Gardening: Time to increase your stock by taking cuttings

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This year’s summer has been a long and enjoyable one for both plants and gardeners alike.

Gardeners all over the country must be pleased with the results of their labours and will be eager to reproduce or even improve on them for next year. As we know gardening is all about forward planning and there are many jobs that the gardener can tackle at this time of the year that can give a good head start to next year’s growing season.

At Harlow Carr we are beginning to bring in the tender plants from the containers for storage. At the same time we are also taking cuttings from some of the tenderest plants most notably from some of the Salvia species. We tend to clean and pot on the plants and store in a frost free glass house and use the plants as stock plants for cutting material to be taken next spring.

It’s not just the tender pot and bedding plants that we need to assess for cutting material, there are many trees and shrubs that provide suitable propagation material that will also root at this time of the year. This type of cutting is called the semi-ripe cutting. Of all the different types of cutting we can take I cannot think of one that allows the gardener to take cuttings from such a vast range of plants.

Semi-ripe cuttings are taken from late summer through to late autumn; the material we take from the plant is generally soft to the tip and has a hard green stem with a semi-wooden base or heel. This heel from the older wood of the plant is so important in that it contains food reserves that enable the cutting to develop an adequate rooting system. Most of the cuttings can be placed into a seed tray or pots in a cold frame or cold glass house; however cuttings from Heathers, Salvia, Hebe and Penstemon will require bottom heat from a propagator.

If you don’t possess a propagator unit then you can place the cuttings into a 9cm pot and simply cover the cuttings with a polythene bag and place in a warm part of the house, this will enable the cuttings to stay humid until they have rooted, the cuttings can then be overwintered inside a frost free glass house.

Semi ripe cuttings taken and placed into a cold frame or cold glasshouse should be protected from severe cold and frost by using sacking over the frame tops to help insulate the plants and composts, this should only be done during extremely cold conditions, the cuttings should not be deprived of light for long periods of time and on suitable milder periods in the winter the cuttings should be ventilated.

This however does not apply to cuttings taken from tender plants; they will need to be kept indoors until the following spring.

This form of plant propagation is relatively cheap to do and can save the gardener a lot of money in the long term. It is worthwhile assessing the plants in your garden that maybe damaged during severe winters such as Lavender, Rosemary, Bay and Ceanothus, these are just a few of the plants that can be damaged and may even be lost during extreme winters and it would be wise to take cuttings from these plants each year as an insurance policy. The following list includes just a few plants that can be taken as semi ripe cuttings at this time of the year. Erica carnea, Calluna vulgaris, Ilex aqulifolium, Ceanothus, Laurus nobilis, Taxus, Juniperus, Daphne, Buddleja, Lavender, Potentilla, Arbutus, Escallonia, Penstemon.

Finally when taking cuttings always take care and use a cutting board when making the cutting with a knife.

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