Friend gifts clump of Jacob’s Ladder

A very kind and generous friend recently gifted us with a clump of Jacob’s Ladder. Are you familiar with this plant? It is a pretty perennial that has a thick, bushy growing habit with dainty leaves, similar to a fern. It has delicate white, blue or mauve blooms in mid-spring, grows to about eighteen inches high and almost as wide, and once it is established, and makes a beautiful plant of texture among our other plants.

The two-dollar name for Jacob’s Ladder is “polemonium caeruleum”, and it belongs to a family of plants that includes phlox. The plant originally grew in the dappled shade of woodlands, so when we plant it in our gardens, we should be aware that it prefers a semi-shaded or shaded spot. It likes evenly moist, well drained, but not wet soil. It’s not prone to having any pest problems or diseases, and does not require any pruning except to take off the spent flower heads, at which time we can give it a dose of balanced fertilizer. Or, if you prefer, you can leave the spent blooms on the plant, and it can self- seed.

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And what of the name, “Jacob’s Ladder”? This comes from the shape of the leaves, which are neatly stacked on each side of the stems, resembling rungs on a ladder, and supposedly refers to the Bible story in Genesis where Jacob dreamed of a ladder leading from earth to Heaven, with angels making their way up and down the ladder. Because it is so pretty and easy-care, we could easily say it is a “heavenly” plant for our perennial beds!

The time has come, gardeners, where summer is getting tired and relaxing into fall, and that means we should take a look at perennials in our gardens and see if any should be divided or moved. How do we know if it is time to divide a perennial? If you see plants that are too crowded and are pushing shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors, it is time to move them or divide them.

With dividing plants, as with many things in life, it is best to be proactive and do it before you really have to: if you are beginning to see an empty spot in the middle of the plant, with smaller leaves and fewer blooms, it is time to divide the plant. Now that the temperatures overall are beginning to cool down, it is a good time to work on this project.

Be careful to disturb the roots as little as possible. Start digging far out, at the line from the edge of the leaves: don’t start close to the base of the plant. Dig out a good portion of soil with the plant, then put this section on the ground and carefully check if you can coax sections of the plant apart. Depending on the plant you may need to use a garden knife, or on larger specimens, you may have to use a spade or garden fork. But always aim to disturb the plant as little as possible, and make the cuts as clean as possible.

If you are planting the smaller portion of the plant back in the same spot, I read that we should use a clump that is only 25% the original. It may look puny right now, but this will give the plant room to grow and be its best.

Since we’re talking about plants, the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society will be holding their Fall Plant and Bulb Sale on Friday, September 20 from 9:30 a.m. till 5 p.m. at the Parkland Mall, Yorkton. Take note of the date and stop by for new additions to your garden!

And the Yorkton Gardeners’ Market is on Saturdays, 8:00 a.m. till noon at Melrose Avenue and Simpson Street, Yorkton. Stop by for fresh produce and more!

Visit us at www.yorktonhort.ca, and have a great week! Even though it’s cooler, be sure to wear a hat!

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