Saturday 29 September 2012

Weekend Cuttings

Casino time at Boundary Cottage: will these cuttings root?

In my imaginary sweepstake I predict 53/121 will root
October is a wonderful month to stick cuttings direct into the ground. The soil is warm, has started to wet up and dews are heavy.  Current year shoots are ‘ripe’ and a surprising range of plants can be propagated.

So when does the gambling start? Now: on my own credibility! In nine months time I promise to show you my successes and failures. Some of the cuttings such as hebe, penstemon and phlomis are bankers, some such as cistus and variegated honeysuckle are each way bets and some, such as my variegated Cornus mas, are rank outsiders. The cuttings and my time are free. I insert loads of cuttings to stack the odds. What have I got to lose?

I describe myself as primitive propagator. I use no rooting hormone and do not remove  leaves. Usually 6 to 8 inches long, they are inserted like an iceberg - at least two thirds buried with only their tops showing.

‘Prepared’ cuttings (I have done nothing at all!)
New plants for old: rejuvenating old penstemons, lavender and Erysimum  ‘Bowles Mauve’

The above are examples of plants that sometimes become rather ‘tired’ when old. To rejuvenate them, make a deep slit with the spade and slip in little bundles of young shoots. Only when they have made fine strong plants next year, should you remove the old ones!

Deeply inserted, leaves and all. 

penstemon 12 months later
The above picture was optimistically printed at the time. To find out what really happened go here

Friday 28 September 2012

Plant of the week

Wonderful black and blue!  

Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

Intense blue flowers from September to October 
This is a vigorous herbaceous perennial that is 4ft high in my garden. It is robust and requires no staking. Years ago, a kind friend chopped out a small division for me in July. (Gardeners do not refuse pieces of plant, even if out of season) I now have many fine plants propagated by division in April/May.

Many perennial salvias are tender Mediterranean plants that must have superb drainage. Not this one, my best plants are in wet situations (but not quite boggy). Unusual too, it makes strong tubers, as large as dahlias. Although the plant is sometimes regarded as tender, my strong plants came through the two winters of 2010 without turning a hair. If this is not your own experience, the tubers can be lifted in November, potted and overwintered moist, in a cold greenhouse. Many of us found, to our cost, this was not the best strategy with tender plants in 2010. The cold was so intense and so prolonged that the roots of potted plants were deeply frozen. My tender plants such as agapanthus survived better in the ground.

I have just read that ‘Black and Blue’ can be propagated by cuttings - and seed too. Idiot me, of course most salvias are easy from cuttings! Too late now to try soft tip cuttings, yesterday I rushed out to take a dozen strong, ripened, basal shoots. I inserted them deeply in a single ‘long pot’ in my cold greenhouse. I have no idea whether they will grow!

Salvia guarantica in my gravel garden

 Update November 1st 2014

Four of the aforementioned cuttings rooted. Two did not survive the winter in my unheated greenhouse. This is no surprise as an herbaceous plant that dies down to its winter dormancy soon after rooting has insufficient stored food reserves. The same principle applies to deciduous shrubs rooted late in the growing season when leaf-fall depletes reserves of carbohydrate and they fail to overwinter.

The two salvias that had survived from cutttings made only moderate growth and stayed in their pot for the whole of the next year. They remained in the greenhouse over the following winter before planting out.
The plant from my greenhouse flowered for three months
It would seem to be an advantage to overwinter this salvia in a greenhouse in the north of England as they then flower earlier outside. The plant that had survived from my original cutting and got an early start from the greenhouse flowered from August until November.

In contrast my regular plants in the garden emerge to make new spring growth remarkably late. It's important not to forget they are there! I had almost given them up when they failed to appear until late July!

This plant has been outside for several years and has now been in flower for two months

This one did not appear above ground until the 1st September. Now on the first of November it has very little time to flower. Next year I will move it to a sunnier position. Or perhaps I will lift its tubers that look like those of a dahlia and next spring get lots of new plants from my greenhouse.

I could not resist taking a picture of this monster

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