Tuesday 13 August 2013

Chickens returning to roost!

Update on open ground semi ripe cuttings

Nine months I wrote ‘Casino time  at Boundary Cottage’ when I described how I ‘threw’ into  the open ground in October about 150 semi ripe and hardwood cuttings. I wanted to show how cuttings with no preparation other than selecting the appropriate current year’s shoots  could easily and cheaply give you new stock. Even my selection process sometimes involved several shoots taken with a single cut of the secateurs. I wanted to demonstrate that a surprising range of plants would respond and even if as little as one in ten rooted the process was so quick and easy that it was worthwhile. You may remember I used no rooting hormone, was unconcerned about cutting at nodes and on the leafy cuttings - the majority - I did not remove a single leaf. They  were of variable size between about 5 - 10 inches, approximately cut to lengths appropriate to each plant . After insertion only the tips showed out of the ground. The whole process took little more than an hour but writing the blog took a great deal more! In truth I was describing my normal method of taking open ground cuttings. Those of you who have read about my methods of propagating pelargoniums will know that they are not much more refined.

I foolishly promised to report on how these cuttings grew…..

Cuttings  deeply slitted into the ground last October on a two square meter patch of my un-dug vegetable garden. 
The wet conditions last year were particularly conducive to getting cuttings established. The soil was wet when the cuttings were inserted and it continued to rain and the weather was humid. I was off to a good start but of course most of the cuttings would not have roots until spring or early summer.
Sometime in March the metaphorical tap was turned off and around here the sky forgot how to rain! None-gardening friends do not notice these things but the soil surface started to become very dry. We had particularly bad spell of cold drying and sometimes freezing winds over a period of about ten weeks. In the spirit of good experimentation I did not interfere and water or provide any cover. I lie, it was just too cold to bother! Had I heavily watered I suspect my results would have been better.
I was very disappointed this year with some of the herbaceous plants such as penstemon and Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’. These are normally bankers for new stock but not this year. Although I was disappointed with my overall results I exceeded my forecast of rooting success by seven!

Plenty of successes but a whole lot of dead bodies!
Detailed results - rooting successes and failures!

Dwarf Hebe, 11/11, Hebe ‘Silver dollar’ 6/6. Hebes are so easy they hardly ever fail!
Santolina 3/6. They have quickly made quite large plants.
Lavender 3/5.
Euonymus 7/7.
Salix fargesioides 2/5. Although willows are often easy and some can even be rooted from six foot rods, a surprising number of species are actually quite difficult.
Rose, I call it Tony’s rose after the friend who originally gave it to me, 1/5. Well worth it as I know it to be a very fine plant.

I prefer my roses on their own roots, any suckers make for a nice sturdy plant.
Unknown evergreen, I have quite forgot what it is. It remember it was from a friend’s garden, it will be quite a surprise when it flowers, 4/4.
Pink cistus, 3/7. Golden leaved cistus, 0/7, damn it has failed to root again!
Phlomis fruticosa, 3/7
Purple sage 0/4, normally very easy.
Perovskia 0/5, a real stab in the dark.
Variegated honeysuckle 0/5, might have been better if it had been riper wood.
Variegated snowberry 6/6.

Rare variegated snowberry. Cynics sometimes say that some plants are rare because nobody wants them! 
Weigela florida variegata, 3/7.
Variegated golden privet, a very fine form, 5/7.
Variegated philadelphus, the jury is still out on two of the cuttings, optimistically 3/7!
Variegated cornus mas 0/7.
Variegated erysimum, 1/7, at least the one success is a very sturdy plant!

I am pleased with these.


  1. I ended up with a row of buddleias on the allotment plot due to the ease with which they root. I also have three in the garden and one in my sister's garden. Some of mine were originally acquired from the compost heap of another allotmenteer! The butterflies have loved them this year though.

    I too have found penstemons to be fairly easy but I guess that type pf plant suffered more through lack of moisture than did the woody plants.

    1. PS - first thought when reading the title was that you were going to keep chickens.

    2. Quite right about the herbaceous ones - it was so dehydrating this Spring

    3. No I was just trying to catch Chicken Whisperer's followers!

  2. Many people hesitate to make cuttings. With this post you have demystified the process.

    1. I think the detailed instructions in gardening magazines and on the tele make it look so difficult and technical that it does put people off. A bit like the cookery programmes that people watch and then buy a ready prepared meal.

  3. Still a lot of new free plants, I would say.

  4. Roger, would you be kind enough to email me, please. I'd like to mention your blog in my Webwatch round-up for Kitchen Garden Magazine. Thank you. helengazeley at aol dot com.


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