The beach towel and butcher knife were essential for my project, but a bungee cord, clothespin, a relatively small tarp, and a long, slim kitchen spatula rounded out the necessary items that I would need.
What was I going to do with this odd assortment?
These items were what I could easily get my hands on when I decided to repot the barberry.
Barberries should be called barb-berries. They have thorns that make those on roses positively puny! Barberry thorns don’t poke or stick, they impale! So, when repotting a barberry, you need to protect yourself. And that’s the reason for my odd assortment. Even deer won’t go near them.
Why did I have to repot the barberry?
The plant that needs repotting is an upright variety of barberry with green leaves that keeps its leaves in winter and is almost three feet tall above the pot. It was doing well in its red pot that was part of a set of three red pots in the front.
Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, a car backed up and hit the pot. It cracked and fell apart. So, it needed to be replaced. Meanwhile, while I looked for a new pot, it was wrapped in plastic to prevent drying out and set in a large bucket with some water in it.
Trying to find a replacement was its own adventure. I went to Freddies and Laurel Bay Gardens and online and could not find a red, large (at least 15 inches top inside dimensions) with a particular rounded shape. I could either find the shape and size but not the color or vice versa. It was frustrating. And they were all so expensive!
The person, who hit the pot with her car, felt terrible and conducted her own search. She found a blue-green pot at St. Vinnie’s and bought both it and a smaller one that matched. They were not exactly what I was looking for but quite nice. After some pondering, I decided that they would work. The large one was similar in shape of pot and almost large enough. With two of them matching, it would look better than just the one. So, I went for it.
I put new soil about a third of the way up the new larger pot. And a younger, stronger person placed the barberry into the new pot. He had to really work hard to cram it it. I don’t think the bottom of the plant hit the soil in the bottom of the pot, creating an air space, And there was no room at all for growth around the sides of the root ball. While it looked fine in its new pot, I knew it was not the best solution. It would probably die. So, I decided to repot.
Preparation is the key
I assembled my odd assortment and put on long sleeves and heavy-duty gloves. Because it was early morning, nobody walked by with their dogs or otherwise. So, I didn’t have to explain what I was up to.
I wrapped the barberry in the beach towel and held it in place with the clothespin. Then I snugged it tight with the bungee cord. That took care of the thorny part, but it also covered up where I needed to work. So, I tucked the bottom of the beach towel up into the bungee cord so I could see the base of the plant.
I used the spatula to loosen around the edges. Then started carving out chunks about three inches wide and about six inches deep and in length. I would cut and loosen with the butcher knife. Then work free with my gloved hands and drop onto the tarp.
It took a lot of hacking, a lot of effort, as I worked my way around the plant. Then I tried rocking the plant back and forth. Nothing at first, but gradually, it started moving. I finally worked it loose enough to pull out of the pot. Even at its reduced size, the plant was still heavy and awkward––almost more than I could handle.
Once it was out of the pot and lying on the tarp, I could easily carve the rest of the root ball, which was originally about 15 inches diameter and round. When I got through carving, it was more like about nine inches diameter by about 12 inches deep. Now I could handle it. Still heavy and awkward but doable.
I added more potting soil to the pot and replaced the plant and packed in more potting soil around it. Then moved it back into place and removed the beach towel. Then I removed the tarp with its pile of chunks of root ball and swept away any loose potting soil. After the clean up, everything looked the same. No one would have a clue to the morning’s repotting adventure.
I also repotted the smaller plant into the new, smaller, blue-green pot. It didn’t look so good, the colors didn’t work. So, I put it back in its original pot and put on my upper deck and put a new plant, lavender, in the new pot. It looks good and, what’s more, the deer don’t like lavender either.
Everything looks good once again, and both plants are thriving. I check on them every day. I just hope no more cars hit the pots. But if they do, I now know what to do!