In the garden
PUBLISHED: 09:17 24 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:38 24 January 2014
Emily Whitfield-Wicks Photography 'St.meva' 9 Beacon road Bodmin Cornwall PL31 1AR Mob.07841 293030
Horticultural specialist Paul Prové joins Cornwall Life as our new gardening columnist. This month: the perils of propagation
Are you thinking of making a New Year’s Resolution? It’s probably cold and damp outside; the ground may be frozen. This is not the time of year to be doing much work actually in the garden. None the less, do not give up, for there are some really satisfying things you can do, mainly indoors, and they can save you money at the same time. One of the most rewarding aspects of gardening is watching nature doing its work as plants develop from practically nothing into a huge variety of shapes, colours and textures. Starting from seeds is a popular way of producing new plants and the seed companies present us with some tempting selections. These enable us to put varieties into our gardens that are not readily available from other sources. The great plant hunters of the past introduced many of the varieties we are familiar with today by collecting seed and bringing it back to this country. Some varieties are difficult to raise without a heated propagator and greenhouse but this is not universally true. Often a windowsill will do when starting, followed by a cold frame. Other more hardy varieties can be started outside. Look at the back of the seed packets for guidance on how they should be grown.
Seeds are not the only source of new plants. Some of you may have already enjoyed growing from cuttings. Fuchsias and many of the trailing plants seen in summer hanging baskets will root easily if the cutting is taken when growing strongly and without a flower bud. Many of the shrubs you buy in pots were started as cuttings. The degree of skill required varies with the variety; in some cases you really need to be able to control factors like temperature and humidity accurately. In January you may have difficulty finding strong new growth suitable for producing roots. With many perennials there is another way. Instead of growing roots onto a shoot you take a piece of root and grow shoots out of it. Plants with fleshy taproots, like Japanese anemones, Verbascum, Phlox and Dicentra (and many more) grow easily from root cuttings at this time of year. The donor plant (or a portion of it) must be taken from the ground and the roots washed clean. Side shoots approximately pencil thick are then cut into 5cm (2”) lengths, square at the top and at an angle at the bottom. They are inserted vertically (and the right way up!) into pots of cutting compost with the tops just below the surface. After being well watered they can be stood in a frost-free cold frame or propagator: a bit of warmth speeds the process up. So here is a suggestion for a New Year’s Resolution: have a go at plant propagation. It can become addictive; dabbling in it can be great fun. You may find this a resolution it’s easy to keep. Happy New Year to you all.
Paul Prové is a Horticultural Specialist primarily involved with maintaining clients gardens. He has experience in many areas of horticulture (including retail, commercial and amenity) and specialises in garden design and landscaping projects.
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