The weather being on the clement side for the first time in ages, I have just come in, four hours later, from what was, to my mind, a quick job. In my head, that clump of Libertia grandiflora was not that big, and anyway, all I needed to do was wield a quick saw, and Bob’s your uncle. But, as we Piaseckis say, ‘No, Dave’.
For a start, the clump was huge and took several circuits of digging to even slightly budge, and then, when finally lifted out, I realised that the wet winter and the recent cold snap had rotted off some of the original plants, and all that stuff had to be picked out. Then, I realised that, even with quite big bits ready for planting, I now had 20 good sized plants to re-locate, not to mention 14 x 1 litre pots of 3-4 babies to be looked after until our Tostatenfleur Troc’Plantes at the end of April.
By the way, if you are ever in France with a car and pass a sign for a Troc’Plantes, stop and see! Technically, it is a plant-swap system, but most Troc’Plantes also sell rooted cuttings and baby plants for pennies.
So, having done all of that, and found new homes for my 20 good sized plants, I found that four hours had passed. Good heavens.
But the thing is, Libertia grandiflora is a jolly good plant. Looking a bit like an iris on a diet, slimmer, more arching leaves, in May, it goes Japanese, and produces these simply gorgeous sprays of creamy-white flowers. The rest of the year you are back to the ‘iris on a diet’ look, but it takes all weathers and stays green- making a good, 0.75cm high clump, that looks quite architectural in winter. It was also one of my first successes from seed, and so I am very sentimentally attached to it. It took several years for the tiny plants to mature their rhizomes enough to flower, so flowers will take a hit this year with my saw-style division- but the plants will be healthier without all the decaying stuff in the middle, and so I will wait.
Many books say, as this is a New Zealand native, that it needs moist soil. I think it is much more adaptable than that, as I have now got it planted in varying degrees of moisture from bone-dry (where it copes by being smaller and producing fewer flowers) to semi-shade and moist- it has not given up anywhere in my garden. It has handled cold down to -10C with ease, so is not as tender as some say, but I agree winter wet is not good, though probably won’t kill it. From seed it grows easily, though the seedlings are very tiny, they are tough. I got my seed from Special Plants, a fabulous nursery with seed by post, run by the brilliant Derry Watkins.
There is a second clump, possibly even bigger than this one, so it may be on the cards for tomorrow…