Now’s the time to strike

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME -

MANY pop­u­lar gar­den plants are eas­ily prop­a­gated – col­lect­ing and sowing seeds is one way. How­ever, seedlings are usu­ally dif­fer­ent from par­ents and are of­ten in­fe­rior.

We can also pull or cut plants apart to cre­ate rooted di­vi­sions. Th­ese will be iden­ti­cal to mother plants.

Many plants suit­able for win­ter di­vi­sion in­clude most peren­ni­als, rasp­ber­ries and even thicket- form­ing trees such as hazel­nuts.

When cut­tings are taken from shrubs and roses and in­duced to form roots, the re­sult­ing plants will be the same as the par­ents.

Cut­tings are a cheap way to ob­tain large num­bers of ex­tra plants at vir­tu­ally no cost.

Semi- ripe cut­tings of ever­green shrubs such as daphne, aza­lea, abelia, laven­der and even rhodo­den­dron are best taken dur­ing sum­mer and early au­tumn.

Win­ter, how­ever, is the ideal time to take hard­wood cut­tings of suit­able de­cid­u­ous plants, once they shed leaves and be­come dor­mant.

June is a great month to gather and strike cut­tings of roses, hy­per­icum, hy­drangea, black­cur­rant, red­cur­rant, goose­berry, philadel­phus and grapevines.

Hard­wood cut­tings of some ex­trav­ig­or­ous rose va­ri­eties, if taken now, will have formed roots by late spring and may even pro­duce blooms dur­ing sum­mer.

Most rose plants we buy are grafted. Ex­cep­tions in­clude many pa­tio, minia­ture and ground- cover roses, which are usu­ally grown on their own roots so can never sprout alien suck­ers. They also live longer.

Some of the old­est roses I’ve ever seen – some more than a cen­tury old – had al­ways been grown from hard­wood cut­tings taken in early win­ter.

Only young growth pro­duced since spring is suit­able for cut­tings. Older, tougher wood can­not form roots. Se­lect sev­eral semi- ripe shoots and cut them free, prefer­ably with a small heel of older wood still at­tached. Re­move any fl ower buds and leaves.

Be­neath each leaf­stalk is an im­ma­ture bud. Trim each cut­ting from its tip so all are about two- thirds the length of a pen­cil, but a lit­tle thin­ner.

Long cut­tings are hard to strike. Small, sturdy cut­tings are more re­li­able. Long, fl ex­i­ble climb­ing or car­pet rose canes can be cut into short sec­tions. Each should have fi ve or six buds, in­clud­ing one at the base and an­other at the tip. The hard­est rose cut­tings to strike are those heav­ily armed with thorns. It helps if they are care­fully re­moved.

Dip­ping cut­tings in root­ing pow­der or gel stim­u­lates root for­ma­tion. I like to smear tiny amounts of honey over the base of each cut­ting to pro­vide es­sen­tial car­bo­hy­drates to help cut­tings sur­vive long enough to form roots.

Cut­tings taken from easy- strike rose plants and oth­ers that quickly form roots, such as hy­drangea, philadel­phus, grapevines and bud­dleja, can be tied to­gether in loose bun­dles be­fore insert­ing the bot­tom two- thirds in slightly sandy, moist gar­den soil.

Choose a shel­tered spot, out of di­rect sun­light and wind. A few stakes placed around will pro­tect cut­tings from ac­ci­den­tal dam­age.

Cut­tings may also be struck in con­tain­ers al­most fi lled with prop­a­ga­tion mix, con­sist­ing of one part each of coarse river sand and coco- peat.

How­ever, cut­tings in con­tain­ers are highly vul­ner­a­ble to dry­ing out, so they must be wa­tered reg­u­larly.

Roots be­gin to form dur­ing late win­ter. In spring, leaves ap­pear and growth be­gins. With some roses, only about half the cut­tings will strike. On the other hand, al­most all hy­drangea cut­tings form strong roots. Some peo­ple pre­fer to leave cut­tings undis­turbed un­til the fol­low­ing win­ter.

How­ever, those with strong, ac­tive roots can be care­fully lifted in mid- spring or sum­mer and ei­ther pot­ted into con­tain­ers or planted di­rectly into the gar­den. A few may even fl ower dur­ing the fi rst sum­mer, es­pe­cially car­pet and minia­ture rose cut­tings.

Hard­wood cut­tings are an easy way to prop­a­gate a large range of at­trac­tive or­na­men­tal and fruit plants in win­ter.

And it’s the cheap­est way I know of ob­tain­ing large num­bers of long- last­ing, valu­able plants to be given away as gifts or as an en­joy­able means of rais­ing funds for char­i­ties.

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