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Cornucopia - Potting on

Potting on
Susan Ferguson

It was when I took some interesting baby seedling plants to a friend whose garden I was visiting and she exclaimed “Oh you’re a seedy person” that I realised how much I enjoy growing things from seed. She is a ‘splitting’ person whose nursery bed has rows of lovely plants which she has divided from plants in her garden. This has the added benefit of rejuvenating the parent plant in the garden as well as providing new ones. Others are ‘cuttings’ people who can never prune anything without sticking some bits into a pot to see if they take. All of us are propagators, making more plants for our gardens.

The best bit about being a seedy person is that it all takes place in the comfort of my greenhouse. This year I had a heated propagating mat for my birthday which can be used to overwinter tender plants without heating the whole greenhouse, germinate seeds in the early part of the year and root cuttings of plants like penstemon, verbena and pelargoniums in late summer. We have all been caught out this winter with our penstemons which we used to take cuttings of as matter of course a few years ago!

There is such a thrill when the seeds come through; seeds of essential vegetables, sweetcorn, beans, courgettes and tomatoes; seeds of annuals which I love for generous summer colour, cosmos, sweet peas, ageratum, orlaya; and some seeds from nice plants in my garden which I want more of, different every year, this year molopospermum and Digitalis cariensis - a charming dwarf foxglove which has delighted me for several years. Some years I grow trees from Chilterns’ seed catalogue and I have eucalyptus, acers, Pinus patula, Sorbus, hawthorn and roses flourishing in the garden all grown from seed.

Pricking out the seedlings into pots is the most delightful job in the world. I stand at my potting table snug while the morning is cold or it is windy or raining and tuck the tiny roots into cosy compost with the promise of a beautiful plant to come. They grow and need watering and feeding, pleasant excuses for pottering in the greenhouse on a chilly morning. They get bigger and I must decide where they are to go but they are so lovely and fragile, too dainty for the hurly burly of the garden, I will pot them on so I can keep looking after them. Hardening them off, the ritual of trays of plants in and out of the greenhouse, is next.

Now it is mid May, frost is now unlikely and I have hundreds of plants – the next logical step is to plant them out but it is difficult for me to let them go. Perhaps I’ll pot them on.

First published in the East Yorkshire Group Newsletter, November 2011
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 30.
© Copyright for this article: Susan Ferguson

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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