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On a Chalk Hillside November 2019

Propagating plants to fill my garden - cuttings

Following on from last month’s post, I can confirm that the Acer Palmatum Dissectum ‘Seiryu’ seeds FINALLY ripened mid-October in time to be harvested, cleaned, and sent with the other seeds for the HPS seed distribution.  (And I had so many different types of seeds to send I didn’t in the end include the “just in case” Chives!):-

Several times in the past few posts I have mentioned increasing or replacing old plants by taking cuttings.  I take a lot of cuttings – some plants work well from cuttings, others I have less success with.     Recently I have been refreshing the maquis area of planting and digging out self seeders and old straggly plants that have sprawled over others killing or distorting them.  This involves some planning as I take cuttings of old plants – such as the prostrate rosemary I told you about in the article on the maquis planting – one year to root and grow on before removing or drastically pruning the parent plant the next year.  Another plant, planted next to the prostrate rosemary that has also grown old distorted and straggly is the Santolina chamaecyparissus as you can see from this picture taken at the end of July this year:-

With all the plants growing round it, it tried to jump onto the path – and as you can see now I have removed the rosemary and self seeders pressed up against it for so long has a bald middle and is “leggy”.  I took cuttings from it last year when I had to curtail its spread over the path which are growing on in a leggy manner this year, and so this year I took more cuttings - again in July:-

You can probably see the wall germander cuttings next to them (Teucrium chamaedrys) – all taken because I had to prune the parent plant for one reason or another – and this is my compulsion, I don’t like to waste the plant material if I prune or cut back so I take cuttings.  For example, when I prune the Weigela ‘Bristol Ruby’ after flowering in June I take cuttings from the prunings – you can see here a pot in the greenhouse a month later:-

Do you notice that the bigger leaves have been halved to reduce transpiration and help the cutting root?  I am getting better at doing that – though as you can see from these Vitis vinifera 'Schiava Grossa' cuttings, though some leaves are somewhat reduced in size I am not ruthless enough, and within two weeks of taking these cuttings leaves are dropping off them:-

I prune the Philadelphus coronarius at the same time as the weigela, and take cuttings too, but have only had two grow on into a big new plant in all the years doing it, whilst my success rate with the weigela is much better.  
I know you all know how to take cuttings, but I am going to risk annoying you by trying to explain how I take cuttings using an acer as an example.  You can see in the photo below the pruning of the Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’:-

I cut for example the left hand branch off the main stem flush.  Starting at the bottom of that branch and working up from there I move my secateurs up to below the first pair of leaves making a level cut there and then move the secateurs to just above the next pair of leaves and make the top cut there.  I then strip the bottom two leaves off.  I repeat along the branch so that the “foot” of each cutting is taken from just below a node (which is where the leaves grow from the stem or branch).  This is because there is supposed to be more cells in the stem at the point where the leaves grow from for a cutting to root from.  To minimise transpiration and stress on the cutting each cutting only has one pair of leaves, or part leaf if they are large.  Perhaps you can see what I mean if I show you the cuttings:- 

All the cuttings are placed round the edge of the pot in a mix of potting compost and vermiculite – roughly four to one by volume.  If I am taking grey foliage plant cuttings (the Santolina chamaecyparissus or lavender for example) I add in one part grit as well.  With plant material like the acer above its quite easy to use non-flowering shoots for cuttings, as recommended.  But in August, when my husband and I were discussing potential designs/plantings for new areas of the garden and my husband said the Golden Hop (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) would be good for covering particular areas so I should take cuttings now, it looked like this:-

Hmmn.  I really couldn’t find non-flowering shoots on this!  So, using the method I described for the acer I have taken cuttings from flowering shoots, and cut off all the flowers, and removed one of the pair of big leaves on each cutting taking a big chunk out of the other large leaf to reduce transpiration.  We shall see how successful this is.  (So far, writing in late October, two of these cuttings have rooted already.)
If you recall we used to have a Brown Turkey Fig on the Mediterranean Courtyard, and I always took cuttings when we pruned it.  I have had a good success rate with rooting the tips of the branches of the fig – cuttings about nine inches long, with no leaves just a fat brown bud (because the fig is pruned before the leaves come out).   Here is a picture of one of the rooted figs cuttings eighteen months after being taken – I usually have four cuttings to a pot, and when I see roots coming out of the bottom of the pot I pot them on separately – 

I guess these are the closest I get to hardwood cuttings – and they take a long time to root and thrive.  I have never been successful with hardwood cuttings placed in slits in the ground as recommended by the experts, so all my cuttings go into pots.  I am experimenting with a new-to-me type of cutting – leaf cuttings – this year, as my husband had a new red banana (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’) for his birthday this year and was very distressed to find one of the leaves sheered off by the wind one morning.  As it was only going to go on the compost heap, I thought I had nothing to lose trying to take leaf cuttings.  As you can see below I took about 8cm slices through the leaf and stood them upright into the compost.  I tried not to bury them too much but to get the bottom of the leaf cutting in contact with the compost all along its length.  We shall see how they get on.

Even though cuttings are taken at the same time, and receive the same growing conditions you do not always get the same result – see these Escallonia ‘Donard Seedling’ cuttings pictured in July this year:-

The pot on the left has got obvious signs of new growth showing the cuttings (taken in March) have rooted and are ready to pot on.  The pot on the right has many dead twigs and one cutting that is not yet dead, but has not rooted yet.   You win some you lose some!
Here is a shot of an assortment of cuttings growing on under the staging in my greenhouse in July (Please ignore the weeds in the pots and note lots of Salvia officinalis cuttings which I am trying to propagate in bulk for a new area of the garden – I mentioned collecting seed from it too last month):-

On top of the staging is a tray of Choisya ternata cuttings that were also taken in March this year and which have started rooting (one got pulled out of the pot by a stray cucumber tendril which is how I know this, as the roots are not big enough to show at the bottom of the pot yet):-

These are from a plant that is in the shrubbery in the gravel garden, which I will talk about next month.  It has grown huge, and regrettably does its best to bury the water standpipe next to the shrubbery and is a bone of contention between my husband and me about whether it can be contained or should be removed, hence me taking a lot of cuttings as insurance.

Sheila May

Posted by Sheila May

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