Opportunities for propagation seem limitless at this time of year so don’t miss the chance to transform pieces of stem into priceless plants or sow seeds outdoors.
There are non-flowering, young growths on perennials of all sorts at present just asking to be rooted.
Escallonia, forsythia, weigela and euonymus are covered in side shoots which are the ideal material. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage offer similar opportunities, and new growths on the early flowering heather, Erica x darleyensis, have appeared in response to our removing the spent blooms.
Whilst out foraging for suitable propagating material, carry a roll of kitchen freezer bags, pen and labels. Each variety is named and sealed in the polythene to keep it fresh, and collecting occurs in the morning rather than later in the day when the plant has lost precious moisture via transpiration.
Never plant stem cuttings that are limp in the hand. Always ensure that they are fully charged with water by immersing them in a bowl for as long as it takes to have them standing like soldiers in a row.
I’m presently collecting soft lateral shoots up to 10 centimetres long from several garden shrubs. These are prepared for the gritty rooting medium by removing all but the topmost cluster of leaves and making a clean cut just below a node (leaf joint) at the base.
Fuchsia cuttings, some collected from plants in the greenhouse, others from hardy types outside, are also taken. If you wish to propagate a favourite fuchsia cultivar and it is not offering enough stems for propagation, try taking petiole (leaf stem) cuttings. Detach the leaf and its stem carefully from the plant, soak it in water for a while and stand it upright in the medium.
My propagating box was constructed from wooden cupboard shelves and relies on natural solar heat at present. It is filled with a mixture of gritty sand and sieved, composted material. It represents the engine house and works perfectly well.
If the price of potted herbaceous perennials puts you off buying, there are other options, one of which is starting them from seed. Now is the time to select packets of your favourite varieties and sow them out in the open. I find space for a few short drills on a vegetable bed, preferably a sunny spot.
Keep weeding between the developing rows and come autumn you won’t be able to move for them. Just think of the plant exchange possibilities!