Big Clump Managment

Iris,  offsetting Aloes, Agaves, and that blue Senecio.

I far prefer solitary Aloes and Agaves, and non-spreading plants to those that form spreading masses.  Big clumps are a matter for serious planned "management", the opposite of my scattershot,  short-attention-span style.  I didn't realize one Iris would become one hundred, one Aloe would become one hundred, or that blue Senecio was so vigorous.  

Here in Southern California, the standard advice is to dig up and replant bearded Iris when they are dormant, which means August.  Hot, hot August.  This year for the first time in many, a dig up took place, because this August has been, for August, mild.   
  Iris flowers create a magic moment in spring: a few weeks of graceful shape and saturated color (only a few days if there are early Spring heat waves).  Out of flower, Iris foliage creates a fine effect at the base of roses.   The constant but light leaf-grooming required to keep them looking their best is not a bother, but they have a long period of down time, eleven months worth.  When the growing season is twelve months, eleven is a long time. 
All dug out:
Now what?
The Iris did not get replanted.  There were longer-flowering plants needing a place in the ground and this is a prime, high visibility spot.  Even more hummingbird activity wouldn't hurt.  The Salvia and Cuphea will provide that. 
Need any Iris? 
The soil here does not turn into concrete in the summertime, so digging the Iris and cleaning up the soil in the area wasn't all that arduous--maybe two hours total, split between early morning and late afternoon, when the area is in shade.  

Experiment:  planted a few Iris behind some roses, the theory being that when the roses are still short due to winter pruning, the Iris flower stems behind them will be ornamental in Spring, and the Iris foliage will be out of the way come summer.  We'll see if that works next Spring.   
Other big clumps in the garden are more difficult.  Though technically not a cluster or clump, Agave marmorata was the size of a clump.  Now bloomed out, time to remove it.  There is a lot to remove. 
 I've been hacking away at it a little at a time.
 Letting the meter-long leaves dry out reduces green waste.  A fully hydrated leaf vs. a dried leaf is like the difference between a potato and a potato chip.
Leaves off.  
 Flower stem and the stump itself still to go.  The white arrow indicates a solitary offset from the Agave, should I choose to replant it.  The flower stem holds hundreds of seed pods, and zero  bulbils (plantlets). 
 Even scarier are several Aloe clumps.  Is it time also to pull out the massive clumps of Aloe 'Cynthia Gitty', Aloe x megalacantha, Aloe dorotheae, as well as non-Aloe Senecio mandraliscae?   To clean up and replant them in a more aesthetically pleasing, "designed" arrangement?  Now would be the time.  
 Will I manage to do that?  Or are they managing me? 

  Any massive clumps in your garden you are scared of?  How do you manage, or not manage them? 

Comments

  1. I dug out almost all of my bearded iris a few years ago, I needed the space for other things-and yes , that 11-month downtime issue. But I missed them, so last spring I observed some empty space behind some short herbaceous stuff that will be just emerging when the iris blooms and will completely hide them in summer. I ordered from Schreiners and they will be here next month. My Agave 'Arizona Star' is offsetting and I'm agonizing over that one. It's getting big , so a decision with have to be made.

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    1. They do make a Springtime "moment", don't they? I'll replant a few, for sure. Sounds like you have a good place for some. Did not know 'Arizona Star' offset. Thought that one was solitary. Save one offset and give away the rest? They are not impossible to remove--sometimes.

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  2. I'm facing the removal of 2 Agave desmettiana bloom spikes when the bulbils are well-developed - or they lean over into the street, whichever happens first - but I'll probably enlist the assistance of my spouse when the time comes. He usually helps me tackle the big stuff but dealing with rhizomes running wild is all my responsibility. I REALLY need to dig out the Liriope spicata I foolishly planted in one bed years ago and, since Symphyotrichum chilensis also behaved badly after last winter's rain, that should probably come out too. And then there's the asparagus fern that still takes up space better used for nicer plants. I can't say I'm looking forward to any of these tasks and will probably put them off until our temperatures are reliably cooler.

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    1. Desmettiana is pretty easy. Not to worry. I too planted some Liriope, dug it out, and it has come back every year for a decade or more, and I pull it out every year, which keeps it under control.

      Asparagus fern is just plain nasty. You have my sympathy there. Found a seeding in the garden a year ago planted by a bird's backside and dug it out that moment. Hot this week, but considering summer as a whole, it's been unexpectedly nice.

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  3. I have some massive daylily clumps that I dug up a couple of years ago that are still just sitting around with their root balls exposed, undivided. They leaf out and flower every year. Finally doing something with them is going to be one of my fall projects. I really would not want to dig up a flowered out Agave, or a big clump of poky ones. Are you serious about not wanting all of your irises? I will take some if you don't mind sticking them in a box and mailing them.

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    1. I emailed you about the Iris.

      Daylilys are survivors, even more so than Iris. And you have the rain to get them through a lot of the year. I hope you find spots for a few. Nice in a your new meadow, no?

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  4. I hear you. I typically wait too long because I can't make up my mind. I think you could easily reduce the aloe clumps by half and still have a nice display.

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    1. Well you deal with Bamboo, which makes a 8' Agave look like nothing. Don't know how you manage Bamboo.

      I think I have enough of those Aloes to fill the entire slope. How can they spread so without any water?

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  5. Oh my, I had no idea that Aloe could get that large of a clump. I think they look pretty though I don't know how they are supposed to look. I think all of those aloe blooms look outstanding together. I guess when they stop blooming is when you need to thin out the pack.
    I have a huge clump of iris that I was going to thin out AGAIN this year. Unfortunately they have the dreaded Iris borer. Those borers make the leaves look pitaful. I don't know where they came from but this makes me sad because I love irises. I don't know how to get rid of the borers or if you even can get rid of them.

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    1. We have so far escaped the dreaded Iris borer. Too dry here, maybe. I've read about it--devastating. Sorry to hear that. I remember your Iris flowers from this spring, so pretty!

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  6. My husband, son and I spent two days pulling out Epilobium (pink fireweed) from a relatively small space. It has rhizomes as big around as my wrist with new ones shooting out in every direction. I know there will be lots more work but currently we are congratulating ourselves for finally tackling it.

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    1. I'm very late with comments. Lots going on.

      Nice to work on a tedious chore as a group, sometimes. Nothing feels as good as a sense of of accomplishment in the garden (except maybe eating ice cream). Rhizomes as big around as your wrist sounds a lot worse than shallow-rooted Iris! I looked up that plant--we have some weedy Epilobiums around here, but not anything like pink fireweed. Too dry here, probably.

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  7. I've missed the flowers of 'Cynthia Giddy' this summer but can't handle her fast-moving ways so it's probably best. Since I don't need to cover the ground like you do, I don't have significant clump management. But I have been alarmed at the girth of my bocconia, which I love but wondered if I was playing with fire -- when it occurred to me to limb it up like the tetrapanax. Duh! Now light is flooding back in and balance and control regained. Another plant I thin a lot is the dark phormium, which is smack up against an expanding Aloe 'Moonglow.' I just cut the phormium leaves down as close to the base as I can then pull out the dead growth when it dries out months later. Lots of tinkering going on! No agaves in bloom at the moment, knock wood...

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    1. 'Cynthia' seems to start slow, but doesn't stay slow. Your Bocconia is so cool, good that you found a way to manage it without removing it (yet). Dark Phormiums are beautiful but they do get massive eventually. I've pulled out out a few.

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  8. My front slope, which is meant to be succulents - the aloes are getting smothered by pelargoniums and euphorbias.

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    1. Our best laid plans...the plants often have other ideas!

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