This is a good time for action if you want ornamental plants that will provide cut blooms for home use or exhibition. The catalogues, gardening press and retail outlets are offering a great selection in pots and plug form just as seasonal growth is about to take off.
I use each of these sources occasionally to enrich the variety on offer in this garden, but that is tempered with an ongoing propagation programme based on our existing plant collection.
For example, we love to have chrysanthemums for the vase from late summer through to Christmas, but the present collection comprises mainly whites and pinks, so an order for young plug plants that will broaden our choice of colours has been placed with Woolman’s.
Meanwhile, the perennial stools of last year’s plants that were lifted from the autumn garden, boxed up and placed on the cold greenhouse bench are now sending up new shoots thick and fast.
These are removed with a clean, sharp knife, dressed as stem cuttings without rooting powder and planted in the propagating box.
With a high proportion of vermiculite in the medium and soil-warming cable below, they should be rooted and ready for first pots in little over two weeks.
We generally introduce chrysanthemum plants to the great outdoors around mid-May, depending on the weather.
If they have not branched naturally by that time, nip out the tip of each one to encourage a limited number of strong new stems. These are best given some form of support as they grow.
Some are disbudded as part of the cultivation process. This entails rubbing out all flower buds that develop on a stem except the terminal one to encourage one large bloom. If you want a spray of smaller flowers, let nature take its course.
Early flowering varieties are planted onto prepared land in the garden, and later types are traditionally grown on in large pots outdoors throughout summer.
However, there are many roads to success in gardening, and one I follow with chrysanthemums amounts to planting them all into beds, then as serious autumn weather arrives, those yet to bloom are dug up and transferred to the greenhouse border, where the tomato crop grew. There, they revel in the moderate, calm environment and perform beautifully.
Dahlia cuttings are just about to be taken from tubers lifted, cleaned and stored last autumn. They respond to boxing up in moist compost by shooting, and their propagation, potting-up and hardening-off follows a similar pattern to that of chrysanthemums.
I find the Bishop series so attractive in both border and vase that it’s always tempting to root more than we require.
The mild winter has been kind to border penstemons. They are bristling with soft new shoots just begging to be taken as stem cuttings.