Now’s the time to strike
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.