump where the parsley once was. The wind is chilly right now, though, despite the brilliant sun. I’ll need a jacket and gloves while I work.

For now, I’ve got my slippers on and am sipping coffee from the chair by the window. Leaves shiver on the pear trees across the street, maple branches swing, and coneflowers and salvia nod in the wind. I’ll plant the mums when my cup is empty.

I think I’ll have a refill.